GOP Rep.: Would Obama's mother have aborted him?

Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt says taxpayer funding might have given the president's mother incentive to abort

By Alex Koppelman
Published July 18, 2009 12:05AM (EDT)

Sometimes, congressmen don't think before they speak. Like Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan. He was on the floor of the House this week, speaking in favor of an amendment he was offering to prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions in Washington, D.C., when he came out with this doozy:

If you think of it in human terms, there's a financial incentive that will be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that will encourage women who are single parents living below the poverty level to have an opportunity for a free abortion.

If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of? Our president grew up in similar circumstances. If that financial incentive were in place, is it possible that his mother might have taken advantage of it? Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court justice -- if those circumstances were in place, is it possible that we might have been denied his great mind?

Beyond the other problems here, there's a basic lack of logic at work: While the point of taxpayer funding for abortions is, in part, to ensure that people who want or need one can afford to have one, it doesn't follow that -- as Tiahrt apparently believes -- someone who didn't want or need an abortion would just decide to have one because it's cheap.

Other medical procedures and treatments are already covered by private and public insurance; people don't get them for kicks. With my health insurance plan, I could, say, get my doctor to write me a prescription for allergy medicine and then get it filled, and the total cost to me for the visit and the medicine would be $25. But it's not like I woke up one morning saying to myself, "Hey, I don't have allergies, but God, it'd be so cheap to get medicine for them that I might as well!" (No, I'm not actually comparing allergies to abortion, just making a point about medical care in general.)

By the way, Tiahrt was also wrong to make Thomas the second example in his argument -- Thomas' father left the family when the future Supreme Court justice was two, but was married to Thomas' mother when their son was born. And Obama's parents were married when his mother was three months pregnant with him.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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