A softer line on abortion

Could an addition to the Democrats' platform on reproductive rights help court evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics?

Published August 14, 2008 5:15PM (EDT)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Democratic Party is considering changing its official platform on abortion in an attempt to court more evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic voters.

Here's the party's current statement on abortion:

"We stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay ... At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare."

The amended version, which was drafted by "a group of progressive evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders," would add that "the Democratic Party strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education ... which help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions."

The head of Catholics United called the proposal a "significant step forward," but after reading over the initial statement both on its own and then with the proposed changes, I initially didn't see much of a difference. Both versions say that the party believes in a woman's right to have an abortion but that it also supports efforts to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions that occur. (The difference is that the amended version spells this out more explicitly.)

Upon further thought, however, I realized that one thing that has always bothered me about some branches of the pro-life movement is the assumption that their opponents are "pro-abortion" -- it makes it sound like if you support Roe v. Wade, you spend your spare time standing on a street corner handing out hangers to pregnant women. With that in mind, maybe it's useful to make it clearer that supporting abortion rights does not mean one endorses women getting pregnant and having abortions just for the hell of it. Thoughts?

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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