Abortion Law ‘Not the Highest Legislative Priority’ for Obama
April 30, 2009 - 6:07 AMPresident Barack Obama says a bill eliminating state restrictions on abortion will take a back seat to other challenges facing the country.
“The Freedom of Choice Act is not the highest legislative priority,” Obama told reporters at a prime time news conference marking his 100th day in office. “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."
That stance conflicts with a promise Obama made on the campaign trail.
In July 2007, Obama told the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, "Well, the first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do." (See earlier story)
However, since taking office, Obama has had to tackle numerous other issues such as the economic crisis and increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan while drawing down the number of troops in Iraq.
The Freedom of Choice Act would eliminate state and federal restrictions on abortion, including waiting periods, parental consent laws and bans on partial birth abortions.
Obama’s response to the abortion question comes weeks before the president is set to give a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university that has been slammed for inviting a pro-choice president to receive an honorary degree.
During the presidential campaign, pro-life groups also criticized Obama for opposing a born-alive-infants-protection bill while he was a member of the Illinois Senate. The bill would have required medical personnel to try to save babies who survived botched abortions.
Asked during the campaign for his thoughts on when life begins, Obama said the question was “above my pay grade.”
But on Wednesday night, he explained his pro-choice stance: “I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations,” Obama said. “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.”
Obama said it has been his “consistent position” that both sides can find common ground on the abortion issue.
“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.”