These were part of an email I received from NARAL Pro-Choice Network. They've just endorsed Obama, and are sending out some information to counter previous statements Clinton has made that he's not strong enough on choice. Admittedly this was an issue for me when I was first looking at voting records, so I felt like I should pass this on.
Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn: "Disparagement Of Obama Votes Doesn't Hold Up." Under the headline, "Disparagement of Obama votes doesn't hold up," Eric Zorn wrote, "Obama's 'present' vote on that bill is one Hull is attacking him for in a flier decorated with rubber duckies. Sutherland just laughs. 'We also had [Democratic Senate leader] Emil Jones, [current Atty. Gen.] Lisa Madigan, Miguel del Valle, Rickey Hendon and other very strong pro-choice legislators voting `present' on that one,' she said. 'It was all done to pull "present" votes off the fence.' Obama confirmed Sutherland's account of the legislative strategy and said, 'No one was more active to beat back those bills than I was.' 'Criticizing Obama on the basis of "present" votes indicates you don't have a great understanding of the process,' said Thom Mannard, director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence." [Zorn column, Chicago Tribune, 3/19/04]
Pam Sutherland Confirmed: Planned Parenthood Says Obama's Present Votes On Choice Are "Leadership Votes." "'We at Planned Parenthood view those as leadership votes,' Pam Sutherland, the president and CEO of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, told ABC News. 'We worked with him specifically on his strategy. The Republicans were in control of the Illinois Senate at the time. They loved to hold votes on 'partial birth' and 'born alive'. They put these bills out all the time . . . because they wanted to pigeonhole Democrats...Sutherland said Obama approached her in the late 1990s and worked with her and others in crafting the strategy of voting 'present.' She remembers meeting with Obama outside of the Illinois Senate chambers on the Democratic side of the aisle. She and Obama finished their conversation in his office. 'He came to me and said: 'My members are being attacked. We need to figure out a way to protect members and to protect women,' said Sutherland in recounting her conversation with Obama. 'A present vote was hard to pigeonhole which is exactly what Obama wanted.' [ABC, 7/17/07]
Miller: "Maybe Only A Few Members Of The Tribune Contracted Remember This Ploy, But I Do;" Planned Parenthood "Was Encouraging 'Present' Votes By Some Of Their More Loyal Members In Order To Encourage The Moderates To Vote That Way As Well" To Combat Republican Tactic Of Breaking Moderates Away From The Pro-Choice Movement. Rich Miller wrote, "Maybe only a few members the Tribune contacted remember this ploy, but I do. It was specifically designed by Planned Parenthood to counter Republican Senate President Pate Philip's barrage of hot-button abortion bills that he was continually trying to ram through the Senate in 2001 and 2002. The Tribune missed the point. Besides passing bills he supported, Pate's idea was to cause a controversy by splitting 'moderate' Democrats away from the abortion rights groups, thereby causing a rift on that side, and, more imporantly, to put some political targets on the hot seat. So, as they also did in the House a few years back, Planned Parenthood was encouraging 'Present' votes by some of their more loyal members in order to encourage the moderates to vote that way as well." [Capitol Fax Blog, 12/4/07]
EMILY'S List Called Obama's Remarks "A Rousing Call To Arms, And A Touching Reminder Of Why We Are Doing Everything We Can To Make A Difference By Electing Pro-Choice Democratic Women." EMILY'S List Insider News reported, "It's difficult to pinpoint the highlights from this year's 15th annual Majority Council Conference on May 11 and 12, because there were so many!..This year's conference was held in conjunction with "Change," our Washington, D.C., luncheon with more than 1,100 members from the across the country. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama headlined the event. His remarks were a rousing call to arms, and a touching reminder of why we are doing everything we can to make a difference by electing pro-choice Democratic women." [EMILY'S List Email, Subject: Insider News - Taking control in 2006, 5/19/06]
OBAMA RECEIVED 100 PERCENT RATINGS FROM CHOICE ORGANIZATIONS
2006: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From Planned Parenthood In 2006. [Project Vote Smart]
2005: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From NARAL Pro-Choice America In 2005. [Project Vote Smart]
2003: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From Illinois Planned Parenthood Council In 2003. [Project Vote Smart]
2002: Obama Was Endorsed By The Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, There Were No Number Ratings Available. [Project Vote Smart]
2001: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From The Illinois Planned Parenthood Council In 2001. [Project Vote Smart]
97-98: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From The Illinois Planned Parenthood Council For 1997-1998. [Project Vote Smart]
In case you want more votes of confidence from people who definitely verifiably care about the right of a woman to control her own body, here are some statements made by Illinois pro-choice leaders.
Former Illinois Senator and current Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan: "When Barack and I served in the Senate, it was not uncommon for groups to adopt a legislative strategy of having like-minded lawmakers vote 'present' rather than yes or no. When it came to protecting a woman's right to choose, for example, Barack and I voted present as part of a strategy devised by pro-choice advocates. It's just plain wrong to imply that voting present reflected a lack of leadership. In fact, it was the exact opposite."
Lorna Brett, former president of Chicago NOW: "I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and an EMILY's List donor, but this line of attack is unacceptable. While I was the president of Chicago National Organization for Women, Senator Obama worked closely with us, could not have been more supportive of a woman's right to choose, and there was no bigger champion in Illinois on our issues. What's important is that the candidates do not cannibalize each other on issues we all agree about because we need to win in November."
Steve Trombley, CEO & President, Planned Parenthood/Chicago Action: "During his years in the state legislature, Barack Obama was a strong and consistent supporter of women's reproductive rights. He worked hand-in-hand with Planned Parenthood in developing and executing strategies to make sure that women had access to reproductive health care. I also want to thank him for standing up with us in the effort to open the Aurora clinic and for his introduction of legislation guaranteeing access to low-cost birth control. Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area has proudly endorsed Barack throughout his entire political career."
"Barack has always supported a women's right to choose and has a 100% pro-choice rating from Planned Parenthood. Barack has always voted to support our strategy as we worked to defeat anti-choice legislation. That is why we have supported him in every previous election."
Pam Sutherland, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Council: "The present votes Obama took at that time, along with many other pro-choice legislators, were 'no' votes to bad bills being used for political gain. We asked Senator Obama and other strong supporters of choice to vote present to encourage Senators facing tough re-elections to make the right choice by voting present, instead of caving to political pressure and voting for these bad bills. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama showed leadership, compassion and a true commitment to reproductive health care. The Republican Senate President at the time constantly used anti-abortion bills to pigeon-hole Democrats so that he could target them with misleading mailers during campaign season. It was a tactic that was about politics, not policy - and Obama didn't let them get away with it."
"Barack has a 100 percent pro-choice record. The present votes he cast were part of a legislative strategy that we designed specifically to protect abortion rights. Barack's leadership on this issue went above and beyond the call of duty, and for anyone to intentionally mislead voters about that fact in the days before an election is simply sad."
Libby Slappey, a former 13-year board member of Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa: "Senator Obama is one of America's strongest and most loyal defenders of women's rights on issues of reproductive health care. I've contributed to EMILY's List in the past - but I never will again, because I'm so disappointed in their decision to launch these unfair, false attacks on behalf of Senator Clinton's campaign."