Thursday, February 5, 2009

Washington Post on Obama and Abortion

Over the past few weeks, I have written a few posts about the new twist in the abortion debate. I am starting to feel like all the political peeps that I can't stand because they only talk about abortion and gay marriage and ignore everything else. Yet, I am still typing, so let's give it a run. 

As the pro-choice President takes the reigns of our fragile country, Barack Obama has attempted to navigate the shark-infested waters of the abortion issue with surgical precision. Obama is speaking about abortion in a way that is meaningful to pro-lifers and sensitive to the realities of the issue. 

Though he unashamedly supports the "right of women to choose" whether or not they will undergo and abortion, he claims to believe strongly that we should work to reduce the need for and occurrences of abortions in the United States. Furthermore, he openly supports sexual education with an abstinence emphasis. On this, we can agree. 

Obama's actions, however, don't seem so promising. First, there is his Pre-Presidential record on abortion, which is abysmal at best. Then, there is his transition-time appointments:

-Dawn Johnsen: Former Legal Director for NARAL will serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
-Tom Daschle: Recently withdrawn nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services who led the fight against the partial-birth abortion ban in the Senate. 
-Melody Barnes: Former board member at Planned Parenthood who worked for the Center for American Progress will serve as White House Domestic Policy Director.
-Ellen Moran: Worked for Emily's List, a pro-choice political action group, will head up the White House communications team.
-Jackie Norris: Former board member at Planned Parenthood will serve as Chieft of Staff to the First Lady.

Finally, there is Obama's one actual move on the issue: a repeal of the Mexico City Policy, which will open up federal funding for international organizations who provide abortions and family planning. According to a recent Gallup Poll, the repeal ranks as the most unpopular of his actions as President, by far.

Today, the Washington Post ran a story entitled, "Obama tries to appease both sides of the abortion debate," which outlined the tensions involved here. I am one of those evangelicals who really believes in the sincerity and heart of this administration, but I remain skeptical about Obama's ability to build and cross the bridge. If he fails to do so, it may mean a break down of trust for those evangelicals who are trying their best to find common ground on which to join him.

"Many of us feel like we've stuck our necks out with our constituencies," I told the Washington Post. "He will have done us a great disservice if he does not come through."



Anonymous said...

This issue has been run into the ground by Christians and Non-Christians alike. Can we even define life, from a biblical perspective, at conception?

This is not the appropriate place to define life, but we are called to love other people, whether or not they do what we as evangelicals want them to do.

I encourage everyone of you reading this, including Jonathan Merritt himself, to pick up the book "Unaborted Socrates," by Peter Kreeft. It's a defense for life without using religion to defend life, only reason.

With that said, I somewhat like what President Obama is doing, although he could be doing more to decrease abortion.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, you haven't become an annoying pundit. It's good to talk about these things, especially when we look at both sides.

I'm with you on Obama's policy. Like most pro-lifers, I cringed when I heard him say the first thing he'd do as president would be sign the Freedom of Choice Act. (Turns out the first thing he did was order Gitmo Bay to be shut down within a year) So even though I believe Obama wants to help reduce the number of abortions in America, my inner skeptic isn't fully convinced.

Of course we all need a little skepticism once in a while, don't you think?

Now about repealing the Mexico City Policy, I actually don't think it's an entirely bad thing. If family planning helps people not have unwanted pregnancies, then won't that help reduce the number of abortions? Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.

Jonathan Merritt said...

On Mexico City, I am not opposed to any and all family planning. If we are funding the distribution or contraception or birth control, that's one thing. But funding organizations that promote or perform abortions is something entirely different. I can't support the latter.


Anonymous said...

Oh, okay. I understand now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just be careful Jonathan when you use phraseology such as Obama is speaking about abortion in a way that is meaningful to pro-lifers.

You should try to refrain from using generalized language as such...rather, I suggest that what he says is meaningful to some pro-lifers.

Shane "George" Lambert said...

I think many evangelicals who voted for Obama probably feel like they've been duped. He says a lot about reducing abortions in an attempt to find some common ground with pro-lifers, but his actions don't seem to back up his words.

His first few weeks as president have really been no different than his record before he moved into the White House. If only more evangelicals who voted for Obama had seen this coming...

Chase said...


You know/judge a tree by the fruit it produces. What Obama said he was for and what his record demonstrates are utterly incompatible on the issue of life, specific to protecting the right to life for the most helpless among us--the unborn. He says he wants to reduce abortions, but what evidence do we have to believe him?

I am genuinely curious and have two questions for JM and anyone else who have expectations of Obama regarding abortion: 1) what did you expect Obama to do as President regarding abortion; 2) what are you specifically hoping for in terms of policy, legislation, and influence?

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny said...

I believe that the sanctity of human life is possibly the most important issue of our time. I believe that has many applications, one of which is abortion. For the purposes of this post, I will focus specifically on the sanctity of life for the unborn baby. I am a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and that foundation undergirds my worldview and forms the presupposition for my position. (I am not a biologist. Similarly, this post is geared to those in the body of Christ, so my discussion is written from that perspective.) First, let me present a graphic image. How would you feel if every hospital in America had a person, appointed by the government, to decide which babies should be permitted to live? They based their decision on the family’s socio-economic status, education, life-style and whether or not the pregnancy was planned. Based on their decision, they choose 4,000 babies a day to exterminate in the US alone (2 minority babies for every 1 white baby). They then go into the room, take the newborn out of the mother’s arms, without even asking, and carry out their brutal task. The parents wail. The instant they saw their child they imagined what his or her precious life would entail. They were amazed by the beauty and innocence of his or her first yawn and speechless over the comfort and protection this child found in their arms. They saw dad's eyes, mom's nose...
How does this relate? Psalm 139: 13-16 and Job 10: 11-12 clearly explain that God, Himself, is the author and creator of life. He is involved in every detail of our creation and development. He has “knit us together.” He is our Father! Every aborted child is ripped from His loving hands. What if every abortionist asked God for permission to take His precious child from his hands? This is the truth of the issue as I see it!
Furthermore, our very view of children flies in direct defiance to the truth of Scripture. Those who say that teens who get pregnant “accidently” should not be “punished with a baby” are actually testifying about their core beliefs. Psalm 127:3 states that children are a gift from God and that babies (at all stage of development) are a reward. How do you punish someone with a gift or a reward? The idea that an unplanned life is punishment illumines a basic devaluing of human life as something less than what God designed and designated it to be.
I have sat with women who have had abortions and years later are living with the guilt of that decision. I have listened to a woman who found it hard to relate to her living children because of the guilt she felt for killing her first baby. Who will speak for them? What is done cannot be undone. The truth is there is no human right to choose who should be granted a chance at life and who should not. The women does have a choice but I suggest that that choice is how am I going to shoulder this responsibility. The church has a choice. How are we going to care for these women and children? I want Roe v. Wade overturned! Many say that can never happen. Many also said slavery could never, should never be abolished. Legislation is the not the beginning of the process. The process begins when you and I share the truth about the sanctity and value of every life. This means that we stop condemning people and start offering grace. Church, we say we want abortion to be illegal but are we prepared? How would we have cared for the 50 million babies killed so far? We need to do more.
To stand against abortion is much easier than to stand for life. If we stand for life, we must find a way to make adoption more affordable for loving families! We must care for orphans! We must provide a way for mothers who are overwhelmed and concerned about basic needs to not feel backed into a corner with their decision. We must do more! We must spread the truth about the sanctity of life. We must take in these women who have nowhere to go and no one to run to. We must be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. We must confess that we abdicated our responsibility to care for widows and orphans to the state. We must not sit idly by! With God ALL things are possible!! Let’s make a difference. Let’s love all God’s children. Let’s stop judging and condemning and start offering grace and compassion. It is God’s job to convict the hearts of men not ours! We are told to obey!
These are a few of my thoughts. To everyone who has read this I ask... What are you going to do? What am I going to do? It is not enough to vote! We MUST get involved in this issue.

Luke Hudson said...

So, you voted for Obama. Hmmm.

Jonathan Merritt said...


Don't you know what assuming does?


Luke Hudson said...

Are you saying that you didn't vote for Obama?

If you didn't what sense does this make: "Many of us feel like we've stuck our necks out with our constituencies," I told the Washington Post. "He will have done us a great disservice if he does not come through."

Judging from your past blog entries, you sure didn't do anything to help the conservative side.

By the way, U comes before ME.