Everyone in the world has sent me the link to this AP story about an interview Obama did with Relevant Magazine, a Christian publication, in which he reportedly said that “mental distress” shouldn’t qualify as part of the mother’s health exception to late-term abortion bans. I quite honestly could not believe this was being reported correctly, so I looked out the original article.
And, sure enough, that’s what he says all right.
Strang: Based on emails we received, another issue of deep importance to our readers is a candidate’s stance on abortion. We largely know your platform, but there seems to be some real confusion about your position on third-trimester and partial-birth abortions. Can you clarify your stance for us?
Obama: I absolutely can, so please don’t believe the emails. I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.
I just honestly don’t even know what to say. Part of me wants to explore the bloody fucking obvious hypotheticals that make this position totally untenable (e.g. a pregnant woman under such psychological distress that she is a danger to herself and ergo necessarily the fetus), and another part of me just wants to point out how gobsmackingly offensive (and misogynist) this is.
As a refresher of why this position is out of touch with reproductive rights, I’m referring you to this post of 4/07, about how anti-abortion proponents believe that partial-birth abortion is being performed on healthy women because women with mental issues are the ones trying to get the procedures and mental issues are not actual health issues that require medical attention, and therefore the procedure is never medically necessary and can safely and without guilt be banned under all circumstances.
Obama’s statement places him in line with that (il)logic, which comes from the Family Research Council, that little advocacy group that Ken Blackwell advises. From my 4/07 post:
I’ve just finished listening to this very disturbing hour on Diane Rehm.
About midway through the edition, the anti-abortion advocate from the Family Research Council (the group that anointed Ken Blackwell as a senior fellow), Cathy Cleaver Ruse, completely, totally and unbelievingly – in the wake of what we know now about the VaTech shooter and his mental health problems – devalued and discounted the role of a woman’s mental health status when choosing to have a legal medical procedure.
What did she say:
Ruse was seeking to make her point that partial birth procedures are never medically necessary to save the life of the mother and that they are performed on healthy women.
To make this point, Ruse referred to health statistics from the state of Kansas (which you can see here, and I have reviewed), the only state that has kept stats on partial-birth procedures. Then, she indicated that in 1999, 182 partial birth procedures were reported to have been performed in Kansas. Then, she emphasized that in all those instances, according to the report, physicians indicated that the major bodily function that would have been impaired if the procedure was not performed would be mental, not physical.
So – to Ruse, mental health needs are not needs at all, and certainly not health needs. Want to tell that to the parents of the dead from Virginia Tech?
And the campaign’s statement will come…when? And say…what? What does Michelle Obama think?
I have to believe that if there were more women on Obama’s messaging staff, this kind of thing would not be happening. Unless of course he really feels this way.
Additional thought: After re-reading this a few times, I think Obama was flimflammed and that either neither he nor his people recall that Kansas situation and the anti-abortion argument about mental health and partial-birth abortion being performed on healthy women, since mental distress isn’t considered by them to be something that can necessitate a medical procedure.
How could this happen? I don’t know – lots of possibilities: inexperience, spread too thin, too many men and not enough women involved, not paying enough attention to women’s issues – or really believing that mental illness isn’t a real health issue.
Anyone know what he’s done re: mental health parity for insurance coverage?
Oy, and how does this compare to John McCain?