“For the first time in Gonzales versus Carhart,” Obama said, “the Supreme Court held—upheld a federal ban on abortions with criminal penalties for doctors. For the first time, the Court’s endorsed an abortion restriction without an exception for women’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.”
He warned abortion supporters that the partial-birth abortion ban should not be construed as an isolated effort, saying it was wrong to presume the law was “not part of a concerted effort to roll back the hard-won rights of American women.”
Obama said the decision had encouraged an Alabama lawmaker to introduce 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 versus Wade and that is what is at stake in this election,” Obama claimed.
The senator said he had a long tradition of support for legalized abortion, citing his efforts in the Illinois State Senate and his classes as a law professor. “I have worked on these issues for decades now,” he said. “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.”
The dissent of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in Gonzales v. Carhart won praise from Obama while Justice Anthony Kennedy, who spoke for the majority, was held up for ridicule.
“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,” Obama said.
On the topic of judicial appointments, Obama reaffirmed his opposition to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito, who are believed to be hostile to the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.