Obama Abortion Flip-Flop Buried in NY Times Blog Item about Rove

It appears that the New York Times would prefer that its readers know as little as possible about Barack Obama's abortion flip-flop, while still retaining the ability to claim, "yeah, we covered it."

As a refresher, here is part of Thursday's Associated Press report on this particular item in the ongoing Obama Flip-Flop festival, first noted at NewsBusters by John Stephenson:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says “mental distress” should not qualify as a health exception for late term-abortions, a key distinction not embraced by many supporters of abortion rights.

In an interview this week with “Relevant,” a Christian magazine, Obama said prohibitions on late-term abortions must contain “a strict, well defined exception for the health of the mother.”

Obama then added: “Now, I don’t think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.”

Although Obama's latest position (at least the one he held Friday, unless he has since changed his mind again) is contrary to the official position of NARAL Pro-Choice America (the "NARAL" stands for National Abortion Rights Action League), AP noted that the organization defended Obama's statement anyway.

But AP didn't note an important contradiction that ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg caught at the network's Legalities Blog (HT Writes Like She Talks). Obama's new as-of-this-moment position also runs counter to Obama's co-sponsorship of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA):

Women today don't have to show they are suffering from a "serious clinical mental health disease" or "mental illness" before getting an abortion post-viability, as Obama now says is appropriate.

And for 35 years—since Roe v. Wade—they've never had to show that.

So Obama, it seems to me, still is backing away from what the law says—and backing away from a proposed federal law (of which he is a co-sponsor) that envisions a much broader definition of mental health than the one he laid out this week.

Obama's abortion flip-flop, and its conflict with his past stances, appear not to be among the "News That's Fit to Print" at the New York Times.

The results of Times searches on "Obama abortion" and "Obama health" (both without quotes) show nothing mentioning the position change. A July 4 Times editorial criticizing the presumptive Democratic nominee on other flip-flops does not mention Thursday's abortion shift.

Oh, there is one item referring to Obama's new as-of-this-moment position. It doesn't come up in the "Obama abortion" search results themselves, but is instead a Times blog reference that appears to the right of those results ("Rove Hits Obama on Abortion Issue"; item above Rove link at the search results page is from October 2007). In that post at the Times's "The Caucus" blog, Michael Falcone waits until the eighth paragraph to mention Obama's switcheroo.

Perhaps the Times is hoping that its readers (especially its print-only subscribers), many of whom regard "the right to choose" (i.e., the right to an abortion for any reason) as something close to a sacrament, won't notice.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.