The line on Obama’s Roe v. Wade Day statement is that, in line with various “third way” approaches, it reveals a noteworthy commitment to abortion reduction. See Paulson here, for example. I confess I don’t see it. Here’s the relevant part of the statement:
On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose. While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.
It’s not only that he places Roe in the context of individual liberty generally–a moral good. It’s that he gives no ground to those, including his supporters, who regard abortion as morally bad. Reducing unintended pregnancies via birth control has always been central to the Planned Parenthood agenda–why do you think it’s called Planned Parenthood? Then there’s that “need for abortion” language that the third-way folks unsuccessfully sought to have changed in this year’s Democratic Platform. The pro-life forces, especially the Catholic ones, certainly are not interested in a common-ground approach expanding access to contraception and accurate health information (i.e. as opposed to “just say no”).
Yes, Obama refrained from announcing an end to the “Mexico City policy” requiring any non-governmental organization to agree before receiving U.S. funds that it will “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” That would have been a stick in the eye to all those pro-life demonstrators wending their way through the post-inaugural detritus yesterday. But there was nothing designed to appeal to them–say, about enhancing childcare or adoption services so as to encourage the reluctant to carry their pregnancies to term. Like it or not, the president is pretty much an unreconstructed pro-choicer. Like the majority of his people.