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Obama administration could radically change U.S. landscape on social issues

WASHINGTON (BP)–Barack Obama made history Nov. 4 in many ways, not least of which was giving pro-choicers hope they finally may be able to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that pro-lifers call the most radical piece of abortion rights legislation ever introduced.

Obama’s liberal views on abortion and “gay rights” flew under the radar during the general election — overshadowed partially by a struggling economy — but his positions on those controversial issues could dramatically alter American history, particularly since he has a pro-abortion House and Senate by his side.

The last time a Democratic president took office with a Congress of the same party was 1993, when Bill Clinton was sworn in with 57 senators and 258 representatives from his own party. For Obama, it will be at least 56 senators and 251 representatives

But pro-family leaders publicly worry that Obama — at least on social issues — is more liberal than Clinton was. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, previously called Obama “the most radical pro-abortion candidate to ever be nominated by a major party.”

During the general election, pro-lifers often pointed to Obama’s opposition to a ban on partial-birth abortion as well as his opposition to a bill in the Illinois legislature that would have required doctors to provide medical attention to pre-viable babies who survive abortion.

But now that he is president-elect, it is Obama’s position on the Freedom of Choice Act that is perhaps most concerning to pro-lifers. Like Clinton did, Obama has promised that he would sign the act, which would overturn virtually every pro-life law on the state and federal level — such as parental notification laws and partial-birth abortion bans — and also would ensure that abortion remains legal, even if the Supreme Court someday overturns Roe v. Wade. It likely also would lead to taxpayer funding of abortion under Medicaid and any future government health insurance program.

Asked in 2007 at a Planned Parenthood meeting what he would do as president to make sure abortion remains legal, Obama replied that “the first thing I’d do as president is sign” the bill. He is one of 19 co-sponsors of it in the Senate (where it is known as S. 1964). In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t listed as a current sponsor, although she does support the bill and has sponsored past versions.

The Freedom of Choice Act first was introduced in 1989 and was thought to have had the votes for passage in 1993 when Clinton took office, but pro-lifers successfully killed it.

Obama’s support of the bill seems to conflict with his own public statements about abortion, such as one in the third presidential debate when he insisted that “there surely is some common ground” where “those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together.” He went on to list several options to reach such a goal, including “providing appropriate education” to youth about sex as well as “providing options for adoption” and “helping single mothers” who want to keep the baby. Pro-lifers, though, say Obama actually is opposed to what they view as the most common-sense, common-ground legislation. For instance, according to a questionnaire filled out by his campaign, Obama favors ending federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers.

“It’s one or the other: Either we’re going to see [him] finding coming ground, or we’re going to see an effort to pass the Freedom of Choice Act and live up to his campaign promise,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said during a conference call.

The Freedom of Choice Act’s sponsors acknowledge that it would have a wide-reaching impact. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the Senate lead sponsor, said in 2004 that the bill “supersedes any law, regulation or local ordinance that impinges on a woman’s right to choose.” The National Organization for Women, which also supports the bill, says on its website the bill “would override the Court’s decision” in the partial-birth abortion ruling and would “supersede laws that restrict the right to abortion, including laws that prohibit the public funding of abortion.”

But Obama’s position on the Freedom of Choice Act isn’t the only issue that concerns pro-family groups and citizens. Obama also could change the national landscape on:

— Embryonic stem cell research. A bill that would drastically increase public funding for embryonic stem cell research seems likely to become law — perhaps as soon as next year — with Obama in office. He supports the bill, which President Bush twice vetoed. Obama also could possibly reverse the Bush policy via executive order.

— The Supreme Court. At least two of the court’s liberal stalwarts — 88-year-old John Paul Stevens and 75-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg — appear on the verge of retirement. Although replacing the two justices with another pair of liberal justices wouldn’t change the ideological makeup of the court, it would give the court’s liberal wing two much younger justices and would keep conservatives from reaching one of their long-sought-after-goals: replacing a liberal with a conservative and giving them five solid votes (a majority).

Obama provided insight into the types of justices he would appoint when he wrote in his book “Audacity of Hope” that he believes the Constitution “is not a static but rather a living document and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world” — words that are music to liberals’ ears. He also has said he disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion. Obama last year told a meeting of Planned Parenthood — the nation’s largest abortion rights organization — that “there’s a lot at stake in this election.”

It is possible Stevens could surprise everyone and remain on the court: He is about four years away from becoming the longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history.

— “Gay rights.” Obama supports same-sex civil unions — which grant homosexual couples all the legal benefits of marriage — and favors overturning the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which prevents homosexuals from serving openly. Just as significantly, Obama favors overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, a law signed by President Clinton which gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s “gay marriage” licenses. DOMA also prohibits the government from recognizing “gay marriage.” Obama was the first major party nominee — much less the first president — to oppose DOMA. He is further to the left on the issue than was former Democratic nominee John Kerry, who in 2004 backed the Defense of Marriage Act and also favored a constitutional marriage amendment in his home state of Massachusetts. Obama opposed marriage amendments on the ballot this year in California, Florida and Arizona.

Like Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, also favors overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Asked in July by a reporter if she would back Obama’s effort to repeal the law, she replied simply, “yes.”

In a letter to the homosexual community in February, Obama promised that he would use “the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws” — which presumably was a reference to civil unions and other similar laws, because in the next sentence of the letter he said he personally believes “civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment.” Pro-family groups, though, argue that civil unions simply are a stepping stone toward “gay marriage.” Connecticut’s Supreme Court legalized “gay marriage” despite the state’s civil unions law.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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  • Michael Foust