Ed Henry Asks President Obama About FOCA

[Excerpt of the] Text of President Barack Obama’s news conference on Wednesday, April 29 at the White House, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions:

Ed Henry?

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you’re going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame. And, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.

As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very [first] things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at one point in the campaign when asked about abortion and life, you said that it was above — quote, above my pay grade.

Now that you’ve been president for 100 days, obviously, your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator.

Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?

OBAMA: You know, the — my view on — on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue.

I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they — if they suggest — and I don’t want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom and that there’s no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with and families and individual women have to wrestle with.

The reason I’m pro-choice is because I don’t think women take that — that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy.

So — so that has been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.

And so I’ve got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp, to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.

Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not [the] highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that’s — that’s where I’m going to focus.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    So, I guess people are in a better position to make their own economic decisions than Congress?

  2. Edward T. Oakes, S.J. says

    Can Barack Obama be converted on abortion?

    The short answer to that question is: probably not.

    I wish I could read more into these meager concessions than is warranted by Mr. Obama’s record, but I am not particularly sanguine. True, he does back away from a campaign promise he made to Planned Parenthood in 2007 that the “first thing” he would do in the Oval Office would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would abolish all state restrictions on abortion and mandate that all medical students learn to perform abortions, no matter the dictates of their conscience.

    One reason I set little store by this (minor) change from his campaign promise is Mr. Obama’s skill at talking out of both sides of his mouth. In the April 30th issue of the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger offered this telling analysis of the President’s “leadership” style:

    “Early in the campaign, in January 2007, a New York Times reporter wrote a story about Mr. Obama’s time as president of the Harvard Law Review. It was there, the reporter noted, “he first became a political sensation.”

    Here’s why: “Mr. Obama cast himself as an eager listener, sometimes giving warring classmates the impression that he agreed with all of them at once.” Also: “People had a way of hearing what they wanted in Mr. Obama’s words.”

    Harvard Law Prof. Charles Ogletree told how Mr. Obama spoke on one contentious issue at the law school, and each side thought he was endorsing their view. Mr. Ogletree said: “Everyone was nodding, Oh, he agrees with me.”

    The reason I have never forgotten this article is its last sentence, in which Al Gore’s former chief of staff Ron Klain, also of Harvard Law, reflects on the Obama sensation: “The interesting caveat is that his is a style of leadership more effective [in] running a law review than running a country.”

    Once all this has been conceded, however, I still think it worthwhile asking whether the President can be converted on abortion. In fact, the only reason I am bothering to ask this question at all is because of some remarks Mr. Obama made in his campaign autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, which, unlike most efforts in this dreary genre, actually provides a window into the author’s thinking. For one thing, Mr. Obama gives every evidence in this book of actually having written it himself (amazing!), whereas other examples of the type are rarely more than campaign speeches cobbled together by some hack on the campaign staff of the author.

  3. almostgotit.com says

    Glad to know that the only criteria for a good moral choice is that we’ve Really Struggled With It.

    I’ve Really Struggled, but still think we should allow abortions up to the age of 18.

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