Young Obama, the state, the unborn

obama2Give credit to Ben Smith and Jeffrey Resner of The Politico. The reporters unearthed a 1990 Harvard Law Review article written by none other than its president, Barack Obama. The story provides an interesting early glimpse into Obama's thinking about abortion and fetal rights, as the authors explain:

The six-page summary, tucked into the third volume of the year's Harvard Law Review, considers the charged, if peripheral, question of whether fetuses should be able to file lawsuits against their mothers. Obama's answer, like most courts': No. He wrote approvingly of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that the unborn cannot sue their mothers for negligence, and he suggested that allowing fetuses to sue would violate the mother's rights and could, perversely, cause her to take more risks with her pregnancy.

The subject matter took Obama to the treacherous political landscape of reproductive rights, and -- unlike many student authors -- he dived eagerly into the policy implications of the court decision. His article acknowledged a public interest in the health of the fetus, but also seemed to demonstrate his continuing commitment to abortion rights, and suggested that the government may have more important concerns than "ensuring that any particular fetus is born."

Please read the second half of last sentence again. Obama writes that the government should be neutral to the value of prenatal human life or treat it as a secondary interest.

That's a big statement. I think that the reporters needed to explain or elaborate if possible whether Obama mentioned why he reached this conclusion. Why should the government be value-neutral about pre-natal life, but value-positive about post-natal life?

If Obama never elaborated, which I imagine he did not, the reporters should have said so.

That's not much to ask -- a few baby steps, you might say. In other words, the article needed more Obama on this topic. His words are the story.

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