Ed Henry, CNN Senior White House Correspondent: Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks you’re going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame and, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion. As a candidate you vowed that one of the very first things you wanted to do was sign the freedom of choice act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state, and local restrictions on abortion. And at one point in the campaign when asked about abortion and life, you said that it was “above my pay grade.” Now that you’ve been President for a hundred days, obviously your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator (laughter) — do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the freedom of choice act so you can sign it?
President Obama: You know, my view on abortion I think has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they — if they suggest — and I don’t want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom and that there’s no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with, and families and individual women have to wrestle with.
The reason I’m pro-choice is because I don’t think women take that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day, and I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a President of the United States — in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy. So that’s been my consistent position.
The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again. And so I’ve got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.
Now, the freedom of choice act is not my highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that’s where I’m going to focus.