NRO’s Ed Whelan is Way Out of Bounds on Abortion, Obama

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NRO’s Ed Whelan is Way Out of Bounds on Abortion, Obama

Scott Swenson

Former Scalia clerk and National Review contributor Ed Whelan sees Barack Obama as a "former fetus" who is lucky his mother lived during a time of "protective abortion laws." Will he renounce his comments?

A few weeks ago Rewire denounced the comments of a Democratic official in North Carolina, Sarah Fowler, who said that Sarah Palin’s only qualification as John McCain’s running mate was "not having had an abortion."  Fowler apologized within 24 hours for her comments, calling them a clumsy effort to make a point about single issue voters.

Let’s hope the National Review’s Ed Whelan has the same decency, or at least presence of mind, to apologize for his comments in a blog post yesterday, in which he suggests that because Barack Obama’s mother "did not have an abortion" Obama should rethink his policies:

Former Fetus Barack Obama

Nearly 48 years ago, a young woman, not yet 18, became pregnant in her freshman year of college.  Living
in a time and place in which abortion was generally illegal, she
proceeded to marry the father of her child and gave birth to a son.  Perhaps
she would have done so irrespective of the abortion laws at the time,
even if, say, she lived in a legal culture that celebrated abortion as
a fundamental right.  Very possibly not.  (I
haven’t found any statistics on the percentage of pregnant college
freshmen who abort their pregnancies, but indirect indications suggest
that it’s very high.)

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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Barack Obama may actually believe, as he stated yesterday, that Roe v. Wade “was rightly decided.”  But it may be very lucky for him, as the son born of that woman, that it hadn’t been decided a dozen or so years earlier.

That Obama may owe his very life to a pre-Roe
legal regime that banned abortion is, to be sure, not necessarily a
reason that he should favor that regime (though I can’t help noting
that Justice Thomas’s critics recklessly accuse him of hypocrisy for
opposing racial-preference plans that they say he benefited from).  But it ought to lead Obama and others to think more carefully about the valuable role that protective abortion laws play.


Perhaps what is most significant about this outrageous comment is who Whelan is. From his bio: "President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He directs EPPC’s program on The Constitution, the Courts, and the Culture. His areas of expertise include constitutional law and the judicial confirmation process. Mr. Whelan, a lawyer and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has served in positions of responsibility in all three branches of the federal government."

Because of who Whelan is, his argument, however ludicrous, receives attention, just as Sarah Fowler’s did in a highly charged political season.

Barack Obama’s mother made a decision for her and her family based on information that is unknowable, the decisions were private, intimate, personal.  As they should be. Speculating on what role legal considerations played, serves Whelan’s purpose, but has no relevance. Women of all ages choose to carry pregnancies to term everyday, others choose differently — the key is that it is the woman who should make the decision, not Whelan, not the Courts, not the Congress.

The anti-choice community’s argument that abortion may be preventing some genius from coming into the world that could change it for good is based on the weakest kind of faith — that who and what we are is all determined at the moment one of millions of sperm, cracks one egg, and makes it through many obstacles to birth, let alone through the many obstacles of life. Barack Obama made many of his own choices along the way that demonstrate success is based on far more than biology alone.

It is because of who his mother was, what she believed, how she raised him, the values she instilled in him that he is who he is. Some of us have a faith strong enough to believe that had she made a different decision about what was best for her, that someone else with his values and wisdom would be where he is today — fighting against those like Whelan who would impose one set of beliefs on all people.

Creating life is the easy part. Building a culture where every life is respected, every decision based in facts, not lies, growing in wisdom and not made from fear — that is a culture many who celebrate choice work to create.

Whelan, like so many social conservatives, looks in the mirror convinced that their very existence is God given proof all of their ideas are right — for everyone — that they forget free will was given to everyone.

Outlawing abortion, as Whelan and others would do, is not "protective," it is paternalistic, invasive, controlling, and like his comments about Barack Obama and his mother, demeaning to women who look in the mirror and are humbled by their own reflection, thinking carefully before making judgments about, or for, anyone else. Women who know fully the weight of the decision to bring new life into the world and do not need Whelan, Scalia, or anyone else judging their decisions.

I doubt Whelan has the humility of Sarah Fowler, or the presence of mind to recognize the need to apologize for his remarks, demeaning as they are to many women, dripping with paternalism.