A Turning Point for the Politics of Abortion?
After decades of bitter partisanship and nasty wedge politics surrounding the highly controversial issue of abortion will this election cycle be remembered as a turning point for the politics of abortion? A notable shift has occurred in the political discourse about abortion this year. The really began with a meeting Senator Barack Obama set up with conservative leaders to discuss social issues, particularly gay rights and abortion, in early June. Steve Strang, founder of Charisma Magazine, came out of the meeting saying he found Obama to be "more centrist than expected." Catholic "pro-life" leader and former Reagan adviser Doug Kmiec, who had already given an endorsement of sorts for Obama in Ferbruary, was at the meeting as well and less than a week later wrote in the Chicago Tribune that "disagreement or not, it is abundantly clear from our conversation that
Obama shares a common aspiration to reduce the incidence of abortion." On September 15 Kmiec published a book, Can a Catholic Support Him?: Asking the Big Questions about Barack Obama, that answers the title’s question with an unequivocal "yes." The new view that is being increasingly taken up by "pro-life" advocates is that three decades of trying to make abortion illegal has done little to reduce the rate of abortion. Since that tack has been tried exhaustively, and failed, a new tack that, as a new radio ad from Faith in Public Life says, focuses on "real solutions that will drastically reduce abortions by
expanding programs that encourage adoption, increasing pre- and
post-natal healthcare, preventing unintended pregnancies, and helping
young mothers choose life."
The Boston Globe takes a look at this development today in an article today that notes that as the inflammatory abortion rhetoric ramps up in the last days before the election a "new view" on abortion has surfaced:
"The banning-abortion position, conservatives will admit, is not a
realistic one in this country – it’s never going to happen, and they
admit it’s not going to happen," said Jim Wallis, a leading progressive
evangelical. "Maybe abortion reduction could result in a more prolife
outcome than taking what have become symbolic stances that are never
going to be achieved" in the United States.
And even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, recognizes Nicholas Cafardi, a prominent Catholic scholar, abortion rights will be returned to the states to govern and it seems that at least half would maintain a legal right to abortion:
Within the Catholic Church, the argument has been made most prominently
by Nicholas Cafardi, a legal scholar at Duquesne University in
Pittsburgh who has held several important church positions, and who
wrote last month: "While I have never swayed in my conviction that
abortion is an unspeakable evil, I believe that we have lost the
abortion battle – permanently."
The reason, Cafardi and others have argued, is that even if Roe v. Wade
were overturned, the battle would return to the states, many of which
would not outlaw the procedure.
While the idea of reaching compromise on abortion though maintaining a legal right while working to reduce its incidence is not new, Obama’s leadership on including the idea in the Democratic platform and outreach to leaders and scholars on the other side of the debate has raised the prospects of the compromise becoming a reality:
Scholars say the idea of abortion reduction is not new. As
president, Bill Clinton wanted to make abortion "safe, legal, and
rare." But it has gathered new currency as the Democratic Party
included the idea in its platform and two Catholic Democrats in the
House of Representatives – Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who supports
abortion rights, and Tim Ryan of Ohio, who opposes abortion rights –
have pushed an abortion reduction package in Congress.
raised the issue in the last presidential debate, saying, "there surely
is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those
who are opposed to abortion can come together."
Women Buying Health Policies Pay a Penalty
The New York Times reports on new evidence that "emerged of a widespread gap in the cost of health insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage." After shopping for individual insurance packages for myself and my wife when we were first married a few years ago I knew, at least anecdotally, that this gap existed. Alicia’s insurance premiums were a good 30-50% more than mine. When we inquired about the reasoning for the difference we were given the same reason that insurance companies gave the NYT:
Insurers say they have a sound reason for charging different premiums:
Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically
use more health care, especially in the childbearing years.
But this does not seem to explain the entirety of the gap:
But women still pay more than men for insurance that does not cover
maternity care. In the individual market, maternity coverage may be
offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional
Crystal D. Kilpatrick, a healthy 33-year-old real estate
agent in Austin, Tex., said: “I’ve delayed having a baby because my
insurance policy does not cover maternity care. If I have a baby, I’ll
have to pay at least $8,000 out of pocket.”
In general, insurers
say, they charge women more than men of the same age because claims
experience shows that women use more health care services. They are
more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take
prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses.
Colorado Personhood Amendment Could Result in the Outlawing of Contraception
The proposed Amendment 48 would change Colorado’s Constitution to
define the term "person" as "any human being from the moment of
fertilization." That means fertilized eggs and fetuses would have all
the rights of individuals under Colorado law, down to the right to due
Supporters say it protects the value of life and clarifies
"personhood" in light of scientific findings on how humans develop in
the womb. They also argue that it won’t automatically overturn access
to contraception, abortion, or medical research involving embryos,
since courts still will have to interpret laws on a case-by-case basis.
Cristina Page is quoted in the article predicting that fighting against access to contraception has and will continue to become more common in politics as a tactic from the right:
Contraception also has become an issue in nine races in this
election, according to Cristina Page of the advocacy site
BirthControlWatch.org, including congressional campaigns in New Jersey,
Ohio, New Hampshire, Washington, Virginia, and Colorado as well as a
gubernatorial race in Washington.
"This is a trend we’re going to see—birth control becoming a campaign issue—grow," says Page.
Cristina writes extensively about this today on RH Reality Check, be sure to check it out.
Report Cites HHS for "Impermissible" Grants to Abstinence Only Programs
The Government Accountability Office is
questioning the way the Department of Health and Human Services has
implemented a $150 million-a-year Healthy Marriage and Responsible
A GAO report released this week
found that HHS was unable to fully examine the activities of grant
recipients before the first money was released seven months after the
law took effect in February 2006.
For example, the GAO
discovered that some of the recipients were operating programs focused
primarily on abstinence education, despite the fact that it was
“impermissible” for grant funding to be used to finance programs deemed
as abstinence only.
The GAO also found that HHS lacks
“mechanisms to identify and target grantees that are not in compliance
with grant requirements.” In addition, the GAO report noted that HHS
employs an inconsistent method of conducting site visits to check up on
how funding is being spent.
The study was conducted at the behest of Rep. Jim McDermott , D-Wash., ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support.
We will have more on this story soon.