The Supreme Court yesterday returned abortion and the reproductive rights of women back to the center stage of political life with its ban of so-called “partial birth” abortions. It also returned the Supreme Court itself as an issue. For the first time since Roe v. Wade the court rejected the sensible Clinton position – both Clinton’s – of “safe, legal, and rare”. Right-wing Republicans delighted in the decision which will now be used as a major weapon when they move into state legislatures to attempt to make abortions dangerous, illegal and nonexistent – and to hell with the health of a woman. As Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention stated “This decision is a powerful and timely reminder of presidential elections and their pivotal impact on the makeup of the Supreme Court.”
All major Democratic candidates issued clarion calls against the decision including Hillary. She said
“This decision marks a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman’s right to choose and recognized the importance of women’s health. Today’s decision blatantly defies the Court’s recent decision in 2000 striking down a state partial-birth abortion law because of its failure to provide an exception for the health of the mother. As the Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973, this issue is complex and highly personal; the rights and lives of women must be taken into account. It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.”
Senator Obama also issued a clear denunciation of the decision. However, can he be trusted on this issue?
You see, unlike the U.S. Presidency, the buck does not stop at the Illinois legislature. In the Illinois State legislature a politician who wants to hide from an issue can vote “Present” instead of “Yes” or “No” and thereby avoid responsibility and the inevitable loss of support that comes from actually taking a stand.
In 1997, when it mattered, when he actually had a vote not just a microphone, when the issue of partial birth abortion came before the Illinois State legislature Obama twice gave a “Present” to abortion opponents. On House Bill 382 and Senate Bill 230 – bills that prohibited “partial birth” abortions, Obama took a dive. Like a character from Dr. Suess, Obama did not vote “no,” he did not vote “yes,” he gave a “present”. Obama did not take a stand in 1997. He did not take a stand in 2001. Then House Bill 1900 and Senate Bill 562 – on parental notification, Obama instead of voting “yes” or “no” voted – “present”.
Same thing with Senate Bill 1093, Senate Bill 1094, and Senate Bill 1095 which also dealt with abortion. No leadership, remain popular. No “yes”, no “no”. Let’s all get along and not vote on issues that matter. The audacity of being Present. The lightness of being.
Here are links to reference Obama votes in the Illinois Legislature: