White House: Obama Made Same Abortion Pledge to Pope That He Made to Planned Parenthood
July 20, 2009 - 6:02 PMWhite House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told CNSNews.com Monday that President Barack Obama made the same pledge to Pope Benedict XVI about reducing the number of abortions that he made to Planned Parenthood as a presidential candidate in 2007.
In a July 17, 2007 speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama decried the Supreme Court’s opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, the decision that upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. In a question-and-answer session after the speech, Obama said the first thing he would do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.
While Obama did acknowledge a need to find “common ground” in the speech to Planned Parenthood, he spoke of it in the context of promoting contraception--not in the context of persuading pregnant women not to abort their unborn children.
“There’s a moral component to prevention. And we shouldn’t be shy about acknowledging it,” said Obama. “As parents, as family members, we need to encourage young people to show reverence toward sexuality and intimacy. We need to teach that not just to the young girls, we need to teach it to those young boys. But even as we are teaching those lessons, we should never be willing to consign a teenage girl to a lifetime of struggle because of a lack of access to birth control or a lifetime of illness because she doesn’t understand how to protect herself. That’s just commonsense. There’s common ground on behalf of commonsense—there we have an opportunity to move forward and agree.”
While visiting the Vatican earlier this month, Obama reportedly promised the pope he would work to reduce the number of abortions in the United States. As reported by Agence French Presse, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Obama made the promise "very explicit" during his 40-minute meeting with the pontiff.
"The pontiff told me that President Obama affirmed his personal commitment to try to reduce the number of abortions in the United States," Lombardi said, according to AFP.
On Monday, CNSNews.com asked Gibbs if Obama’s commitment to the pope to work to reduce the number of abortions in the United States means he supports an amendment to the health-care reform bill proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) that would prohibit federal funds from going to abortion through federally subsidized health-insurance programs.
Gibbs interrupted the question to say that Obama had said the same thing to Planned Parenthood in 2007 that he said to the pope this year.
CNSNews.com: “Going back to the President's visit to the Vatican, he reportedly told the Pope that he would work to and do all he could to reduce the number of abortions—”
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs: “I think he said -- he said that in a speech to Planned Parenthood in 2007, so yes.”
CNSNews.com: “Could someone reasonably say that in doing all you can do to reduce the number of abortions would also mean supporting the Hatch amendment to the health care bill that would prohibit federal funds going to abortion?”
Gibbs: “Well, I have not seen the Hatch amendment. I know the president believes that current policy--certainly current policy for Medicaid prohibits federal funding for abortions. That’s the Hyde amendment. I think when it comes to designing a benefit package, I think the president and this administration agree that that's--a benefit package is better left to experts in the medical field to determine how best and what procedures to cover.”
On Fox News Sunday this weekend, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag would not rule out that he final health-care bill would include federal funding for abortion—just as Gibbs did not rule it out in his answer at the press briefing today.
“I think that that [abortion funding] will wind up being part of the debate,” Orszag told Fox News. “I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate.”
Last week, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee declined to adopt the Hatch amendment, forbidding federal funding of abortion, in its version of the health-care reform bill.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.), who is shepherding the bill through the Senate, defended the bill’s prospective funding of abortion.
“We like the idea that people have choices and, indeed, the law of the land permits people to make those choices, and we respect that, and we are going to pursue that,” Dodd told CNSNews.com last week when asked about abortion funding in the bill. “Again, we do not want to discriminate when people have--they have convictions, moral convictions and religious convictions.”