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Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Posted: July 6, 2008 11:26 AM

Question for NARAL Pro Choice America: Please Explain Your Tortured Defense of Obama's Flop on Abortion Rights


Please explain your organization's tortured defense of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama reversal on abortion rights. I ask that since Senator Obama clearly said in his recent interview in Relevant, a Christian magazine that "I don't think mental distress qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy." That directly flies in the face of NARAL Pro Choice America's etched in stone position on the late term abortion ban that states, "A health exception must also account for the mental health problems that may occur in pregnancy."

NARAL has repeatedly gone to the political and legal barricades against Congress, the Supreme Court, state and federal courts and state legislatures to ensure that the crucial and medically sound mental health exception remain intact when a woman in late term pregnancy seeks an abortion. In fact, NARAL regards the mental health distress exception as an anchor protection of a woman's right to an abortion.

Obama's position on the mental distress exception is the diametric opposite of NARAL's. As such, it also flies in the face of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe versus Wade ruling which held that states can ban late term abortions except when the pregnancy directly threatens a woman's physical and mental health. His position flies in the face of three decades of federal and state court rulings which have upheld mental distress as a legitimate reason for approving a late term abortion. Obama's reversal flies in the face of the Freedom of Choice Act that he himself has co-sponsored in Congress. The act unequivocally permits late term abortions when the physical and mental health of a woman is jeopardized.

Obama's volte face on the mental health protection for women that seek abortions in late term and seek to skirt the late term ban flies in the face of his own stated position a year ago. He then blasted the Supreme Court's decision upholding a federal court's ruling banning late term abortions.

This was a major reason why your organization endorsed Obama this past May and since then have beat the drums on your website for him. You even call on your site for 73 people a week to volunteer to help Obama beat his Republican rival John McCain. Unfortunately to justify your over the top support of Obama, you've violated your own precept and principle on when and under what conditions a late term abortion can and should be permitted. You have done an unconscionable political somersault to rationalize Obama's back flip on abortion rights even though it's obvious his flip is nothing more than a crass political pander to Christian fundamentalists and conservative pro-life advocates for votes.

Please then tell me this. Why is it so difficult for NARAL to publicly express disappointment with Obama on the flip flop? Why is it so difficult to challenge him to rethink his position on late term abortions? Does NARAL believe that Obama is above criticism? Does NARAL think by stating its frank opposition to Obama's reversal that the organization risks dumping the election to McCain?
Or, is it simply a case that NARAL fears shame and embarrassment in publicly admitting that Obama may not be the unrelenting vigorous and principled defender of a woman's right to choose in any and all circumstances that NARAL thought he was? Would that admission be too big a blow to NARAL's organizational ego?

I await your answers.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).