Obama said “a woman may not even know that she’s pregnant at six weeks.”
More than a year ago in Mississippi, a “personhood” ballot initiative that would have defined life as beginning at fertilization was defeated by 58 percent of voters in November 2011, the same election in which staunch abortion opponent Phil Bryant, a Republican, was elected governor. Bryant had campaigned for the initiative. Abortion opponents are expected to soon begin a signature-drive to get a similar initiative on the ballot in 2014 or 2015.
“Mississippi’s a conservative state, but they wanted to make clear there’s nothing conservative about the government injecting itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor,” Obama said of the voters there.
The president lauded Planned Parenthood’s nearly 100 years of providing cancer screenings, contraception and other health services for women and assured those fighting to protect abortion rights that they have an ally in him.
“You’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way,” Obama said.
In North Dakota, Republican state Rep. Bette Grande, an abortion opponent from Fargo who introduced the bill banning most abortions based on a fetal heartbeat, said she was happy Obama took notice of her state’s stance on the issue.
“He is pointing it out because it’s true. We have taken a serious look at the life of a child, and the nation is paying attention to that,” she said. “We are dealing with life in North Dakota and something as basic as a beating heart.”
Laurie Bertram Roberts, Mississippi president of the National Organization for Women, said voters in her state, while conservative, did not misunderstand what “personhood” would have meant for women and families.
“We understand that when you give a fertilized egg the rights of a person, that affects every aspect of pregnancy and reproductive health,” she said.
Obama’s pledge to stand with Planned Parenthood echoed his rhetoric in last year’s presidential campaign after Republican rival Mitt Romney said he’d eliminate the organization’s federal funding if elected. That incident, coupled with other issues, led Democrats to begin accusing Republicans of waging a “war on women.” Obama went on to win a second term with 55 percent of the female vote, polls showed.
The president originally was scheduled to address Planned Parenthood on Thursday night, but the appearance was delayed to allow him to spend more time in Texas with the loved ones of those who were killed or injured in last week’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.