JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Sarah Palin charged resolutely into the culture wars on Saturday, painting Barack Obama as a radical on abortion rights and drawing attention away from the troubled economy and an ethics investigation that concluded she abused her power as Alaska governor.
“In times like these with wars and financial crisis, I know that it may be easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life, and it seems that our opponent kind of hopes you will forget that,” Palin told a Pennsylvania crowd. “Like so much else on his agenda, he hopes that you won’t notice how radical, absolutely radical his idea is on this and his record is until its too late.”
Palin has mostly avoided raising her opposition to abortion rights on the campaign trail since she was tapped as John McCain’s running mate, a fact she readily acknowledged in her remarks. But Palin said Obama’s record on the matter is too extreme to be ignored, and she spent 10 minutes of her 30-minute speech discussing abortion.
“A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for activist courts that will continue to smother the open and democratic debate that we deserve and that we need on this issue of life,” she said.
Palin skewered Obama for voting “present” while in the Illinois State Senate on a bill that would have required medical care for fetuses that survived abortion. Obama actually voted present on three pieces of similar legislation.
“So in short, Senator Obama is a politician who has long since left behind even the middle ground on the issue of life,” she said.
Palin spoke in detail about praying along with her husband Todd about “the challenges to come” before giving birth to their son Trig, who has Down Syndrome. Palin’s remarks earned her loud applause, and an “Amen” from one man in the audience.
But the governor kept the focus primarily on Obama, highlighting in particular a remark Obama made about sex education while campaigning in Johnstown in March, when he told a voter he didn’t want his daughters “punished with a baby” or “punished with an STD” if they made a “mistake.”
“So I listened when our opponent defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions and he said that a woman shouldn't have to be 'punished with a baby,'” Palin said as the audience jeered the Democratic nominee. “Ladies and gentlemen, he said that right here in Johnstown. 'Punished with a baby.' It's about time we called him on it.”
Contrary to Palin's assertion, Obama was not discussing his support for abortion rights when he made that remark in March.