Coming "This Summer": Obama's Common Ground on Abortion

Dan Gilgoff, who covers (and covers very well) the religion beat for US News & World Report, has this news about the Obama administration gearing up to address the abortion issue head on.  Gilgoff says that Obama will announce his plan as early as "this summer."  Get ready.  Here's Gilgoff:

--Over the last month or so, the Obama administration has met with Ratzan and dozens of other activists on both sides of the abortion issue as it seeks what it calls "common ground" on thorny reproductive issues, including its goal of reducing demand for abortion. Now, as the White House begins drawing up a policy plan, advocates on both sides are jittery. "I'm in a trust but verify mode," says Richard Land, who heads public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, which opposes abortion rights. "I've seen some signs that they are eagerly seeking common ground and other signs that they're not."


The administration is expected to announce its plan as early as this summer, according to those involved in the process. Whether those proposed policies can satisfy the president's pro-abortion rights base while also winning over more conservative religious groups is the biggest test yet for Obama's vow to be a peacemaker in the nation's culture wars.--Gilgoff.

Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ

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8 years 6 months ago
You confuse being "pro-choice" with "pro-abortion."  To be pro-abortion is to encourage the use of the procedure.  Episcopal lying to the contrary, there is no chance that any federal funding of abortion will occur any time soon.  To be pro-abortion is to believe that abortion is just another birth control option.  To be pro-choice is to believe that the power of the government should not extend to stopping abortions from occurring using the police power.  You are correct in asserting that there is a well developed doctrine for Catholic public servants regarding the enactment of laws permitting abortion, however none of these teachings apply here (with the exceptions of a few states) because abortion was not permitted by the enactment of statute.  Rather, the Supreme Court ruled that state governments may not enact laws restricting abortion - largely because the 14th Amendment states clearly that citizenship begins with birth.  States cannot unilaterally change the meaning of this amendement, as it was designed to restrict the power of states.  (If constitutional amendments were integrated into the original text, there would be a big chunck added to Article I, Section 9, which lays out things the states cannot do.  Given the history of the Amendment, there is nothing in Catholic teaching - including subsidiarity - which states that Federal supremacy in civil rights matters should be repealed - given the fact that state performance in such matters is abysmal. Abortion is an overriding issue - and our response to it should dictate how we deal with a myriad of issues - from how we fund college and vocational education to how we make sure families have adequate incomes - especially for housing. These are as much LIFE issues as are the clearly uninformed attempts by the National Right to Life Committee to gut the 14th Amendment, which would serve the needs of southern cultural conservatives far more than the needs of the unborn.  The movement has been lying with dogs - the scratching from the fleas is starting to be quite obvious (if you have doubts, see the Republican response to the wise Latina comments of Judge Sotomayor). The National Right to Life Committee has been working against Democrats for decades, yet after four GOP presidents since Roe v. Wade (Ford, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II), we have only 2 Justices which support getting rid of Roe - and 5 Republican justices who support it - including Roberts and Alito, who voted with Kennedy not to overturn Roe when the Partial Birth Abortion ban was upheld.  Rhetoric aside, the link between how the movement and the Bishops say to vote and the result is tenuous at best.  You would have to show a consistent link between voting as you say to vote and the resulting appointments to the SCOTUS.  Since that link cannot be made, you can hardly say that the National Right to Life Committee's electoral agenda must be upheld at the risk of ones soul.  Indeed, there is a distinct possiblity that Justice Sotomayor will vote more like Alito and Roberts on abortion than Justice Souter.  If judicial appointments are the be and and end all of your electoral strategy, then Obama could be whatever Bush was, at least on this issue.
8 years 6 months ago
That abortion is a moral evil is not negotiable - although I would argue the point regarding children with a genetic defect that could prove fatal to the mother if the pregnancy was allowed to continue (Trisome-7, Trisome-13).  How abortion is to be reduced or eliminated is negotiable, however.  There is nothing in Catholic doctrine that says that the United States must allow states to decide the matter.  Some issues are matters of subsidiarity - however in the United States the decision on whether a person is an object of law is NOT one of those issues.  Time after time, state governments have "excluded" certain people from the full protection of the law.  Freed slaves were subjected to Black Codes, leading to the passage of the 14th Amendment - which enshrines federal supremacy in these matters in the Constitution.  Even after the Amendment was passed, states tried and largely succeeded in chipping away at its protections until the civil rights movement.  Hispanics were subjected to official discrimination because it was thought that because they were considered "white" the 14th Amendment did not apply to them.  In many instances, homosexuals still face unequal treatment for no other reason than malice.  Time and again, State government has shown itself both unwilling and incapable of protecting the rights of minorities.  Judicially overturning Roe in such a way as to allow the states to rule would do great damage to the entire body of 14th Amendment Law.  You can't undo federal supremacy in only one area.  That ANY CATHOLIC is pursuing such a course is tragic.  That the Bishops are doing so is scandalous and shows that they are BADLY ADVISED. If compromise means that they change their strategy and pursue avenues that will not overturn the body of 14th Amendment Law, then compromise is a good thing for both the unborn and the pro-life movement.  The place to attack this issue is in Congress, who could recognize the rights to the unborn at least in viability (which would visceate the health exemption - since once a fetus is recognized as a legal person, you cannot kill it just because the mother is freaking out.  It is likely that there would even be a higher threshold on exterminating children with Downs Syndrome.  Arguing the issue in Congress would certainly make for an informative debate - which at the very least will get people to think twice about cavalierly killing their young.  There is some question whether Roe prevents abortion restriction in the first trimester - although it is arguable that if the Congress said a first trimester fetus or embryo is a legal person, the right of privacy regarding that life would be visceated.  Whether that is a good idea or not in law remains to be seen, since recognizing embryonic rights may give prosecutors and malpractice attorneys too much power - leading to a marked decline in the availability of prenatal care in the early part of pregnancy - as well as for abortion services in the case of miscarriage or when the child has died but miscarriage has not yet begun.  So far, the Right to Life movement has been able to finesse these questions.  A debate in Congress will require them to come up with real arguments about difficult questions - arguments it likely will not (and should not) win. There is also the question of providing for families (not just pregnant women).  The Magisterium's teaching on solidarity with the poor should be more determinative in the thinking of many pro-life Catholics on this matter.  This debate will allow such people to reexamine their positions and adopt one more in keeping with the Magisterium than their current conservative Republican stances.
8 years 6 months ago
Can you please define what is meant by "common ground"?  And, can you please do so especially in light of the Catholic Church's teaching that abortion is an intrinsic evil-a non-negotiable that, by definition, and by the President's own admission of Notre Dame, is irreconcilable with the President's position on abortion? Further, what are Catholics to make of Catholic supporters of someone like Obama, given the Church's clear teaching that supporting a candidate who champions intrinsic evils (like Obama does) can only be done when there are proportionate reasons to do so, whereby, it should be noted, "presenting any other issues as if they were proportionate to it is nothing but smoke and mirrors," to quote this [url=]clear breakdown[/url] of the principles at work.  "What kind of reason would be needed to vote for a pro-abort candidate for president? Something unimaginably huge."
8 years 6 months ago
I'm more than willing to see where this "common ground" lies.  I would love to see more funding for adoption agencies and assistance to women facing unplanned or crisis pregnancies.  However, as Michael observes, abortion is an intrinsically evil practice, and working on common ground cannot replace the efforts of Catholics to end all elective abortion.   I'll pray for the president and his council and see what comes out of it. I'm very hopeful it's something I can throw my support behind, while still fighting against the legal killing of the unborn.
8 years 6 months ago
In the Abortion debate can law on either side be THE solution to the lived-experience? I always contemplate what the men who share in creating ''unplanned'' or ''crisis'' pregnancies [strange words for conceiving a child] have to say; what do they think about their babies being aborted? I hardly hear anything about this significant part of the story. Do they have a voice towards the searching for a ''common ground''? [All voices on the table, what would a fertilized ovum choose if presented the dificulties both his/her parents and he/she would have to undergo if he/she were born? unfortunately we don't have the kind of ears to hear the response].
8 years 6 months ago
If the Obama solution is "government-funded birth control for everybody who wants it" what then?
8 years 6 months ago
Esem:  the decision to abort is a woman's only; the men have no say in it even if they want the baby to be kept.  No legal entity will overrule the woman's wishes. Eggy:  that would be one heck of a good start!
8 years 6 months ago
JF suggestsmore legislation to limit "elective abortion." Does that mean abortion after the first trimester? I don't believe that is the equation. What is "elective" to you in any surgery may not feel that way to me and to fight this out on a national level again makes no sense. It would be instructive for all to watch the "NOW" episode of a wek or so ago which considered aspects of third trimester abortion the PERSONS involved in choices of birth or abortion. Even as the opublic mood may have shifted some, we should not expect any rollbacks, only to make the point even stronger in the dignity of each life and the MEANS to make it possible.
8 years 6 months ago
The problem is that Obama's representatives have already made clear that they don't, in fact, want to reduce the number of abortions, but rather wish to reduce "the need" for abortions.  President Obama does not believe that abortion is wrong. I fear that Obama's idea of reducing the need for abortion means continuing his crusade against abstinence education and bringing condoms to middle schools.  That isn't exactly "common ground" with the Catholic Church. As yet, Obama hasn't endorsed the Pregnant Women's Support Act that the Dems for Life put forward, so, unfortunately, I see little reason for optimism.
8 years 6 months ago
Mike Maiale, How does reducing the "need" for abortion fail to reduce abortion?  Is reducing the "need" not the same as reducing the demand?  Being realistic, is it ever a democratically elected government's place to impose moral judgments upon people?  If it prosecutes crime, is it not simply doing so for the purpose of keeping order in society?  Unlike an offense committed by one citizen against another, the offense of preventing the birth of one's own offspring does not involve a wronged party to be avenged by government legal action.  Therefore, it should be considered most extraordinary that a President, who is accused of being anti-life because he supports legal abortion, is going to much greater lengths than any before to find a way in which our government can influence our culture without being dictatorial. One would think this would give a certain segment of our population hope rather than inciting its cynicism and hostility.  It seems to me that some people are more emotionally vested in the disagreement than in their concern for the unborn.
8 years 6 months ago
Dave, very few third trimester abortions are "elective," if any.  Most elective abortions are in the first trimeser.  Roughly 5 of 6 of these are elected because the family cannot support the child.  Assisting women in crisis pregnancies is not an adequate remedy.  Making sure that families have adequate incomes and students have adequate, non-parentally funded, education options may be.  You may also find from ending the need for the five that the one of six remaining "elective abortions" won't happen due to a lack of facilities to have them. Try this experiment - for the next three years insist that families be paid a just and living wage in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching.  Make this the new rallying cry of Catholics in the Pro-Life movement.  Make sure all of the Catholic Obama voters join you in this.  If Obama does not deliver, I will join you in opposing his re-election.  If he does deliver and abortions go down, however, you have to vote for him in 2012 (and get your bishop to do likewise).


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