Saturday, October 06, 2007

"Obama Explores Abortion Issue"

NY Times:
NEW HAMPTON, Iowa – In recent presidential races, when candidates on either side of the ticket would open the floor to take questions from voters, it was fair bet that someone would ask about abortion. This year, at least during the first nine months of the campaign, the issue seems to be aired with far less frequency.
So it’s worth noting the following exchange, which took place in this northeast Iowa town on Friday. A questioner, whom Senator Barack Obama called upon during a campaign stop in a city park, identified himself as a resident of Denver. But he said he was attending a family reunion here.

A common criticism of political coverage is that answers are boiled down to bite-size pieces and presidential debates are reduced to rushed responses. There is, of course, some truth to that, particularly in a field of eight candidates.

In this case, we’ll provide a transcript of what was said. If you have a moment, read on:

The Questioner: “I see a great a contradiction going on in our society, right now, and I don’t understand it. Maybe you can help me out. On the one hand, we see a guy like Michael Vick, who will likely lose his livelihood and spend some time in jail and there’s been a tremendous outcry against this man because of fighting dogs. There’s been a huge, huge reaction. On the other hand, we have 34 years and counting where thousands of innocent, sweet babies are being killed every day through what we call abortion, yet that voice has seemingly died out. What would you do about that and what’s happening in our society when people can’t seem to see this contradiction?”

Mr. Obama: “The issue of abortion, I don’t think, has gone away. People think about it a lot, obviously you do and you feel impassioned. I think that the American people struggle with two principles: There’s the principle that a fetus is not just an appendage, it’s potential life. I think people recognize that there’s a moral element to that. They also believe that women should have some control over their bodies and themselves and there is a privacy element to making those decisions.

“I don’t think people take the issue lightly. A lot of people have arrived in the view that I’ve arrived at, which is that there is a moral implication to these issues, but that the women involved are in the best position to make that determination. And I don’t think they make it lightly. I don’t think they make it callously, so I reject a comparison between a woman struggling with these issues and Michael Vick fighting dogs for sport. I don’t think that’s sort of how people perceive it.

“Now, this is one of those areas – again, I think it’s important to be honest – where I don’t think you’re ever going to get a complete agreement on this issue. If you believe that life begins at conception, then I can’t change your mind. I think there is a large agreement, for example, that late-term abortions are really problematic and there should be a regulation. And it should only happen in terms of the mother’s life or severe health consequences, so I think there is broad agreement on these issues.

“One area where I think we should have significant agreement is on the idea of reducing unwanted pregnancies because if we can reduce unwanted pregnancies, then it’s much less likely that people resort to abortion. The way to do that is to encourage young people and older people, people of child-bearing years, to act responsibly. Part of acting responsibly – I’ve got two daughters – part of my job as a parent is to communicate to them that sex isn’t casual and that it’s something that they should really think about and not think is just a game.

“I’m all for education for our young people, encouraging abstinence until marriage, but I also believe that young people do things regardless of what their parents tell them to do and I don’t want my daughters ending up in really difficult situations because I didn’t communicate to them, how to protect themselves if they make a mistake. I think we’ve got to have that kind of comprehensive view that says family planning and education for our young people and so forth – to prevent teen pregnancies, to prevent the kinds of situations that lead to women having to struggle with these difficult decisions and we should be supportive of those efforts. That’s an area where there should be some agreement.”

With that, the audience applauded and moved onto a question about Iran.



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