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Too Clever By Half: Obama, Sotomayor and The Politics of Abortion

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(Sunday, May 31, 2009) - President Obama is a masterful politician who uses his intellect and popularity to confuse supporters and distractors. His most recent strategic move is the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the highest Court in the land, a move designed to satisfy the demands of two of his most vociferous constituency groups, women and Hispanic activists. By all accounts this is another brilliant political move, which confuses the issue for many Americans, and makes it extremely difficult for the white male dominated Senate to do its job of vigorously challenging the views of an especially controversial woman who could easily end up with a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

On the issue of abortion, which deeply affects minority communities, we have no idea where the nominee stands, but we do know that she ruled in favor of pro-life groups in a case involving a challenge to the Mexico City Ban on using U.S. Tax dollars to support abortions abroad, which President Obama lifted by executive order shortly after taking office. Now we are all involved in the dirty little business of funding the abortions of poor women around the world.

Although we really don't know with certainty where Judge Sotomayor stands, we do know the views of our President and the liberal activist groups to whom he responds. Regardless of the views of the public and the minority constituencies, the President is a staunch defender of abortion rights and has developed a repertoire that confuses the issue. Consider that his Notre Dame Speech was hailed as a tour de force. Supposedly searching for a middle ground that does not exist when human life is at stake, he maintained his support for abortion rights while repeating his commitment to work toward reducing abortions. Offering a concession to health care workers who see abortion as murder, the President said that he could support a "sensible conscience clause" that would allow them to avoid participating in the messy business if the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would strike down all federal and state abortion restrictions, were passed.

The President's concession comes at a time when a new Gallup poll shows that 51 percent of the public consider themselves pro-life and this includes an even greater percentage of Hispanics. President Obama's proposal to add a conscience protection if FOCA is passed is a false choice. For studies have shown that it has been the states' restrictions on abortion that have brought the abortion rate down from 1.6 million per year to 1.1 million. But if FOCA passes, all these restrictions (such as a waiting period, and parental consent for minors, et al) will be eliminated, and the abortion rates will surely rise once again. So Obama's purported desire to reduce abortion will be thwarted by his own policies.

No doubt exposure to new technologies that allow observation of unborn babies in the womb have undermined the arguments of those who have long denied the humanity of the unborn. More and more Americans are finding the process distasteful and increasing numbers questioning whether there is a little human life at stake. Strangely, the President claims not to know when life begins, but opposes efforts to protect that life even in the last stage of pregnancy. And despite what he has stated about respecting the consciences of pro-lifers, he has taken actions that have dirtied the hands of every taxpayer.

It is tragic that America's first black President has failed to show compassion about a procedure that is decimating the populations of the black and Hispanic communities whose votes he rode to victory. By his actions, the President repeatedly shows his disregard for human life. In one of his rare slips of the tongue, candidate Obama said he would not "punish" his daughters with a baby if they got pregnant, thereby suggesting that his unborn prospective grandchild was a problem best solved by abortion.

Surely, the first black President of the United States knows that the greatest civil right is the right to life, which is being robbed from African Americans at a disproportionate rate. According to the July 2008 report of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 37 percent of all abortions are performed on black women--despite the fact that blacks are only 13 percent of the U.S. population. One of every three black babies is killed before birth, while this tragedy strikes only one of every six white babies. Although Latina women constitute a smaller percentage than blacks, they at 14 percent of the population are getting 22 percent of the abortions. These abortions are coming mostly from the choices of poor women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy and who succumb to temptations provided by nearby abortion clinics. As I write these words, I write from the perspective of a black woman who decades ago aborted an unborn child because of the ease and convenience of the nearby clinic. In my naiveté, I reasoned that if it were legal, it must be okay. Not everything that is legal is okay.

Black pastor Walter Hoye has called "abortion the Darfur of the African American community" and perhaps we can add the Hispanic community. Although it may be a bit much to suggest that this is a form of genocide, which involves systematic and purposeful action to eliminate a race, we cannot ignore the facts that have surfaced about Planned Parenthood (America's largest abortion provider). It is well documented that development officials in several states have encouraged donations targeted for abortions of black babies, and that most Planned Parenthood clinics are in or near minority neighborhoods. Nonetheless, black politicians including the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Jr. support abortion rights even while their confused constituents are evenly divided. In the case of Hispanics, however, the vast majority (77 percent) is pro-life.

On the issue of Judge Sotomayor and abortion, one can only hope that President Obama has outsmarted himself or outmaneuvered the far left by nominating a Supreme Court justice whose views might actually be representative of the ethnic population from which the individual hails. If so, the confirmation of Sotomayor could prove to be an enormous victory for all Americans who seek to protect the most vulnerable group among us.

About Carol M. Swain:
Carol M. Swain is a Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University. A highly sought after political analyst and frequent commentator on race relations, immigration, black leadership, and evangelical politics, Swain is also an accomplished author of several popular books including: "Black Face, Black Interests: The Representation of African American in Congress" (Harvard University Press, 1993), "The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration" (Cambridge University Press, 2002), and her most recent book "Debating Immigration" (Cambridge University Press, 2007). You can follow Carol M. Swain on Twitter @CMSwain