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On Roe v. Wade Anniversary, Obama Vows To Protect Women's Choice

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Thirty-nine years after Roe v. Wade, the battle over abortion still rages -- and might be a factor in the presidential race.
Thirty-nine years after Roe v. Wade, the battle over abortion still rages -- and might be a factor in the presidential race.

Drawing a stark contrast between himself and the Republican presidential candidates on the issue of women's reproductive rights, President Barack Obama released a statement on Sunday, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, reaffirming his commitment to protect a woman's right to choose.

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. 

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue -- no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

The Obama administration made a particularly notable decision in favor of reproductive rights on Friday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that all U.S. employers -- with the exception of churches and other places of worship -- would be required to fully cover the cost of contraception for the women they employ. The religious community had been lobbying to broaden the exemption to include all faith-affiliated organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, but the Department of Health and Human Services denied that request to ensure that millions more women could benefit from birth control coverage.

By contrast, the four remaining GOP candidates have said they would like to see Roe v. Wade reversed, so that states could have the power to ban abortion.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the winner of Saturday's South Carolina presidential primary, last week reaffirmed his support for a fetal "personhood" amendment, which would criminalize abortion even in cases of rape and could ban some forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research. He has also pledged to strip government funds from Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care and affordable contraception to millions of low-income and uninsured women across the country each year.

“Planned Parenthood will be hopeless in trying to defend itself," Gingrich said at a Personhood USA forum in South Carolina Wednesday night. "It is the largest abortion provider in the United States, period.”

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's president, said on Saturday that Obama's pro-choice and pro-contraception decision on Friday will likely be a major reason for women to rally around him in November.

“In the general election, there will be a stark contrast between the GOP nominee and President Obama on a fundamental issue important to women: birth control," she said. “Women’s health is a key issue for women voters, who will likely decide the next election.  And the more the GOP presidential candidates attack women’s health, the more out of sync they are with women voters.”

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