Ideas for Obama: White House Summit on Abortion Reduction

The President-Elect needs to focus like a laser on the economic crisis once he takes office next month. Not only is there a great deal of human suffering wrapped inside the rising unemployment numbers, but a host of other governmental challenges become more difficult the longer the economic downturn continues. The federal deficit, the solvency of entitlement programs, health care reform, all become more intractable every day the economy is in recession.

But, it is a mistake to think that the economy is the only issue voters care about and it would be a mistake for Obama to entirely neglect other issues. For Catholics – to be more precise, for centrist Catholics who voted Republican in the previous two election cycles but for Obama this time – the economy was certainly a concern. But, many of those Catholic swing voters were only willing to give Obama a hearing on the economy because he had convinced them he was serious about another issue of importance to them: reducing the abortion rate. A group of prominent and not-so prominent pro-life Catholics went to the mat for Obama, starting with Professor Doug Kmiec, and the administration cannot simply throw them under the bus.


Make no mistake: Obama’s initial actions on the abortion issue will not be pro-life. While concern about the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was mostly a scare tactic employed by GOP operatives (the bill has no chance of passing), Obama will undoubtedly rescind the Mexico City gag rule which prevents agencies that receive federal funding from counseling about abortion services. This and a few other marginal changes can be enacted by executive order. Obama is pro-choice and there is no finessing the point.

But, he can twin his pro-choice executive orders with a call for an abortion reduction summit at the White House for the fall of 2009. The timing provides him eight months of undiluted focus on the economy. He can appoint prominent pro-life Democrats to orchestrate the conference, like Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey or newly elected congressman from Ohio Steve Driehaus. From the pro-choice side, Obama can ask Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro to be one of the leaders of the conference. DeLauro was previously the executive director of Emily’s List so there is no one in the pro-choice community who can question her commitment, yet she also worked in the last session on abortion reduction legislation with Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.

The abortion reduction summit could take as its goal the 95-10 initiative by the group Democrats for Life. This initiative groups several policies all aimed at the objective of reducing the abortion rate by 95% over ten years. It is an ambitious goal but it would demonstrate that Obama was serious when he pledged himself, both in his convention acceptance speech and in his third debate, to reducing the abortion rate in America.

The financial crisis facing the nation is so large and so unprecedented that it behooves everyone to give the incoming president some wiggle room on all of his promises. But, those of us who are pro-life Democrats who voted for Obama in part because of his evident sincerity about reducing the abortion rate must keep his feet to the fire. We can multi-task as voters just as he must multi-task as President: We Catholics also want humane immigration reform that focuses on keeping families together, a robust effort to protect God’s creation through stronger environmental policies, and a less militaristic foreign policy. But, a large group of Catholics gave Obama the vote they declined to give John Kerry because Obama crossed a threshold on the abortion issue by dedicating himself to reducing the national abortion rate. We were decisive in 2008 but that doesn’t mean we can’t decide differently next time.


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10 years 1 month ago
Here's an idea for reducing abortion: outlaw it. Doing so will cost no money and thus the financial crisis is no obstacle. The financial crisis is certainly not stopping the Obama transition team from gearing up to promote abortion. Today CNA reports on a pro-abortion plan posted on President elect Obama's official website. Here are some of the key parts of the proposed plan: "The President’s budget should strike language restricting abortion funding for (i) Medicaid-eligible women and Medicare beneficiaries (Hyde amendment); (ii) federal employees and their dependents (FEHB program); (iii) residents of the District of Columbia; (iv) Peace Corps volunteers; (v) Native-American women; and (vi) women in federal prisons." According to CNA, the plan "asks that funding be restored to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), whose funding was rescinded under the Bush administration after private and governmental investigations revealed that the program cooperated with China’s coercive population control programs." Also according to CNA: * The abortion advocates’ plan calls for an increase in the budget of the Title X Family Planning Program to $700 million, reportedly a 133 percent increase, while providing $1 billion for international "family planning" programs. * Further, it asks that abstinence-only education be defunded in preference to "comprehensive sex education." * The document lists vacancies in the Federal Circuit Courts, urging the Obama administration to appoint judges with a "demonstrated commitment to fundamental legal protections and civil liberties, including reproductive rights."
10 years 1 month ago
I am not sure a photo-op would help. If there is one, it should be Abortion Reduction and Family Support.
10 years 1 month ago
Cardinal Newman wrote that one venial sin is such an insult to God that it is worse than 100,000 deaths in a natural catastrophe. Is not the death of one child killed in an abortion not the same? Or even worse, being a mortal sin? One does not measure evil by numbers.
10 years 1 month ago
If Michael Sean Winters was living in Germany in the 1930s, he would have written: “You know, I don’t like this Hitler guy’s viewpoints on the eradication of the Jewish people, but damn, he can give a great speech.”
10 years ago
Couldn't we all agree that it is best to help couples not become pregnant unintentionally in the first place. Surely if we agree that life is sacred, we can all agree that it never be created carelessly. True common ground would be working for sexuality education and access to contraception, including good information about abstinence and natural family planning, so that no woman, no couple, no family would have to face this decision in the first place. The emphasis, as I have written many times, should be placed on reducing unintended pregnancies -- the abortion rate would then necessarily follow. Rev. Debra W. Haffner Religious Institute
10 years 1 month ago
FYI-Some who profess to be Catholic and support reducing abortions rather than protecting the Life of ALL Children in their Mother's Womb.
10 years 1 month ago
Underlying the strident comments posted above is a groundless belief that reversing Roe-v-Wade would make any difference in the number of abortions, and also the mean-spirited supposition that somehow the Democrats are responsible for the abortions that go on in the US. I think a summit to search out creative solutions to the abortion tragedy is the kind of new idea that could really make a difference, in part by creating new opportunities for consensus where little has existed in the past. Just to take three examples, why shouldn't the alcohol industry be taken to task for its heavy promotion of beer to teenagers, when the data shows that binge drinking is a major modifiable risk factor for unintended pregnancy/sexual assault? How about a major movement to help support families so that children have authority figures in their lives to help them make right choices with regard to sexuality? How about anticipating the massive teen unemployment problem that will unfold next summer in the current economic environment, with the consequences this will have for development of personal responsibility?


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