A new bill on abortion reduction shows serious strain -- but also progress
After four years of behind-the-scenes negotiating, pro-choice groups turned out in full force for the introduction of the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, the odd-couple legislation whose lead sponsors are pro-choice Rosa DeLauro and pro-life Tim Ryan. At a Capitol Hill press conference this morning, Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the Religious Coalition stood in close proximity to mega-church pastor Joel Hunter. The bill is bound to get good media coverage, as it fits nicely with the president’s “can’t we all get along” plea for common ground on abortion.
Apparently everyone could not get along, and the task of lining up supporters for the bill, which was led by the pro-choice Third Way Democratic think tank’s culture program director Rachel Laser, was a bruising experience. Pro-lifers were disappointed that contraception was included. Pro-choicers were concerned the language of the bill sent an “abortion is bad” message. It was a bitter pill for both sides to swallow, though, so far, no one has choked.
Frankly, it’s the kind of bill that should have been passed 20 years ago — what a shame that for women to get what they need, it must be framed in terms of reducing the need for abortion. But the bill expands Medicaid coverage for family planning for low-income women and increases support for the Title X family planning program; it breaks new ground in preventing teen pregnancy and launches a new initiative to involve parents in teen pregnancy prevention — lots of those parents could use some sexuality education as well.
On the “support for pregnant women” issue, efforts are limited to pre- and post-natal care and the expansion of early childhood support. It’s a first but weak step in testing the sponsors’ belief that if we provide women with more assistance for carrying pregnancies to term, they will choose childbirth over abortion. (Though, when women say they are aborting because they cannot afford a child, chances are they’re considering costs far beyond WIC and Head Start.)
The support statements from both sides of the abortion debate show the obvious gaps in common ground. Catholic groups almost universally mention the “tragedy of abortion” and ignore the bill’s contraceptive provisions. Lisa Cahill, a feminist theology professor at Boston College who supports contraception, ignores that part of the bill and leads with the statement that, “Everyone can agree that abortion is a tragic decision.” Really? Take the statement of Kate Michelman, former NARAL president, who notes that, “As a practicing Catholic and young married woman I followed the position of the Catholic church and did not use contraception. I had three beautiful daughters in three years.” Michelman recounts a fourth pregnancy, followed by the rapid departure of her husband, and humiliating ethics committee meetings in which she had to plead insanity in order to get an abortion. She, meanwhile, stresses the importance of contraception.
One of the more thoughtful anti-abortion statements came from David Gushee of Evangelicals for Human Rights, who notes his strong opposition to Roe and, in his view, the regretful support for abortion that is part of the fabric of American law today. Gushee sees the bill as sending a “new kind of message” by supporting contraception and parenting; it restores “the conditions of genuine choice.” Now, pro-choice advocates would say if we only funded abortions for low-income women, then we might be able to say there was a level playing field.
Leading choice organizations, Planned Parenthood and NARAL, issued strong statements supporting the bill, making clear that they’ve been here for women all along — whether women choose abortion or childbearing. Nancy Keenan of NARAL notes that extending family planning coverage as a way of preventing the need for abortion was first suggested by pro-choice Louise Slaughter and pro-life Harry Reid in the Prevention First bill and Cecile Richards in the Planned Parenthood statement stresses that “the root causes of abortion” include the absence of basic preventive healthcare for women.
Whether all this represents common ground is debatable, but it clearer represents renewed public attention on abortion, which is under attack by anti-choice members of Congress in the healthcare reform package. Two years ago, Rep. Ryan might have been one of those pro-life Democrats objecting to funding abortion. This year, he refused to sign on to these efforts and was kicked off the Democrats for Life of America board.
Let’s keep talking.
More Related Stories
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Pope Francis: Atheists are all right!
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- Is recreational pot use safe?
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11