Carving out middle ground, or caving in to the enemy?

Legislators and womens advocates continue to shake hands across the aisle.

Topics: Stem cells, Broadsheet, Health, Love and Sex,

Some say it’s a step toward a necessary middle ground. Others say it’s a sign of the Democratic apocalypse. I’m talking about the apparently increasing willingness of people at least nominally on “our side” to cozy up to Republican/antiabortion/anti-stem-cell/etc. frenemies such as Bob Casey Jr., who is opposing Rick “He’s Even Worse” Santorum in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Just yesterday, we learned that Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, who supports stem cell research, had buddied up with the far more loathsome Santorum, who does not, to call for federal funding of research into the possibility of creating Franken-stem cells without destroying human embryos.

Then today, I found an e-press release in my “Press Releases You Might Not Have Seen Five Years Ago” box bearing the title “Planned Parenthood Applauds Senator Reid.” Reid, as you may be aware, is not exactly awesome on abortion. However, when it comes to preventing abortion, he gets it. Why today’s applause? Because Reid introduced a key amendment to the potentially super-scary Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (S. 1955). “The senator introduced an amendment to the bill to ensure that access to family planning is protected,” reports Planned Parenthood. Without this amendment, under HIMMAA, “women would lose contraceptive equity protections currently guaranteed by state law.” (More about HIMMAA on Broadsheet here.)

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Reid absolutely deserves credit for this and other actions; Specter insists that his commitment to “real” stem cell research is unwavering. All I’m saying is that the times, they are a-changin’, and — this I add with some hesitation — possibly for the better.

I completely understand concerns about pandering, selling out, being so eager to compromise that we lose our footing, not to mention our credibility. Though abortion advocates’ support of Casey narrowly passes muster with my head, it also breaks my heart. Still, I think it’s worth remembering that — sometimes — it takes two to meet in the middle. Santorum, though I’d really rather not give him credit for anything, risked his supporters’ wrath by shaking hands with Specter, never mind saying the words “stem cell” in a sentence that did not also include the word “murder.” Reid, obviously, is not scoring points with the anti-contraception brigade. And remember the resolutely antiabortion Missouri state Rep. Michael Corcoran, who braved a Planned Parenthood meeting — infuriating Missouri Right to Life — to say he maybe probably kind of wouldn’t oppose emergency contraception? I don’t mean to over-lavish with praise; I’m just saying we’re not necessarily the only ones who are seeing fit to take steps toward this mythical middle ground.

What do you think?

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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