QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you're going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame, and as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.Let's take this point by point.
As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very first things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at one point in the campaign, when asked about abortion and life, you said that it was above -- quote, "above my pay grade."
Now that you've been president for a hundred days, obviously your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator. (Laughter.) Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act, so you can sign it?
MR. OBAMA: You know, the -- my view on -- on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don't want create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with, and families and individual women have to wrestle with.
The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that -- that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day, and I think they are in a better position to make these decisions, ultimately, than members of Congress or -- or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy.
So -- so that's -- that's been my consistent position.
The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is, I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.
And so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.
Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the -- the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's -- that's where I'm going to focus.
Obama doesn't "want create straw men here," so instead he just creates a straw-woman, that mysterious yet ubiquitous pro-choice activist who "suggest[s] that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations." You know, the funny thing about that straw-woman is that she always seems to be invoked by ostensibly pro-choice men who seem to regard women's freedom—or, more accurately, women's autonomy, agency, and ownership of their own bodies—as the least important part of the abortion debate.
And if you're wondering if our president is one of those men, note his deeply unthrilling juxtaposition between "abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue" and "those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they ... suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations." He invokes that straw-woman who only cares about "women's freedom" specifically to lecture her on centralizing the moral component of abortion, because he has not internalized the idea that women's autonomy, agency, and ownership of their own bodies is itself a moral issue central to the abortion debate.
He then asserts that the reason he is pro-choice "is because I don't think women take that—that position casually," except, apparently, the pro-choice activist straw-women he just needed to scold in front of the nation to make sure everyone understands what a bipartisan hero he is. Suffice it to say I'm not happy that he feels obliged to invent heartless pro-choice activists who don't care about women who get abortions when they don't want to—because they have no other choices, because they're under- or unemployed, because they lack healthcare, because they lack daycare, because they lack the ability to care for themselves or existing children—just so that he can construct a false balance between pro-choicers who are wrong on the issue and anti-choicers who are wrong on the issue and cast himself as the Great Bipartisan Unaffected Observer Who's Going to Find the Common Ground.
"I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion," he says, as if that's not already the inevitable result if the comprehensive reproductive rights policies advocated by pro-choice activists were adopted. And he says it as if it's a new idea, and not one promoted and shared by reproductive rights activists. (And, very importantly, not promoted and shared by anti-choice activists.) He has to position himself outside both camps, in order to look like King Fucking Solomon, which is positively infuriating, given that he deliberately misrepresents the pro-choice reproductive rights movement to do it.
"So I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that," sayeth King Solomon. Great. Congratulations. Of course, pro-choice and women-centered pro-life groups have been holding summits for the past few years specifically to find common ground on issues like rights of pregnant incarcerated women, state-sponsored healthcare for pregnant women, making contraception affordable and accessible, requiring comprehensive sex education in schools, etc., but don't let us real women get in the way of your straw-women, captain.
And then the coup de grace, as he declares: "Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority." Oh, really? Shocking.
I know I'm just a silly woman made out of real fleshy bits, and Obama tends to favor women made out of straw on the pro-choice side of this issue (women who, conveniently, can't get pregnant, heh), but I wonder why it is that the Freedom of Choice Act isn't one of his highest legislative priorities, given how inextricably linked economic resources (or the lack thereof) and abortion is.