Google “Mitt Romney abortion,” restricting your search to the past 24 hours. You get pages and pages of hits, stories afire with the news that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t envision abortion legislation coming before him if he were elected president, but he still supports various pro-life initiatives.

This has lit up the left, who see themselves as the protectors of  women’s “lady parts” with their pro-choice stance on abortion, and who view Republicans as enemies of women, licking their chops at the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Before things get too crazy—the vice-presidential debate is coming up, after all, and Paul Ryan is unabashedly pro-life—let’s not forget this: there’s only one candidate in the presidential race who believes that ladies, along with their lady parts, can be discarded with impunity, if they happen to be born as the result of a failed abortion. That is Barack Obama, the candidate who holds the most extreme positions on abortion in this campaign.

Let me repeat this, so journalists eager to report on all candidates’ abortion positions (not just Republicans’) can absorb it: when in the Illinois state legislature, Barack Obama would not support a law saving the lives of babies—real, live human beings, not “fetuses”—who happened to be born after failed abortions.

This places the president to the left of NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Here is their statement on so-called Born-Alive Acts from June 2001:

 “NARAL does not oppose passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Last year’s committee and floor debate served to clarify the bill’s intent and assure us that it is not targeted at Roe v. Wade or a woman’s right to choose.”

The president’s defenders (and the president himself) claim that Obama didn’t support Born Alive legislation in Illinois because it was trying to undermine Roe v. Wade, and that he would have supported a bill similar to the federal one on this issue. An investigation by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, however, agreed with the National Right to Life Committee when it found that the president voted in committee against BAIF even though it was “nearly identical” to the federal bill:

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committee’s 2003 mark-up session.

It’s no wonder the president would want to gloss over or fudge this issue. Common sense tells us that if you were able to survey every single adult American on support or opposition to “Born Alive” bills, you’d probably find support in the super-majority range—certainly 60 percent, probably closer to 90. What reasonable, clear-thinking person could be for letting live infants die in trash bins?

But, as I’ve pointed out before, most Americans who identify with the pro-choice and pro-life positions are in agreement on many abortion specifics. Here’s a quick summary from a Gallup survey last year (click on chart to enlarge)

Of the nine points of agreement in that table, three could be considered solid pro-choice positions—keeping abortion legal under certain circumstances, such as rape or incest—while six of the positions line up with pro-life initiatives that pro-choice absolutists oppose. Pro-choice absolutists such as President Obama.

So even on these nine areas of agreement, most of the points are ones that pro-lifers such as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan agree with, at least one Joe Biden supports (in 1999, he voted to ban partial birth abortion), while the president, whose administration recently promulgated regulations forcing all health insurers to cover birth control and abortifacients, regardless of conscience issues, is the extremist.

You could summarize the Gallup results by saying that America wants abortion to remain legal, but is not opposed to reasonable restrictions to keep it “rare.”

Speaking of that word, “rare,” scant attention was given to the fact that it disappeared from the Democratic platform’s plank on abortion, while much fuss was made over the Republican platform’s purist pro-life approach, which has remained virtually unchanged for years.

When the economy is in shambles and the Middle East in flames, it’s easy to get frustrated with discussions of abortion, especially when it is unlikely, as Romney said, that legislation will come before him, if he were president, on this topic. But to those who have strong beliefs on abortion and a woman’s access to it, that issue is paramount, above what happens in the world or to our economy.

I don’t dismiss that passion—it’s a serious subject, one dealing with fundamental issues of life and liberty. I especially respect pro-lifers, whose viewpoints are often misrepresented as out of the mainstream (despite the areas of consensus found in the Gallup poll) and whose advocates are often ridiculed as religious zealots who all approve of violence to abortion providers (cue Law & Order music).

So, go ahead, talk about abortion, write about it, ask candidates about it. But on this topic, be clear: someone who will not stand up for live baby girls about to be tossed on the trash heap is no true champion of girls, women, ladies or any of their “parts.”

Libby Sternberg is a novelist.

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