Roundup: Obama Staff Gear Up to Rescind HHS Conscience Expansion; Where Is the “Common Ground”?

Obama Staff Already
Reviewing HHS Conscience Clause Expansion

The Bush administration will likely finalize an HHS
regulation expanding provider conscience clause protections this week, but Obama staffers
are already looking at ways to undo the regulation, reports
the Wall Street Journal
.  That regulation
is only one of many Bush-era policies harmful to women’s health that Obama will
address during his administration.  The
Journal reports:

Decisions that the new administration will weigh include: whether to cut
funding for sexual abstinence programs; whether to increase funding for
comprehensive sex education programs that include discussion of birth control;
whether to allow federal health plans to pay for abortions; and whether to
overturn regulations such as one that makes fetuses eligible for health-care
coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Women’s health advocates are also pushing for a change in rules that would
lower the cost of birth control at college health clinics.

Though Connie Mackey, senior vice-president of Family
Research Council Action, says that her organization’s "No. 1 concern would be
the [Freedom of Choice] bill," the Journal points out that FOCA is not on the list of
priorities reproductive health advocates have set out for the first 100 days of
Obama’s administration.  "We’re
going to be smart and strategic about our policy agenda to bring people
together to make progress for women’s health," said Cecile Richards,
president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The Freedom of
Choice Act is very important…but we have a long list of things to get done
that I think can address problems immediately that women are facing, that are
really immediate concerns." 

What Does "Common Ground"
Really Mean?

In The
American Prospect
, Sarah Posner examines the "abortion reduction" efforts of
pro-life "progressive" evangelicals.  Posner
reports that pro-life "progressive" evangelicals like Rev. Jim Wallis like to
claim that their support for "abortion reduction" – which amounts to policy encouraging
women to bring pregnancies to term, and discouraging abortion – is a "common
ground" position:

Abortion reduction, framed as a package of incentives to encourage women
facing unintended pregnancies to carry them to term, "is the new common
ground," says Wallis, who claims that "people on the edges, on the
left, and the right, won’t support it." Wallis frequently accuses those of
not agreeing with his anti-abortion "common ground" of restoking the
"culture wars," but there are other ideas of where the common ground

But others say common ground can be found somewhere else:

According to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America,
"Americans want to move beyond the divisive political attacks that defined
the debate over abortion during the Bush era. The public wants lawmakers to
find common ground — to focus on policies that improve women’s access to birth
control and ensure that teens receive accurate sex education — all of which
helps prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion without
undermining a woman’s right to choose."

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said that her organization
"does more than any other organization to prevent unintended pregnancies
and reduce the need for abortion. One in four women in this country has been to
a Planned Parenthood clinic, primarily for prevention and contraception care." 

Planned Parenthood
Partners with Shelter to Bring RH Care to Homeless Women

Homelessness leaves women particularly vulnerable, reports
the Santa Barbara Independent
, so three Santa Barbara social service organizations established a "biweekly walk-in
clinic and day center with confidential reproductive health services,
counseling, shower facilities, laundry, child care, and lunch." Planned Parenthood will supply the reproductive health care services:

For the first few months, reproductive services will be limited to what
Planned Parenthood dubs "express exams." They include birth control and testing
for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) without that physical exam many women
find intimidating. Within a few months though, the clinic will ramp up to a
full-service Planned Parenthood satellite clinic, capable of gynecological
exams and the more invasive birth control device Implanon, which is surgically
inserted under the skin and lasts for three years.

"We really wanted to look beyond our four walls and work collaboratively
with more community-based organizations," Pat Fajardo, Planned
Parenthood’s vice president of clinical services, told the Independent. 

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  • paul-bradford

    Abortion reduction, framed as a package of incentives to encourage women facing unintended pregnancies to carry them to term, "is the new common ground," says Wallis, who claims that "people on the edges, on the left, and the right, won’t support it."

    I can testify to the fact that the people on the edges, both left and right, resist efforts to find common ground.  Fortunately, the majority of Americans have moved away from the "edges" and sincerely want to find solutions that don’t pit the rights of mothers against the rights of their unborn.

    Advocates for the unborn would do well to drop efforts to criminalize abortion but they should step up efforts to influence public opinion in favor of choosing life.  Defenders of reproductive rights ought to sign on to ‘abortion reduction’ as a goal while continuing to press for accurate information about contraception.

    Both sides ought to push for a change in attitudes among men.  Both men and women need to take responsibility for avoiding unwanted pregnancies.  Disrespect for the unborn begins with an abdication of responsible behavior.

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • kirsten-sherk

    I think most reproductive rights advocates see reducing the number of abortions as an important goal — it’s why we feel it’s important for women to have access to the information and means to avoid unwanted pregnancies to begin with, thus reducing the need for any abortion.  Providing women with complete information (including adoption, including information about social support services) is also valuable.  But when Wallis just focuses on trying to convince women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, he is not actually finding common ground because he’s missing a great big chunk of the map!

  • emma

    It doesn’t make sense to me that some don’t seem to understand that the main cause of abortion is unwanted pregnancy. Thats just common sense. If more people have easier access to contraception, there are going to be fewer unwanted pregnancies, and if there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer abortions would be necessary. How is that an extreme or controversial position to take?

  • invalid-0

    but I don’t see reducing the number of abortions as an important goal. When performed properly, abortion is a safe, straightforward medical procedure with MUCH lower rates of maternal complications and mortality than childbirth.

    Unlike long-term hormonal birth control, which can increase women’s risk of strokes and certain cancers, abortion has no long-term side effects–unless women are taught to think it’s wrong, of course, and suffer the psychological side effects of mourning the ball of cells that everyone is telling them is a ‘child.’

    I’m not saying abortion is an appropriate form of birth control. I AM asking us not to inch towards a place where we’re all agreeing that abortion is bad, and using that as a jumping-off point for our discussions. Abortion is not bad. It is one of a range of medical options that women should have at their disposal when they’re making well-informed choices about their own reproductive and sexual health.