December 13, 2008
Obama's Abortion SocialismBy Paul Kengor
Conservatives rightly fear that President Obama will produce the Democrat Party's third great expansion of the welfare state, extending Leviathan beyond FDR's and LBJ's most fertile imaginations. Yet, Barack Obama constitutes an altogether different danger: expansion of federal power into cultural areas -- with an economic justification -- where previous Democratic presidents would have never considered going.
Barack Obama is seeking to nationalize certain cultural areas as an entirely new means of redistribution to the masses. Historically, the left has endeavored to nationalize specific, say, industries. Obama, however, envisions the nationalization of something wholly unique -- namely, abortion policy.
As any college student ought to learn in PoliSci 101, communism and socialism view the world through the prism of economics. The communist and socialist thrust nearly every conceivable idea in front of an economic lens, even those that don't belong there. Everything becomes an income or class issue.
Obama sees "abortion rights" in several ways, but, principally, he perceives abortion as a matter of economic fairness. For Barack Obama, abortion is not merely a Constitutional right; it is a matter of social justice. He believes it is patently unfair that some women struggle to afford an abortion, or cannot purchase the procedure at all. Consequently, the state -- meaning a single federal state -- should seize that right and ensure its equitable distribution to every (female) citizen. This is spreading the wealth -- on the skin of America's unborn.
What you have here, remarkably, is a kind of abortion socialism, utterly unprecedented in the history of America.
We can see Obama's abortion socialism in two ways: (1) his formal speeches and remarks on the campaign trail; and (2) his policy positions.
An off-the-cuff remark was Obama's infamous comment in Western Pennsylvania last spring, where he dreaded his unwed daughters getting pregnant and being "punished with a baby." Obama's fear was based on affordability: his daughters would be saddled with the financial burden of an unplanned pregnancy.
But a deeper, more bracing statement was his July 17, 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood, where Obama made another revealing assertion: he described Planned Parenthood as a "safety-net provider."
"Safety net?" Abortion constitutes a "safety net?" According to Barack Obama, yes.
We have heard that phrase many times since the advent of the New Deal and the Great Society, as liberals have slid more and more "services" under an ever-widening government umbrella. But liberals, to my knowledge, haven't strayed into shoving abortion services, and Planned Parenthood itself, under that umbrella.
The term "safety net" is typically applied to conventional financial security -- government programs to lend a hand to a citizen who needs a back-up to catch him when he's falling. This might apply to welfare or unemployment benefits or Social Security with the government the safety-net provider. Now, in this new Obama definition, a safety net includes Planned Parenthood and its abortion services.
That's a quantum leap beyond the New Deal.
It is also a testimony to the dark pessimism behind Obama's sunny rhetoric about "change," as well as the dark pessimism of the modern liberal-progressive worldview. The undesired child is seen as a burden. For the mother's alleged financial well-being, she now, apparently, needs the government benefit of an abortion "safety net" to exterminate that child in the womb. That safety net includes the sick, secular left's utopian dream: federal funding -- your tax dollars -- of unrestricted abortion.
Barack Obama is ready to take this nation where it has never gone before.
And yet, Obama sees this new world as the very essence of America. He told Planned Parenthood that America was "founded on the principle of equality and freedom," and that it's their duty "to extend that equality to the many." This includes economic equality in the form of a "universal healthcare system," of which, he told Planned Parenthood, it would be "part of that system." He vowed to Planned Parenthood that his universal-healthcare vision would be fully achieved in his first term.
Such a healthcare system, Obama told Planned Parenthood, would spare a teenage girl "a lifetime of struggle." He wistfully imagined an America where he could contently "tuck in every night" his two little girls, assured they had been sanctified with the right of "choice" -- the choice to abort Obama's grandchildren.
Obama said this would be a "more fair and more just America" that would allow him and Planned Parenthood, together, "to transform this nation."
This brings me to the second aspect of Obama's abortion socialism -- the federal fiat to make this possible:
In that same Planned Parenthood speech, Obama vowed the "first thing" he would do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which he co-sponsored when introduced in Congress in April 2007 by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). This stunning legislation would create a new "fundamental right," a single federal right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
FOCA would wipe off the books all the reasonable restrictions on abortion (parental-consent laws, informed-consent laws) agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans in state legislatures over the past 35 years. Those restrictions would be superseded by the federal government. No governmental body, at any level, could "discriminate" against women who exercise this "fundamental right."
This sounds so shocking that readers may think I'm exaggerating, perhaps hoodwinked by hyperbole and fear-mongering by pro-life groups. Not at all. To quote NARAL Pro-Choice America, FOCA would "codify Roe v. Wade into law and guarantee a woman's right to choose in all 50 states." Likewise, the National Organization for Women excitedly proclaims that FOCA would "sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies."
In addition, Obama will repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects taxpayers from paying for abortions. This amendment, plus legislation protecting doctors and nurses from forcibly participating in abortions -- which, it is feared, could be overturned by FOCA -- derive from a wonderful American tradition of conscientious objection, of the government not coercing citizens to kill against their will or faith. It is this FOCA threat that is terrifying America's Catholic bishops.
The right to an abortion is sacrosanct to Barack Obama. He opposed Born Alive Infants Protection legislation in Illinois because he (mistakenly) feared that such legislation would undermine the inviolability of Roe v. Wade. As he said, it wasn't that he wanted those abortion-surviving babies left to die, even though that was the effect of what he did, but that he saw a graver threat to Roe v. Wade.
So, the incoming president's goal is to ensure that no woman, for any reason, be unable to get an abortion. He will enlist all citizens in the effort to ensure this is so. For the first time in American history, abortion would become an entitlement. Wealth would be spread in order to spread abortion benefits. Karl Marx's mid-19th century maxim, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," would find incarnation as America's 21st century abortion policy.
This is where liberalism has arrived: a concerted, government forced and financed massive denial of life to unborn Americans. And imagine that Obama voters on November 4 included libertarians and millions of professing Christians. Talk about being duped. No wonder the Catholics bishops are beside themselves.
In the end, it is ignorance that will kill us -- in this case, literally. We know that the public knows nothing about socialism, a direct result of the failures of the liberal media and education. Add to that the ignorance of Obama's radicalism on abortion, and what do you get? A toxic brew poised to poison America's soul.
Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).