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22 / 08 / 2008 - Abortion set to play role in US Presidential election
Abortion looks set to be a factor in the 2008 US presidential election, as Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama tries to minimise his vulnerability on the issue.
While polls indicate a majority of American voters describe themselves as “pro-choice”, most voters also say they support some restrictions on the practice of abortion. Restrictions on the partial birth abortion procedure, whereby the baby is killed after being partially delivered are supported by the vast majority of Americans.
Most Americans also support laws which protect children “born alive” after abortions. Such a bill passed the US Senate unanimously in 2003. Even staunchly pro-choice Democrats, who opposed bans on partial birth abortion, supported this measure.
Senator Obama voted against a bill like this when he was a state legislator in Illinois. However, he is claiming that the bill he voted against would have undermined Roe vs Wade, the ruling which forbade individual US states from imposing any restrictions whatsoever on the practice of abortion. He has claimed that groups, such as the National Right to Life Campaign, who have raised this issue, are lying, and that he would have supported such a bill.
Last week, in a radio interview he claimed that the bill would have negatively affected this court decision. However, the language in the bill specifically states “Nothing in this Section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being born alive as defined in this Section.”.
In other words, the bill was conferring no rights whatsoever to children in the womb, only to those outside the womb. However the bill did not pass.
The proposed legislation was offered in response to a specific situation where doctors at a Chicago hospital were allowing children who had survived abortions to die by starvation.
Senator Obama's struggles with the issue of abortion come as the Democratic party attempts to make its stance on abortion more appealing to pro-life voters. A number of key states in the upcoming election, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri, are more pro-life than the US as a whole, and Democrats want to make inroads with such voters.
However, the new language, while it mentions access to alternatives to abortion, such as access to family planning, also proclaims the Democratic party's “unequivocal” support for Roe v Wade. More worryingly for pro-life voters, the new platform says that the party supports “a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right".
The reference to “regardless of ability to pay” signals the Democrats commitment to introducing Government-funded abortions, something which legislation in the 1980s forbade.
Meanwhile, the US bishops' annual Labor Day message called on Catholics to use the Church's social teaching to guide them on issues such as abortion in the upcoming elections.
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the US episcopal conference's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, who issued the statement, said that voters should never “forget that human life is the supreme good in this world. Never forget that human dignity is not an expendable commodity but belongs to everyone without exception”.
Source : CiNews