Justin Taylor notes that President Obama, by implication, seems to have endorsed the following claims in his statement on abortion on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
1. The will of the stronger is the rule of law.
2. Women are congenitally inferior and need the availability of certain medical procedures that require the killing of an innocent to stand on equal footing with men.
The first claim, while he doesn't endorse it in general and certainly resists it in many cases, does seem to me to be true of his view of abortion. The stronger get to decide for the weaker whether their lives are worth living. Now this is softened because Obama's view of abortion is derived from his view that this is to compensate for women's being less strong than men and thus needing the availability of this procedure to prevent the will of the stronger ruling. So it's sort of ironic that he would advocate on the next level down (women with respect to their fetal children) the exact principle he seems to want to resist on the higher level (women with respect to men). It is a little strange, though, to think that social injustice on one level can be fought by introducing a social injustice with an uncontroversially weaker group.
His move to justify the first claim seems to me to rely on the second claim. I think Frank Beckwith's comment, that Justin included in an update to the post, is correct to say that such a view amounts to a pretty severe form of male chauvinism. One of the things I find refreshing in third-wave versions of feminism is their insistence that women should be recognized as good in what they are without having to compare them with male standards to consider them successful or expecting them to have to be like men in every way to be equal. Pro-life feminists have recognized that most abortion rhetoric, including comments like the President's speech on this occasion, runs contrary to seeing women as equal. Even if I were to grant some of the pro-choice arguments, I'd be loath to accept those that begin with the premise that women simply are inferior and thus need to be compensated for that by giving them permission to end the lives of their own offspring so they can be equal to men. That's not an argument that I could ever see myself appreciating even if I were convinced that there's nothing wrong with abortion.
I'm sure some will object to what I'm saying here by pointing out that pro-choice positions don't accept full moral status for the fetus. Given that, it follows that there need not be the kind of concern for the fetus that would make it a case of the stronger taking advantage of the weaker. While that's true of the standard pro-choice position, it doesn't help with the second observation, since that doesn't rely on the wrongness of abortion but on a view of women's equality. Also, it's not available to President Obama, since his view on abortion is that he doesn't know if it's wrong because he isn't qualified to try to figure that out. He doesn't let that get in the way of allowing something that, for all he knows, might be morally horrific, so I'm not sure his view is all that coherent (if indeed he's being honest about his claim that he doesn't have a view). But one thing is clear. He can't, without contradicting his clear statements in the past, respond to the first claim by asserting that a fetus has no or relatively small moral claim to a right to life.
I'm certainly hoping he's going to be a better President than I expected him to be during the campaign. For the sake of this country, I want him to succeed at the good things he's trying to do and hope he has good ideas that will move the country in a better direction on many fronts. But on this issue all I can do is pray he has a miraculous change of heart. His support for a bill that will surely increase the number of abortions, while insisting repeatedly that he wants to make abortion safe, legal, and rare strikes me as typical politician's rhetoric to play to both sides while not occupying a middle ground at all, something not at all consistent with his image of moving away from such dishonesty. Perhaps there will be ways that his administration will bring needed change to the U.S. government. There are enough warning signs about his reform message conflicting with his choices for his cabinet that I'm wondering if he's going to manage to maintain his reform image at all. Two cabinet appointees who I thought were demonstraqbly unqualified in their respective positions because of immoral behavior related to their specialty (Geithner and Holder) were approved, and two more (Richardson and Daschle) withdrew in the face of corruption complaints. That's a pretty high number for the Hope and Change messiah. But there's still hope that he'll introduce some significant positive changes given some of the refreshing moves he's made already, even if his record so far also raises some serious concerns.
But one thing I've become sure of. On this issue at least, he's either very confused (i.e. intellectually dishonest within his own mind) or obfuscating (i.e. rhetorically dishonest with the public), and I see little hope of the bi-partisan cooperation he was proclaiming on this issue when he courted the evangelical vote if he continues to support a bill that will remove most ways of legislatively restricting instances of abortion, restrictions most of the nation agrees with. I contend that he's not honoring the sense of moderation that he appealed to in order to get elected when he takes that kind of extreme view.