Obama says the question of when babies obtain human rights is “above his pay grade.” [Ed.: link updated to an archived link because the original was broken.] This has to be one of the very most ill-advised things any major candidate has said, thus far in the election cycle. Even aside from the fact that it probably unsettles people throughout the spectrum of opinions on abortion, it’s not very presidential.
For a man who has repeatedly voted on abortion rights bills and spoken out countless times about his opinion of Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right to choose,” this is a shameful and irresponsible dodge. It can’t possibly be true that he has no opinion – that would make him utterly amoral on the topic, yet he claims to hold moral positions on it. Nor is it true, since he is a legislator now and a would-be President holds a veto power, that it is “above his pay grade.” Were that so, he would have been abusing his office and the public trust each time he voted on an abortion-related bill or opined on the topic on the campaign trail.
So what are we left with? The most shameful kind of dodge: one which masks a strongly held opinion as though it is irrelevant, when it is not; which does so by means of a false humility; which is clearly a sham; and which is employed only because of the circumstances, namely a discussion in a church, despite the fact that the forum was televised; after all, we can’t have booing broadcast to the people.
EDIT: The actual full quote was:
Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade. But let me speak more generally about the issue of abortion. Because this is something, obviously, the country wrestles with. One thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And So I think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue is not paying attention. So that would be point number one. But Point number two: I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe versus Wade. I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion but because ultimately I don’t think women make these decisions casually. I think they wrestle with these things in profound ways. In consultation with their pastors or spouses or their doctors or their family members. And so for me, the goal right now should be — and this is where I think we can find common ground — and by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform — is: ‘How do we reduce the number of abortions?’ Because the fact is that although we’ve had a president who is opposed to abortions the last eight years, abortions have not gone down.
More good coverage at Get Religion.