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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Planned Parenthood endorses Obama

by James Oliphant

This news isn't a surprise. But it couldn't come at a better time for Barack Obama.

Planned Parenthood, the zealous advocate for abortion rights, said Monday night that it is throwing its full support behind the Democratic candidate.

It's not like it had much choice; after all, John McCain wants Roe v. Wade overturned. But the timing is significant.

This weekend, Obama found himself in the midst of a small tempest, first stirred up by our old colleague, Jan Crawford Greenburg of ABC News, who reported that Obama's remarks to a religious magazine on abortion seemed to suggest he was departing significantly from the standard Democratic party line on the issue.

Obama, in the interview, said that for a woman to receive a late-term abortion, past the stage of viability, she must show some sort of physical condition necessitating the termination of the pregnancy. When asked to clarify, Obama's campaign said that mental illness was included in that assessment.

There's a difference between mental illness and endangered mental health. And Obama's remarks on that issue placed him right of the Democratic party and in line with conservative Supreme Court justices such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who do not support permitting a late-term abortion based on the "mental health" of the mother.

If those comments troubled Planned Parenthood, there was no sign of it in the organization's Monday release, which said:

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is proud to endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. He is a passionate advocate for women's rights, and has a long and consistent record of standing up for women's health care. As president, he will improve access to quality health care for women, support and protect a woman's right to choose, support comprehensive sex education to keep our young people healthy and safe, and invest in prevention programs, including family planning services and breast cancer screenings.

The organization said this is only the second time in its history it has endorsed a presidential candidate.

Planned Parenthood specifically cited Obama's sponsorship of the Freedom of Choice Act in Congress which, interestingly enough, embraces that so-called mental health exception. Obama's campaign has yet to reconcile the disparity between his stated position this weekend and the language of the act.

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