At Sunday’s night’s Compassion Forum, Barack Obama responded to questions posed by Campbell Brown, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, and members of a religious audience at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Brown framed the evening as one “with the Democratic presidential candidates to focus on the issues of faith and compassion and how a president’s faith can affect us.”
At one point Meacham asked Obama to explain his abortion-related comments to the effect that he would not want one of his daughters to be “punished with a baby” if she got pregnant as a child. Exanding on his earlier remarks, Obama explained that he was referring to the case if, at the age of 12 or 13, they made what I would consider to be a mistake, in having sex or unprotected sex, and ended up getting pregnant.
Listening to the remarks, I was most struck by Obama’s reluctance to describe the hypothetical conduct as simply wrong. It is, rather, “what I would consider to be a mistake.” Someone else, of course, might think it fine, and Obama doesn’t want to be, well, judgmental.
But he hesitates even at describing what he “would consider to be a mistake.” Having sex at age 12 may not be “a mistake,” in the gospel according to Barack, unless perhaps it is “unprotected sex.” The applicable commandment in the gospel according to Barack is, if a child is to have sex, for goodness’ sake use a condom!
Why might Obama consider it “a mistake” for his 12-year-old daughter to have unprotected sex and to get pregnant? Not because at age 12 she is incapable of consent. Not because a child needs both a father and a mother. Not because marriage should be part of the picture. Of course not. Rather, in the gospel according to Barack “statistically we know 12- or 13- year-olds who are having children are much more likely to be impoverished, are much more likely to have health problems, are much more likely to have trouble raising that child.”
Expanding on his support for legal abortion because he would not want one of his daughters to be “punished with a baby,” Obama further explicated his own text:
And so all I meant was we want to prevent teen pregnancies. And what we don’t want to do is to be blind to the possibility that kids will screw up, just like, surprisingly enough, we as adults screw up sometimes.
And, you know, we should factor in the possibility that they make mistakes in our approach to dealing with STDs, which is what I was being asked about at the time.
And we want to make sure that, even as we are teaching responsible sexuality and we are teaching abstinence to children, that we are also making sure that they’ve got, you know, enough understanding about contraception that they don’t end up having much more severe problems because of a dumb mistake.
Will somebody say amen?