During the White House press briefing on Wednesday, many questions were hurled at press secretary Robert Gibbs about the abortion executive order that President Barack Obama would be signing that afternoon. Most of these queries concerned the politics surrounding the order, which Obama had offered Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), an anti-abortion advocate, as an incentive to support the health care reform legislation. The order doesn’t change existing law, as Gibbs and other White House aides have repeatedly noted. But it did mark an instance when Obama would have to put his signature on an order restating the Hyde Amendment restrictions on the federal funding of abortion that he had previously opposed. With that in mind, I posed a question. Here’s the exchange:
CORN: Thanks. In 2007, during the campaign, the President said that he does not support the Hyde Amendment and the federal government should not intrude onto a poor woman’s decision whether to carry to term or terminate her pregnancy. So my question today is, as he signs this executive order, which will further enshrine the Hyde Amendment, how does he feel about that?
GIBBS: David, I would have to see what — I don’t know the comment that you’re referring to.
CORN: He was opposed to the Hyde Amendment.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I’d have to —
ANOTHER REPORTER: It was in a questionnaire, a pro-choice questionnaire.
CORN: It was in a questionnaire —
GIBBS: And I’ll have somebody — I haven’t — you can just assume I haven’t looked at a questionnaire in quite some time.
CORN: But you stipulate that he opposed the Hyde Amendment, correct?
GIBBS: I would stipulate that the President believes in a woman’s right to choose.
That was it. Gibbs wouldn’t even acknowledge that Obama had once opposed the Hyde Amendment. It seemed a sensitive issue.