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Obama's Abortion Obfuscations

12:08 PM, Jul 7, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In a speech before Planned Parenthood last year, Barack Obama said that he was well-equipped to defend a right to abortion because "I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional law." But during the past week, Obama has proven to be woefully ignorant of abortion law, or he has been deceiving voters about the legality of abortion, as well as his own position on the issue.

Last week, Obama told a Christian magazine: "I have repeatedly said that I think it's entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother."

ABC's legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg wrote:

there's no mistaking that Obama says he no longer will support what's long been a cornerstone of the abortion rights debate: The Court's insistence that laws banning abortions after the fetus is viable (now about 22 weeks) contain an exception to allow doctors to perform them if necessary to protect a pregnant woman's mental health.

Indeed, Obama specifically cited a "serious physical issue"--as opposed to a mental issue--as the only acceptable exception to a late-term abortion ban. But then on Saturday, as Greenburg reports, Obama backtracked on that statement while further muddling his position:

Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane, Obama said mental health exceptions-which are a real battleground issue in the abortion debate--can be "rigorously" limited to only those women with "serious clinical mental health diseases." He said mental health exceptions are not intended permit abortions when a woman simply "doesn't feel good."

"It is not just a matter of feeling blue," Obama said.

Here's the problem with that, and why Obama's remarks are so startling. Obama is trying to restrict abortions after 22 weeks to those women who have a serious disease or illness. But the law today also covers some women who are in "mental distress," those women who would suffer emotional and psychological harm without an abortion.

Furthermore, Obama is the co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, which "refers to the key Supreme Court case on the issue, which was decided the same day as Roe v. Wade in 1973. In that case, Doe v Bolton, the Court said a doctor could decide to perform an abortion based on 'all factors-physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age-relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.'"

Are we really supposed to believe that Obama, the former editor of Harvard Law Review and onetime lecturer at the University of Chicago law school, doesn't understand Roe v. Wade and a bill that he's co-sponsoring?

For more analysis picking apart Obama's nonsense on this matter, see Ramesh Ponnuru, Yuval Levin, and Jennifer Rubin.