Friday, December 21, 2007

practical abortion politics: principle vs. pragmatism

A provocative piece from Jamie Dean at World on the potential for compromise and a certain kind of political progress on abortion...

One favorite Capitol Hill worker of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is an elevator operator named Jimmy. The young man with Down syndrome wears ties given to him by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and often greets legislators with high-fives or hugs.

"He's a wonderful young man," Brownback recently told a pro-life audience in Washington, D.C. "And if you see a Down syndrome child or person in this country today, I hope you give them a hug, because 90 percent are killed in the womb."

Brownback referred to studies that estimate 80 to 90 percent of parents who learn their unborn children have Down syndrome choose abortion....

Brownback is putting teeth to that promise with a bill that would establish a national registry of families willing to adopt a child with Down syndrome. The legislation would also provide more education about Down syndrome for expectant parents....

The staunchly pro-life Brownback has a surprising ally in the legislation aimed at reducing the number of abortions: the staunchly pro-abortion Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

The unlikely pair are co-sponsors of the Prenatally Diagnosed Conditions Act, a bill they first introduced in 2005, but that remains in a Senate committee. Kennedy spokesman Laura Capps said the senator believes abortion should be rare: "If this legislation helps women make better decisions, he's all for that."

The Brownback-Kennedy bill is one example of a recent trend in bipartisan approaches to reducing abortions. But as divergent camps look for ways to work together on a difficult issue, thorny questions arise: How closely can opposite sides collaborate on combating abortion, and what are the limits to bipartisan compromise on moral absolutes?

Rachel Laser thinks about those questions often. Laser is the director of the culture program at Third Way, a progressive, left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C., that aims at finding common ground among pro-life proponents and supporters of legalized abortion who want to reduce the number of abortions.

In Laser's downtown office, an open box of gray wristbands sits next to her desk. "Those symbolize the abortion grays," Laser told WORLD. Third Way coined the term "abortion grays" to refer to those who believe abortion is undesirable but should remain legal.

Third Way noted success this summer when the group lobbied for passage of the Reducing the Need for Abortions Initiative, a Democrat-sponsored package in the House of Representatives. An appropriations committee incorporated large portions of the legislation into a massive spending bill that the House passed in July.

The $647 million abortion-related package included funding for abstinence education, an adoption-awareness program, and support for low-income women who become pregnant.

The bill also included funding for sex education and contraception for teens. The appropriations committee did not include the bill's original provision for awarding grants to health clinics to purchase ultrasound machines....

For Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), it isn't that simple. The pro-life congressman also wants to reduce the number of abortions but said he couldn't support the legislation for one major reason: It sends money to Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the country. He offered an amendment that would prohibit federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood receives more than $300 million in federal funding each year for family-planning services. (That's about one-third of the group's operating budget.) The organization says it abides by federal rules that don't allow the group to use the government funds for abortion services. But Pence says that the funds could be used to offset Planned Parenthood's operational costs, freeing up money for abortion services.

Pence's amendment failed, 189-231, but mustered significant support, including 20 Democrats who voted for the amendment....

Pence told WORLD he plans to introduce the amendment each year, following the example of William Wilberforce, who successfully fought the British slave trade: "He fought slavery and eventually won by taking the profit out of the slave trade."

It's a shame that Pence or another Republican pro-lifer didn't think of this earlier-- when the Republicans controlled Congress for 12 years!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home