Obama marks 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

February 5, 2013

President Obama on Tuesday night delivered a video message to the NARAL Pro-Choice America annual dinner in which he thanked pro-abortion-rights activists for their work and marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her right to reproductive freedom, because we know that we are better off as a nation when women are treated fairly and equally in every aspect in life, whether it’s the salary you earn or the health decisions you make,” Obama said in the 90-second video to supporters gathered in a ballroom of the Hilton Hotel.

The video message came three months after the end of a campaign season in which reproductive rights became an unexpected focal point in several downballot races across the country, as well as in Obama’s White House battle against former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R).

While Obama made no mention of his former rival in his video, the 2012 campaign was a focus of the remarks by several speakers, including Nancy Keenan, who is stepping down after eight years as NARAL’s president, and former Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s dinner.

Keenan argued that anti-abortion-rights candidates “staked their careers on attacking a woman’s right to choose, and my friends, they paid dearly at the ballot box.”

Cutter -- who was hailed by Obama in his video message as “an exceptional pick for pretty much any job, if I do say so myself” – told the crowd that Republicans “misread their mandate after the 2010 elections.”

“They thought that 2012 would mean an even better year for that extreme agenda. ... They nominated Senate candidates who didn’t understand that rape actually can cause pregnancy,” she said.

Cutter took aim in her remarks at both Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). She said that during the 2012 White House race, Obama campaign staffers had a joke about Romney that “when he watched Mad Men, he thought he was watching the 11 o’clock news.”

Of Ryan, she noted that the former GOP vice-presidential nominee is co-sponsor of a bill before the current Congress that would aim to defund organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

“Now, if their own failed vice-presidential nominee is still trying to roll back the clock, you tell me, did they really learn the less of the 2012 election?” Cutter said.

Late last month, hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion-rights activists marked the Roe v. Wade anniversary by demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court and on the National Mall at the annual “March for Life.”

The full text of Obama’s video message to NARAL is below:

“Good evening, everybody. Tonight, we celebrate the historic Roe v. Wade decision handed down 40 years ago. But we also gather to recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her right to reproductive freedom, because we know that we are better off as a nation when women are treated fairly and equally in every aspect in life, whether it’s the salary you earn or the health decisions you make. This is a country where the success of all of us depends on the empowerment of each of us, where all Americans should have the freedom and opportunity to reach their potential. And I know that’s what you’re fighting for every day.”

“So, to everyone at NARAL Pro-Choice America, thank you for your tireless advocacy for the health and well-being of women and families. I’d especially like to thank your outgoing president, Nancy Keenan, who’s been a friend and counselor to me and my administration. And I welcome Ilyse Hogue, who we know will continue Nancy’s legacy of outstanding leadership of this organization. Finally, congratulations on your keynote speaker, Stephanie Cutter, an exceptional pick for pretty much any job, if I do say so myself.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work each of you is doing to make this world a fairer and more just place for all Americans. And I look forward to continuing that work with you in the years ahead.”

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