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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Abortion: A way forward?

Okay, so they missed the obvious - education about and use of birth control measures and abstinence - but this article from today's NCR Online provides an interesting if not more holistic /systemic way forward on what has been the hopelessly deadlocked, at least heretofore, issue of abortion.

Democratic platform shift to reduce abortions commended

August 13, 2008

New language in the Democratic Party Platform seeking a reduction in the number of abortions was hailed this week by a panel of religious and legal experts, including two long-time Republican opponents of abortion, as “historic,” and “courageous.” The new plank, the panelists said, provides “common ground” for all sides in the debate to work to lower the number of abortions.

“One of the things I think is most significant about this platform is that it recognizes that there is more than one way to discourage abortion,” said Douglas Kmiec, chair and professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University. He served as President Ronald Reagan’s constitutional lawyer and worked on some of the briefs during that period seeking an overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Elusive fifth vote

Antiabortion forces have been trying for 30 years, he said, to overturn that decision, and have failed to find “the elusiv e fifth vote,” referring to the narrow 5-4 votes that have upheld Roe through various challenges.
While overturning that decision would be important, said Kmiec, that approach “is not intended and never was intended to close the American mind or, for that matter, the Catholic mind, to different or alternative ways to discourage abortion.”

Several on the six-person panel made the point during a conference call Aug. 12 that the platform, to be adopted during the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 25-28, addressed issues of poverty, support for families, adoption and availability of health care, all described as factors related to abortion.

They are also Catholic issues, said Lisa Cahill, professor of theology at Boston College, a Jesuit institution. “Health care, education, income support, adoption – to Catholics these are also pro-life issues and moral issues. They’re common good issues. So as a Catholic and a feminist, I’d say it’s not only about women’s choice … it’s not only about entitlement programs, but it’s about the goal of enabling all women with their children to be full participants in our society.”

She said the U.S. bishops, in their voters guide, Faithful Citizenship, say “many of the issues that impact on abortion, such as hunger and poverty, lack of health care, racism … are not optional for Catholic voters, they are part of the agenda of human life, and they must not be neglected. So there’s a strong Catholic basis for affirming much of this platform.”

Many ways to protect unborn

She also noted that Pope John Paul II, in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, states that whatever the laws governing abortion, Catholics have “an obligation and prerogative to work in all kinds of ways to protect the unborn and to protect women and families, using the art of the possible.” The Democratic Party platform, said Cahill, a member of a Catholic advisory group to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign, “is an excellent example of the art of the possible.”

The panel was assembled by Sojourner’s, a network of progressive Christians, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder and CEO, said that while the language was “a real step forward” it was a compromise with a party that still maintains unqualified support for Roe v. Wade. The plank on choice in the platform opens with “unequivocal” support for that decision “and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”

The platform also supports access to family planning, age-appropriate sex educat ion, claiming that “such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”

Providing health care

Finally, the platform says the party “strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre-and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.”

Wallis said the platform committee “really reached out to leaders of the evangelical and Catholic communities” and achieved “some sorely needed common gr ound on abortion.”

The Rev. Joel Hunter, a conservative evangelical, a Republican and briefly a former president of the Christian Coalition, said “Barack Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party have taken a historic and courageous step toward empowering women for an expanded range of choices and saving babies’ lives by supporting mothers whose will and conscience tells them to carry their babies to term.”

He also hinted at the 8 0struggle that went into the insertion of the new language” between those who wanted to moderate traditional Democratic Party language and those forces in the party who see talk of reducing abortions as a possible challenge to a woman’s right to choose.

“It’s less than we want but it’s a great deal more than many people expected,” said the Rev. Tony Campolo of Eastern University, who, though politically liberal on many counts, has been a vocal opponent of abortion. In the end, said Campolo, “the interpretation of the platform is in the hands of the candidate, Barack Obama.” Campolo said he hopes Obama continues to speak of abortion as he has in20the past, “as a moral issue, an issue of conscience,” language that is not part of the platform.

Speaking of the array of social issues affecting abortion, Campolo said, “We can reduce abortion dramatically, maybe between 50 to 70 percent if we address these concerns.”

Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, said his organization supported the language for two reasons. First, studies consistently show Americans deeply divided over abortion and supportive of “common ground solutions aimed at the root causes.”

And second, “we know that abortion reduction measures aimed at the root causes actually work,” he said, citing studies that show correlation between jobs and access to health care and child care to lower abortion rates.

(Roberts is NCR News Editor and can be reached at


Cany said...

In a way, this is very troubling.

There have NEVER been admonitions by the DNC to have an abortion or to otherwise suggest any action if pregnant. Historically, their singular goal was to keep abortion legal, not to give family planning advice. And it should have continued in just that way.

What do they think of us to have to spell out the obvious?

The other interesting thing is that the democrats, under Clinton, passed the original welfare to work program which has been a disaster for many single mothers.

Does this new-found effort to court the Catholic vote come with a majority of Congress that would vote for more meaningful financial, housing, job training support of women who chose to have and keep their children? No, it doesn't. THAT is where the dems need to focus, not on advice.

This is strictly "get votes" politics and really is rather despicable and irksome in that sense and to me completely transparent in that light.

As for others, not Catholic, and conservative and forceably-life, it won't change a thing. They do not support social service, and their views are far more complex than just the issue of abortion. It goes also directly to birth control which many, Catholic and not, oppose.

I cannot even recognize my party anymore. Sigh. Have we been dumbed-down to the point where they truly believe we cannot think for ourselves?

It is much more important they proceed--even in the face of the election--to try Bush for crimes; an opportunity Speaker Pelosi stayed, also for political reasons including evidence that would come forward to implicate Dem leaders in working with Bush or voting with full knowledge of bills and honest security.

We really need viable third + parties in this country. The hypocrisy oozing from the alleged "good guys" is poisonous.

Christina Dunigan said...

How pathetic is it that it took all these years just to get the Democratic party to conceded that it's okay if occasionally a woman makes a choice that ISN'T abortion?

This change wasn't a move toward common ground with prolifers. It was a move toward common ground with prochoicers. Considering how pro-ABORTION the Democratic party has been, this is progress. But it's the same kind of progress you see when you finally get the toddler to at least sit on the potty even though he still refuses to do his business in it.

JCF said...

The plank on choice in the platform opens with “unequivocal” support for that decision “and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”

The platform also supports access to family planning, age-appropriate sex education, claiming that “such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”

I'm going to say what I bet a bunch on "the other side" would say: what's new here?

As one of those "emphatically, unapologetically (and prayerfully) Pro-Choice Democrats" (the "party that still maintains unqualified support for Roe v. Wade"), I would say that I've ALWAYS stood for "access to family planning, age-appropriate sex education" in order to "reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions."

Conversely: could it just POSSIBLY be that support for this platform plank reflects that Some on the Other Side are seeing the light of an intelligent and conscientious public health policy---including, intrinsically, reproductive choice?

That said, I'm all for "Common Ground": if it flatters some to think that *I've* changed my mind, then WHAT-EVER! ;-p

JimB said...

I hate to find myself agreeing with anything that Ralph Nader and Ron Paul agree on, but every time I look, the two major parties convince me they are incapable of any orriginality, governing, or considering a reasonable idea or two.

Living in Illinois, I can vote this Fall knowing that I do not matter. Nothing short of angelic intervention could stop Senator Obama from carrying this State. After the wreck Allen (the goofball) Keyes made of the Republicans, we are fall all practical purposes a one party State. So, I will probably vote for a third party candidate. It really, really does not matter outside Illinois, and within Illinois, I am hoping a good run for a couple of the smaller parties might bring us a real opposition party in two years.



Fran said...

I have tried to leave a comment here, but I end up getting so angry that I lose my point.

All I can say is that I am ever outraged by the way that this is approached by the RC church, which most of you know that I am a part of.

Recently I was having lunch with a new acquaintance, made through some diocesan meeting that I attended. Being new in town,I am trying to meet as many people as possible.

Something about "life" - and it was that word itself was said, and this woman, not knowing me almost shreiked "Life must mean more than just abortion and there are other issues!"

I guess she thought I might not agree. Of course I did. I do.

What really sickens me- and Cany puts this well is that the notion is so engendered that the Democrats seemingly want women to have abortions.

Outrageous. And the church plays right into this.