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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama on FOCA, 2.0

Is Obama shying away from the Freedom of Choice Act?

When CNN correspondent Ed Henry asked the president about his current thinking on FOCA at last night’s White House press conference, Obama used very different language than he did during the campaign.

In 2008, as we noted in our Ask FactCheck item on FOCA, Obama told a Planned Parenthood audience: "The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. Now that’s the first thing I’d do."

Last night, Obama specifically altered that statement. "Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority," he said. "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," such as reducing unwanted pregnancies.

What’s changed in the intervening months? For one thing, quite a few Notre Dame alums and others have protested the fact that Obama is giving the commencement address at the Catholic university on May 17. For another, he has taken office and seen a range of serious national and global issues shoot down a wind tunnel and onto his desk. As he joked last night, if all he had to cope with were "Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, getting health care passed, figuring out how to deal with energy independence, deal with Iran and a pandemic flu — I would take that deal." But, of course, there’s the sprawling matter of the economy. (And he didn’t even mention Somali pirates.)

Still, Obama said his view on abortion has been "very consistent." That may be true — he’s not suddenly turning pro-life — but his language has a very different tone.