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Barack Obama on Reproductive Rights, Sex Education, and Abortion

Does Barack Obama Support Reproductive Choice and Women's Autonomy?


Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) at a forum on 'Faith Guiding Our Votes: faith, values and poverty' on June 4

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at a forum on 'Faith Guiding Our Votes: faith, values and poverty' on June 4

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Christian Right has fought hard to deny women the ability to make reproductive choices through restrictions on abortion, sex education, emergency contraception, and contraception generally. Barack Obama supports reproductive liberty and reproductive choices for women. He supports a woman's right to choose, even when it comes to late term abortions, and he supports federal funding of both contraceptives and sex education for teenagers.

In a statement on abortion rights, Barack Obama laid out his basic approach:

A woman's ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women.

This is a necessary starting point for anyone who truly supports women's reproductive rights. Women are not fully equal unless they are fully autonomous, but they are not fully autonomous if the state has the authority to force them to carry pregnancies to term to deny them access to products which can prevent pregnancy in the first place. However much a person might disagree with abortion personally, they cannot deny women the right to decide what happens to their own physical body.

Another basic starting point for reproductive rights is trusting women to make decisions for themselves and about their own bodies, not presuming to impose government restrictions because women can't be trusted to make the right decisions. The latter perspective is what informs the policies of the Christian Right. When Barack Obama was asked about late term abortions in the April 26, 2007 South Carolina debate, he said:

I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy.

One more important aspect of reproductive rights is information: freedom of choice is effectively meaningless if you don't know what your choices are. That, however, is just the situation which the Christian Right has sought to create by promoting abstinence-only education over any sort of sex education which tells teens about contraceptive and abortion options. Barack Obama has not only opposed abstinence-only education and endorsed sex education generally, but he has voted to provide federal funding for programs designed to reduce teen pregnancy through proper education and contraceptives.

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