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IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Barack Obama’s speech to Planned Parenthood

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a special series of stories that Baptist Press will run between now and Nov. 4. Stories will run on Wednesdays and Fridays.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–This is the seventh in a series of stories focusing on one specific national issue and detailing where the two major presidential candidates stand. Called “In Their Own Words,” the stories avoid commentary and instead present the candidates’ views as they have stated them in the past — either in interviews, speeches, debates or on their campaign websites.

Today, BP is printing the transcript of Barack Obama’s speech to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, July 17, 2007. An accompanying story in today’s Baptist Press includes John McCain’s speech to National Right to Life.

Following is Obama’s speech:

“It’s been a little over five months since I announced my candidacy for president of the United States of America and everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been inspired by these enormous crowds. We had 20,000 people in Atlanta, 20,000 people in Austin, Texas, 15,000 people in Oakland, Calif. And I would love to take all the credit for these crowds myself, to say to myself that it’s just because I’m just so fabulous, but my wife says otherwise. Michelle, I think, confirms that these crowds are not about me. It’s about the hunger all across America for something different. It’s about the sense that we can do better — that we’ve come to a crossroads, that we’re not pointed in the right direction.

“And as I look out over these crowds, and they are a wonderful cross-section of the country — male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native-American, disabled, gay, straight, old, young — what I’m heartened to see is particularly the young people who are getting their first chance to be part of a larger movement of Americans. I see young women who are Ariana’s age and younger, and I think about my own two daughters, Sasha and Malia, and sometimes it makes me stop and it makes me wonder: what kind of America will our daughters grow up in? What kind of America will our daughters grow up in?

“Will our daughters grow up with the same opportunities as our sons? Will our daughters have the same rights, the same dreams, the same freedoms to pursue their own version of happiness? I wonder because there’s a lot at stake in this country today, and there’s a lot at stake in this election, especially for our daughters. To appreciate that all you have to do is review the recent decisions handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States. For the first time in Gonzales vs. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on abortions with criminal penalties for doctors. For the first time, the courts endorsed an abortion restriction without an exception for a woman’s health. The decision presumed that the health of women is best protected by the court — not by doctors and not by the woman herself. That presumption is wrong.

“Some people argue that the federal ban on abortion was just an isolated effort aimed at one medical procedure — that it’s not part of a concerted effort to steadily roll back the hard-won rights of American women. That presumption is also wrong. Within hours of the decision, an Alabama lawmaker introduced a measure to ban all abortions. With one more vacancy on the court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a woman’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe vs. Wade, and that is what is at stake in this election.

“The only thing more disturbing than the decision was the rationale of the majority. Without any hard evidence, Justice Kennedy proclaimed, ‘It is self-evident that a woman would regret her choice.’ He cited medical uncertainty about the need to protect the health of pregnant women, even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found no such uncertainty. Justice Kennedy knows many things; my understanding is he does not know how to be a doctor.

“He dismissed as mere preferences the reasoned judgment of the nation’s doctors. As we’ve seen time after time these last few years when the president says otherwise, when the science is inconvenient, when the facts don’t match up with the ideology, they are cast aside. Well, it’s time for us to change that. It is time for a different attitude in the White House. It is time for a different attitude in the Supreme Court. It is time to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history.

“We know that five men don’t know better than women and their doctors what’s best for a woman’s health. We know that it’s about whether or not women have equal rights under the law. We know that a woman’s right to make a decision about how many children to have and when — without government interference — is one of the most fundamental freedoms we have in this country. We also know that there was another voice that came from the bench — a voice clear in reasoning and passionate in dissent. A voice rejected what she called, quote ‘Ancient notions of women’s place in the family and under the Constitution, ideas that have long been discredited.’ One commentator called the decision in Gonzales, ‘An attack on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s entire life’s work.’ And it was. But we heard Justice Ginsburg and we know what she was saying. She was saying, ‘We’ve been there before and we are not going back. We refuse to go back.’

“We know it’s not just one decision. It’s the blow dealt to equal pay in the Ledbetter [v. Goodyear] case. It’s the blow dealt to integration in the school desegregation case. It’s an approach to the law that favors the powerful over the powerless — that holds up a flawed ideology over the rights of the individual. We don’t see America in these decisions — that’s not who we are as a people. We’re a country founded on the principle of equality and freedom. We’re the country that’s fought generation after generation to steadily extend that equality to the many not restrict it to the few. We’ve been there before and we’re not going back.

“I have worked on these issues for decades now. I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught constitutional law — not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality. Steve and Pam will tell you that we fought together in the Illinois state Senate against restrictive choice legislation — laws just like the federal [partial-birth] abortion ban that are cropping up. I’ve stood up for the freedom of choice in the United States Senate and I stand by my votes against the confirmation of Judge Roberts and Samuel Alito.

“So, you know where I stand. But this is more than just about standing our ground. It must be about more than protecting the gains of the past. We’re at a crossroads right now in America — and we have to move this country forward. This election is not just about playing defense, it’s also about playing offense. It’s not just about defending what is, it’s about creating what might be in this country. And that’s what we’ve got to work together on.

“There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield…. [T]he first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do…. That’s why I think it’s important for us obviously to get not only a Democratic White House as well as a stronger Congress to protect these rights.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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  • Michael Foust