NASHVILLE, Tenn. – President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney differ on a wide range of significant issues, with abortion being among the most substantial.
They are so far apart, in fact, that Obama’s campaign made abortion an issue in campaign TV ads and at the Democratic National Convention, where at least 25 speakers referenced Obama’s pro-choice and Romney’s pro-life views.
Baptist Press is releasing a series of articles examining Obama and Romney on the issues, looking at their actions and their words. This installment examines the issue of abortion.
– January 2009: Issued an executive order overturning a ban on federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions in foreign countries. His order reversed what is known as the Mexico City policy.
– January 2009: Restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a U.N. agency that supports China’s population control program which includes forced abortions.
– March 2009: Nominated Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health and Human Services. As Kansas governor, Sebelius had vetoed several pro-life bills, including one that would have placed limits on late-term abortions. Since being confirmed as HHS secretary, she spoke at a fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group.
– May 2009: Nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court. She had a thin paper trail on social issues, including abortion, but was endorsed by pro-choice groups.
– December 2009: Signed into law a bill that allowed government funding for abortions in the District of Columbia.
– December 2009: Endorsed a Senate version of the health care bill that included taxpayer funding for abortion as part of a public option. The bill that became law did not include a public option.
– March 2010: Signed the landmark health care bill into law. It includes federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion.
– May 2010: Nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court. Pro-life groups said Kagan’s record indicated she would uphold Roe v. Wade. Pro-choice groups endorsed her.
– August 2011: Announced, through his Health and Human Services Department, that insurance plans must cover contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs as part of the new health care law. The mandate, which went into effect in August 2012, exempts churches but not religious organizations such as Christian schools, hospitals and charities.
– October 2011: Threatened to veto a bill that included a section eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
– Summer/fall 2012: Launched a political TV ad campaign that makes his pro-choice views a major theme of the general election. No Democratic nominee had ever made abortion a major general election theme in TV ads.
– On Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide: “As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right” (January 2012).
– On the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion: “I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women. As Justice Ginsburg emphasized in her dissenting opinion, this ruling signals an alarming willingness on the part of the conservative majority to disregard its prior rulings respecting a woman’s medical concerns and the very personal decisions between a doctor and patient. I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women” (Obama campaign statement, April 18, 2007).
– Obama on how his presidency approaches the abortion issue: “I’ve made it … clear that I will never back down from making sure that women have their reproductive rights here in this country” (July 2008).
– June 2005: During an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1994 and a successful run for governor in 2002, Romney identified as pro-choice. He began identifying as pro-life in 2005 and detailed his conversion in a Boston Globe column in June of that year. The column ran the day after Romney vetoed a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill without a prescription to minors. The pill can cause chemical abortions. Romney said his views on abortion had “evolved” and “deepened” as governor.
“I am prolife,” he wrote. “I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.”
Romney added, “You can’t be a prolife governor in a prochoice state without understanding that there are heartfelt and thoughtful arguments on both sides of the question. Many women considering abortions face terrible pressures, hurts, and fears; we should come to their aid with all the resourcefulness and empathy we can offer. At the same time, the starting point should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born.”
– On Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide: “Today marks the 39th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history, when the court in Roe v. Wade claimed authority over the fundamental question regarding the rights of the unborn. The result is millions of lives since that day have been tragically silenced. Since that day, the pro-life movement has been working tirelessly in an effort to change hearts and minds and protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Today, we recommit ourselves to reversing that decision, for in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America” (January 2012).
– On the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion: “Today, our nation’s highest court reaffirmed the value of life in America by upholding a ban on a practice that offends basic human decency. This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us” (April 18, 2007).
– On how his presidency would approach the abortion issue (taken from campaign website): “Mitt Romney is pro-life. … Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view. But while the nation remains so divided, he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade – a case of blatant judicial activism that took a decision that should be left to the people and placed it in the hands of unelected judges. With Roe overturned, states will be empowered through the democratic process to determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate. Mitt supports the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. As president, he will end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood. He will protect the right of health care workers to follow their conscience in their work. And he will nominate judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the law. Because the good heart of America knows no boundaries, a commitment to protecting life should not stop at the water’s edge. Taking innocent life is always wrong and always tragic, wherever it happens. The compassionate instincts of this country should not be silent in the face of injustices like China’s One-Child policy. No one will ever hear a President Romney or his vice president tell the Chinese government that ‘I fully understand’ and won’t ‘second guess’ compulsory sterilization and forced abortion. Americans have a moral duty to uphold the sanctity of life and protect the weakest, most vulnerable and most innocent among us. As president, Mitt will ensure that American laws reflect America’s values of preserving life at home and abroad.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)