Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well-Polled Words are Sinking Common Ground

At Notre Dame, President Obama delivered his now well-known and hotly debated policy line on abortion:
So let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.

The formulation sounded familiar and sure enough, it was uttered January 14 by Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She'd said it before, but here she explains the origin of the formulation:
A post-election poll conducted by Public Religion Research, and sponsored by Faith in Public Life, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Sojourners, found that the vast majority of voters — including 81 percent of Catholics and 83 percent of all voters — want elected officials to reduce abortions by working together to prevent unintended pregnancies, expand adoption opportunities and increase economic support for vulnerable women.

The main legislation supported by those truly seeking "common ground" solutions to reduce abortions is not aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies. That strategy and language have been used by the abortion industry to seek more money for their own coffers for years and the strategy does not work. In fact, while abortions have decreased throughout the country, abortions performed by Planned Parenthood, the main recipient of "reducing unintended pregnancy" dollars, have increased.

Increasing funding for Planned Parenthood does not now and never has represented a "common ground" approach to the abortion tragedy. The main truly common ground approach, the Pregnant Women Support Act, does not include money for Planned Parenthood. I explained the provisions of this excellent bill supported by Cardinal Rigali here.

Unfortunately, the president, and ironically those on the Catholic left who have uncritically accepted his "reduce unintended pregnancy" language, may kill the chances of this truly common ground approach. By seeking to join the compassionate and caring aims of the Pregnant Women Support Act with funding for Planned Parenthood they are making any common effort forward unlikely.

In fact, the effort to link the two approaches has killed the bill in the past. PWSA sponsor Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America touched on this in a recent Newsday article:
The biggest objection to the legislation is that pregnancy-prevention measures are not included, such as making family-planning services available for the poor and guaranteeing that government-funded sex education programs provide medically accurate information about contraception.

Since there are other bills that address this, such as the Prevention First Act which was introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the sponsors left this out.

For a minority of Democrats on the pro-choice side - the more absolutists - the bill goes too far toward common ground - specifically the provision that requires that abortion providers offer a woman the voluntary option of receiving pre-abortion counseling to learn of possible risks associated with the medical procedure. The opposition may even extend to objecting to the bill's providing pregnant women much-needed financial support.

But many are attracted to the legislation and want to expand it. Several national groups would like to merge teen pregnancy prevention, sex education and more funding for contraception programs. Unfortunately, similar efforts failed in the 110th Congress and detracted from the central premise of this bill as a comprehensive effort to address the needs of pregnant women.

Unfortunately Reid's Planned Parenthood approach has massive support in Congress, while the Pregnant Women Support Act has little.

Pro-life members of Congress and those of good will from both parties ought to sign on to PWSA now as the best way to ensure abortion reduction in this political climate and to head off counterproductive and self-dealing efforts by the abortion lobby masquerading as "common ground".