Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Obama and Abortion July 7, 2008

Obama recently said (to a Christian publication) that he would only support 3rd trimester abortions where necessary for a woman’s physical, not mental health.

I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

As laid out very clearly here and here, this is a position deeply at odds with the state of abortion law in the US. So the Democratic presidential candidate has now come out in favour of reducing abortion rights. Of course, he quickly backpedalled.

My only point is that in an area like partial-birth abortion having a mental, having a health exception can be defined rigorously. It can be defined through physical health, It can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don’t think that’s how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don’t think that’s how the courts have interpreted it and I think that’s important to emphasize and understand.”

And that’s a perfectly reasonable distinction to make. The problem is that he didn’t make it earlier. I think Zuzu has a great analysis of what’s going on: abortion just isn’t something he has thought much about. The guy’s a constitutional law professor– if he’d thought much, he would have been far more careful in his initial remarks. We need to make him think about this– and make him think well. (Do that here.) Being thoughtless on this sort of thing sure as hell isn’t going to win back the Clinton supporters. more generally, Obama is doing a pretty dramatic version of the standard general election shift-to-the-right, and I don’t think we should just sit idly by on any of it. (Thanks, Mr J, for your help on this one.)



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