President Bush claims to support a woman’s right to an abortion in cases of rape, incest, or serious health risks. But today, for the second time in two weeks, Scott McClellan repeatedly refused to say whether Bush opposes South Dakota’s new abortion ban, which includes no explicit exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
McClellan justified his stonewall by saying the administration doesn’t comment on “state laws.” A partial excerpt:
MCCLELLAN: The state law, as you know, bans abortions in all instances with the exception of the life of the mother.
QUESTION: And not rape and incest. And so, therefore, he must disagree with it, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Scott?
MCCLELLAN: The president has a strong record of working to build a culture of life, and that’s what he will continue to do.
QUESTION: I know, but you’re not answering my question. You’re dodging it.
MCCLELLAN: No, I’m telling you that it’s a state law.
QUESTION: Is he opposed to abortion laws that forbid it for rape and incest; isn’t that true, Scott? That’s what you said.
MCCLELLAN: Let me respond. Look at the president’s record when it comes to defending the sanctity of life. It is a very strong record.
His views when it comes to pro-life issues are very clearly spelled out. We also have stated repeatedly that state legislatures, when they pass laws, those are state matters.
Actually, when it’s politically convenient, the Bush administration does give its opinion on state laws. An example:
QUESTION: Does the Bush administration still believe it’s wrong for Oregon and other parties to permit physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
This is a classic case of Bush trying to have it both ways. He wants to convince moderates that he’s opposed to the law without risking any backlash from his right-wing base.