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Magazine Raises Questions about President Obama’s Prochoice Record

May 9, 2011

In an unprecedented move, Conscience magazine asked leading authors to provide a comprehensive analysis of President Barack Obama’s prochoice record. Many in the progressive reproductive rights and women’s rights field have whispered it, some have murmured it, but Conscience has finally broken the silence about the administration’s abysmal failure to take action on choice issues.

David Nolan, the editor of Conscience, said, “In recent months, many have raised questions about the president’s bona fides. Some have been absurd, others merely ridiculous. We see it as a vital part of our job to hold politicians accountable for the promises they make. So we asked our authors—leading experts in the field—to consider what the president has done and what he has failed to do. We asked them to review the evidence and ask ‘Have you kept your promises, President Obama?’”

In the lead article, “Is Obama Prochoice?” Jodi Jacobson reflects on what appears to be a volte-face between Candidate Obama and President Obama. “As a candidate, Obama said all the right things. As a president, his actions suggest that then-presidential contender and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was right—he will not fight for us.… The president has presided over the greatest erosion to women’s reproductive health and rights in the past 30 years, and a continuing degradation of our rights at the state level. Yet still he remains silent. Is Obama prochoice? Not by my definition.”

Jonathan Stern of the Global AIDS Alliance suggests that Obama’s record is inferior to that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. In “Better the Devil You Know?” he explains his disenchantment with the current administration. “While many of us strongly support President Obama’s economic, tax, energy and foreign policy—particularly compared with those of President Bush—we are very disappointed, even disillusioned, with his global health policy. His ‘commitment’ was a bait and switch. In effect, on this topic, the ‘devil’ we knew was better than the angel we didn’t.”

Noted political journalist Sarah Posner decries the lack of oversight at the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in one of two articles on religion and public policy. In “President Obama’s Religion Problem,” she explains how the office’s head, Joshua DuBois, refuses to tell anybody what he does; has done little if anything to see through the office’s stated priorities—especially as they relate to discrimination—in hiring issues; and doesn’t seem to be held accountable by anyone.

In “All at Sea: USAID under Obama,” author and journalist Michelle Goldberg reveals the prochoice community’s fears that because the administration wasn’t willing to take a strong stand when Democrats were in a position of strength, they’ll be even weaker now that the Republicans control the House of Representatives.

Rev. Barry W. Lynn, an attorney and executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, suggests that the president return to law school. “Sadly, it may be safe to conclude that although the president may have been well-regarded as a professor of constitutional law in Chicago, he has since then had some significant memory loss on subject matter from the textbooks he undoubtedly once used.”

President of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien, in “Still Looking for a Champion,” concludes, “As I write, President Obama is announcing his bid for reelection. I expect we’ll be hearing more promises about improving the lives and health of women in this country, whether through education and family planning, or support for women who want to continue a pregnancy as well as for those who do not. The new campaign website asks, ‘Are you in?’ Perhaps a better question is, ‘Mr. Obama, are you?’”

In “Broken Promises” Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, calls on the president to shape up. “The president must eschew the ideological advances of a desperate minority who do not want our nation’s young people to receive the sexual health information they need and deserve. Instead, he should follow through on his promise to fund comprehensive sex education for all school-age youth.”

The magazine is available on our web site,, and in many bookstores. Single issues may be ordered by calling (202) 986-6093.



Conscience, the newsjournal of Catholic opinion, is published by Catholics for Choice and offers in-depth, cutting-edge coverage of vital contemporary issues, including reproductive rights, sexuality and gender, feminism, the religious right, church and state issues and US politics. Our readership includes national and international opinion leaders and policymakers, members of the press and leaders in the fields of theology, ethics and women’s studies.