Planning on dropping by Michelle and Barack Obama's with your newborn in tow? Don't bother. Michael Gerson knows the truth: Barack Obama doesn't display a "welcoming attitude to new life." You think your little sweetie's cute, but Obama sure doesn't! He wants you to be able to take paid sick days to take her in for well-baby checkups. He supports early-childhood education initiatives that would help her arrive in kindergarten on par with tots who got privately-paid preschool. And, for god's sake, he has a plan for publicly-funded health care that would take care of both your and your baby's health care needs!
So what, exactly, puts Obama on the Most Unwanted Guest List for your baby shower? Two breaches of etiquette in particular. First, Gerson charges that Obama "oddly" stated that, in the event of an unintended pregnancy, he would not want one of his daughters to be "punished with a baby." What's so odd about not wanting your daughter to be subject to compulsory pregnancy, I'd like to know? But fine, let's get specific about it. Obama wasn't even talking about abortion here — he was talking about the need for comprehensive prevention education. Here's the quote:
So, when it comes to — when it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include — which should include abstinence only — should include abstinence education and teaching that children — teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I've got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16.
Obama goes on to talk about the value of medically accurate prevention education and decreasing stigma around STIs.
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You could plausibly argue that Obama was jumping too fast from a lack of prevention education, to pregnancy, straight onto parenting. If you want to parse words, it seems to me that here, if anything, Obama didn't affirm abortion as an appropriate option for the young women who want it as strongly as he could have.
Gerson's second piece of ammunition is Obama's opposition to the so-called "Born Alive Infants Protection Act." Rewire writer Dana Goldstein has patiently explained that this bill has no actual relationship to actual infants actually born alive. As Dana writes, the only abortion procedure that could result in an intact fetus outside of the womb is dilation and extraction, a procedure so rare that "that most hospitals won't perform one in a year." This bill does what anti-choicers love to do: focus attention on late-term abortion as if it's the only kind of abortion out there, and refuse to acknowledge that most of the abortions the bill would target are sought by women whose pregnancies are wanted but whose fetuses are unlikely to survive childbirth. As Obama said on the state Senate floor, "This issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if there are children being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they're looked after."
Gerson concludes his column with an above-it-all air of resignation. Obama's extreme, but so are right-to-lifers who wouldn't be happy with any preventive measures Obama could (and has) endorsed. Gerson himself, along with "wise" Amy Sullivan, are left to hog the enlightened middle ground, which, to Gerson, includes that resounding failure, abstinence-only programming. No wonder he's feeling lonely.