Obama Interview: I Support Abortion Conscience Clause, What Note Dame Scandal?
by Steven Ertelt
July 2, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In a Thursday morning interview with members of various Catholic publications, President Barack Obama defended himself from criticism over his pro-abortion record. He said he supports a conscience clause on abortion but gave a joking response to a question about Notre Dame.
According to a National Catholic Register report, Obama talked about his upcoming visit with Pope Benedict XVI and said he looked forward to taking with him about unrelated political issues.
Father Owen Kearns, editor in chief and publisher of the Register, said each member of the Catholic press was allowed to ask one question and the most controversial came in regard to Obama’s position on conscience clauses.
Kearns told Register writer Tim Drake that Obama tried to "dispel the worst" about what pro-life advocates say about his attempts to overturn the additional pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place.
"Well, I think that the only reason that my position may appear unclear is because it came in the wake of a last-minute, 11th-hour change in conscience clause provisions that were pushed forward by the previous administration that we chose to reverse," Obama said.
"But my underlying position has always been consistent, which is I’m a believer in conscience clauses. I was a supporter of a robust conscience clause in Illinois for Catholic hospitals and health care providers," Obama added.
"I discussed this with Cardinal George when he was here in the Oval Office, and I reiterated my support for an effective conscience clause in my speech at Notre Dame," he said.
About the pro-life movement’s reaction to his pro-abortion record on the conscience clause, Obama said, "So I think that there have been some who keep on anticipating the worst from us, and it’s not based on anything I’ve said or done, but is rather just a perception somehow that we have some hard-line agenda that we’re seeking to push."
He said the Bush regulations "hadn’t been properly reviewed and thought through" and that "We are in the process of reviewing the possibilities of any changes to what was then."
"We will be coming out with I think more specific guidelines. But I can assure all of your readers that when this review is complete there will be a robust conscience clause in place," Obama added.
"It may not meet the criteria of every possible critic of our approach, but it certainly will not be weaker than what existed before the changes were made," Obama promised.
About the divide over abortion in the Catholic Church and in the public, the president jokingly asked, "Was there really [a controversy at Notre Dame]?" in response to one question.
In more serious comments, Obama said he didn’t think there was any way to fully reconcile both sides of the abortion debate.
"I can tell you, though, that on the idea of helping young people make smart choices so that they are not engaging in casual sexual activity that can lead to unwanted pregnancies, on the importance of adoption as a option, an alternative to abortion, on caring for pregnant women so that it is easier for them to support children, those are immediately three areas where I would be surprised if we don’t have some pretty significant areas of agreement," Obama said.
He admitted that there likely won’t be common ground on promoting sexual education versus promiting abstinence.
Obama also talked about reducing the "need" for abortion versus reducing the actual numbers of abortions — a sticking point of late.
"I would be surprised if those who believe abortion should be legal would object to language that says we should try to reduce the circumstances in which women feel compelled to obtain an abortion,’ he said. "If they took that position, I would disagree with them."
Kearns related to Drake how Obama said he supported the concept of the Seamless Garment Network that Cardinal Bernardin advanced.
However, it appeared Obama may support it because it elevated other issues where he has less disagreement with the Catholic Church than abolition.
"The president said that that part of the Catholic tradition continues to inspire him. Those issues, he said, seemed to have gotten buried by the abortion debate," Kearns said.
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