During an interview with HuffPost Live, former President Jimmy Carter admitted that he lacks courage in his convictions. While he admits to having a “longtime problem” with abortion, and doesn’t believe that “Jesus, for instance, would approve abortions,” Carter contends that his “oath of office was to obey the Constitution.”
“So I went along with that,” the Democratic president confessed.
In his now celebrated 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
Similarly, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
Numerous great American patriots, philosophers, abolitionists and tax evaders have lived by the principles of civil disobedience in cases where their moral intuition demanded it. President Carter, however, was not one of them.
Carter, a devout Baptist, was president from 1977-1981, taking his oath of office just four years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the controversial Roe v. Wade decision. All these years later, the Democrat from Georgia admits that he struggled with the court ruling:
I have a hard time believing that Jesus, for instance, would approve abortions, unless it was because of rape or incest or if the mother’s life was in danger. So I have had that struggle.
Writing in her autobiography, the aptly titled Core Convictions, former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann — who used to be a Democrat — remembered how Carter fooled everyone regarding abortion, writing:
Carter himself proved to be a [sic] waffle in the abortion issue, suggesting that he was pro-life to the pro-lifers and pro-choice to the pro-choicers — and yet the media, always Carter friendly, never nailed him on his hypocrisy. So in our naivete‚ we failed to realize that Carter was playing a duplicitous double game.
Underneath the partisan facade, however, Carter said that he felt conflicted — morally opposed to abortion but constitutionally bound to support the court’s decision.
“I have had a problem with abortion. This has been a longtime problem of mine,” he explained. “My oath of office was to obey the Constitution and the laws of this country as interpreted by the Supreme Court, so I went along with that. But that’s been the only caveat.”
Tacitly supporting abortion
In his own autobiography, written in 2006, Carter explained that he “accepted [his] obligation to enforce the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, and at the same time attempted in every way possible to minimize the number of abortions.”
To illustrate his position, Carter said that he once answered protests regarding his refusal to support federal assistance for low-income women seeking abortions by replying that, “Life is often unfair.”
While Carter might not see eye-to-eye with progressives on abortion, he said that gay marriage is “no problem with me.” He believes that “everybody should have a right to get married regardless of their sex,” although he stopped short of supporting “the government being able to force a local church, congregation to perform gay marriages if they didn’t want to.”
Carter failed to take a stand against abortion when it mattered — during his presidency. As such, he will always be remembered for tacitly supporting it. Clarifying his position now is simply too little, too late.