At Tonight’s Address, What Obama Should Say About Abortion

Aspen Baker

With just a few words, President Obama can convey his support and his respect for each member of his audience who has personally experienced abortion.

In Sunday’s issue of the New York Times, William Saletan confirms
that "President Obama wants to end the culture wars" and reminds us that his
"joint address to Congress this week could be an opportunity to change that
debate."  I couldn’t agree more.  

But, I disagree with Saletan about what President Obama
should say.  Saletan argues that Obama should defuse the
culture war by telling pro-choice pragmatists to get a sense of morals and
telling pro-life moralists to get realistic. 
I think that President Obama should acknowledge the unique and
legitimate moral and emotional experiences of women who have had abortions –
instead of focusing on the opinions and convictions of those who haven’t
stopped to listen. 

In his Address, President Obama is expected to emphasize the
many challenges facing our nation and the world, and lay out his vision for how
to move forward.  The economy – the loss
of jobs, homes, credit and effective regulation – and the need to improve
health care for American families will undoubtedly be at the top of his agenda,
and bipartisan strategies will most likely be the overarching theme of his
speech.  It is in this very spirit of
bipartisanship that President Obama should address one of the most divisive
issues of our times: abortion. 

In a speech of this magnitude, a speech that the whole world
will watch, all it takes is one sentence to change the course of world
events.  In one sentence, President Obama
can reframe the whole debate and finally address abortion as a matter of the
heart.  With just a few words, the
President can convey his support and his respect for each member of his audience
who has personally experienced abortion. 
He can – and he should – show that he cares.  A post-partisan world needs a
message that will speak to women post-abortion.

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In our election-season campaign, Pro-Voice
in ’08
, Exhale and Rewire asked women who have had abortions what
they wanted to hear from the next President when he gave his first State of the
Union speech.  Today, we publish their
voices and ask President Obama to speak directly to us – the millions of
American women, and our loved ones, who have personally experienced abortion –
in his first Presidential Address.   

Here is what we would like to hear:

"I know it was
really hard for you and you were very unhappy for a while afterwards, and I
also know that you did the right thing, because nobody else knows what you need
as well as you do." 

"I can only
imagine how difficult a position you must have been in, and I respect and honor
the thought and care that you used in making your decision." 

"I believe that
you were thoughtful and compassionate as you considered the heart-wrenching,
life-altering and soul-splintering place that you were in regarding the
potential for life within you. I respect your choice and the strength required
to choose, and the courage to live, truly live alongside your choice each
day." 

"I’m sorry you were in
such a difficult time in your life, and I will do my best to protect other
women who face similar issues." 

"I know it was
not an easy choice, but I trust you with the choice you made. And I respect
your right to make the choice." 

"I trust that you
have made the most responsible, intelligent and moral decision for yourself and
your family."
 

Are you a woman who has had an abortion and know what you’d
like to hear from President Obama?  How
can he convey – in one sentence – support and respect for your unique
experience?  Add your voice and be a part
of creating a pro-voice dialogue by contributing a comment or uploading your
own video here.

Watch videos women have already uploaded:

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”