Fighting Fake Common Ground

In this comment, Frances Kissling responds to Steven Waldman’s Religious Left to Obama: Don’t Repeal the Global Gag Rule Just Yet.

Probably the biggest problem with "pro-life" Obama supporters who
are religious is their lack of commitment to women – and this goes for
both the men and the few women who are part of this group. To refuse to
allow health organizations in Africa access to US family planning money
if they use their own funds to advocate for legal abortion, refer women
for legal abortions or where abortions are legal to perform them is to
condemn women to botched abortions that end their fertility, to die or
become damaged in child birth or to die from illegal abortions – or to
go to jail.

Three days ago, I sat in La Paz Bolivia with two dozen doctors who
anguished over the USAID restrictions on any mention of abortion to
women who see them at the IPPF affiliated clinics in that country.
Every day women come to them and ask for help in finding a safe
abortion and they have no choice but to say " I can’t help you." Some of
those women find their way back to the clinic after self inducing when
they are now bleeding and miscarrying. Only then can the clinic help
them and fix the mess. About 400 women a year in Bolivia die in botched

To ask these women to wait another day for Obama to reverse this
policy in order to satisfy the fake "common ground" prolife religious
progressives suggest – prevention without contraception – is
disrespectful of women’s lives, let alone their moral autonomy. The
pro-life progressive religious left is dangerous to the much needed
reform of the patriarchal aspects of religion. The only women they care
about are women they can see as victims. And women who want to be
recognized as moral adults are as suspect for them as they are for the
James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

This post originally appeared on Beliefnet.

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  • heather-corinna

    I’m not sure *I* know yet why this didn’t happen yesterday.  If you do, it’d be great if someone could fill me in.  I feel like I missed something.


    I was actually thinking today that, having been working in an abortion clinic yesterday, I was kind of glad it waited until today, because I was a bit concerned that had it hapened yesterday, clinics may have seen some violence.  I obviously can’t say whether that would or would not have been so, nor if that was part of the decision-making process on this, though.

  • invalid-0

    and great post, Frances. 

    Heather I am not sure, either, why he didn’t. I’ve heard it’s because President Obama wanted to be respectful of the fact that there was the annual March for Life yesterday and that signing on that day – also Roe v. Wade Day – such an important landmark for legal abortion would have signaled disprespect for the pro-life movement. 

    In a way, I think it makes sense that he didnt’ do it yesterday if only to separate what the Global Gag Rule actually was from what the anti-choice movement has pretended it was. The anti-choice movement has falsely made it about funding for abortion when it’s truly about ensuring that health clinics in some of our poorest nations are able to provide a full range of reproductive health services, family planning, contraceptive supplies – while also being able to let women know what their legal options are around abortion – without fear of losing their funding. 

    I’m so glad your clinic did not suffer any violence yesterday! PPMNS did have a man ram his SUV into the clinic but everyone is okay. Sadly, I fear that these anti-choice violent acts will increase as they did under Clinton but let’s hope not!


    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • invalid-0

    about women’s reproductive health issues in other countries and about the NGOs that are involved with family planning and how they are affected by the global gag rule. i know my questions may sound ignorant, b/c they probable are and possibly might even be attacked-i’m always afraid that i’m going to offend those who are pro-choice with my questions b/c that’s been some of my experience in the past. my biggest question is if NGOs are using their personal funds to provide info on abortions or perform abortions themselves, why do they stop providing these services under the gag rule. i’m assuming that it might be b/c either a) w/out the U.S. gov’t funds, the NGO can not keep running at all b/c they don’t have the funds to cover expenses such as rent, paying staff, etc… or b) the agencies then have to make the choice of choosing between continuing to offer the non-abortion services they provide or abortion services/support and agencies differ on which they choose. thank you for educating me on this.

  • invalid-0

    I would argue the pro-life voters have more of a commitment to women than those who promote abortion as a human right. The pro-life voters who support President Obama rallied behind his call that we do more to reduce the abortion rate in this country by providing more support to pregnant women – something the pro-choice side has not fully embraced. Those who support abortion continue to deny that, many women don’t want to have abortions, but feel that it is their only choice. They also deny the fact that many women suffer after abortion, sometimes 10 or 20 years after the abortion. The pro-life Obama supports are working hard to ensure that we dramatically and drastically reduce the abortion rate in America by passing the Pregnant Women Support Act introduced by Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and Senate Bob Casey (D-PA).

  • emma

    many women don’t want to have abortions, but feel that it is their only choice

    Citation please. And do you really think it’s more pro-woman to promote a situation in which a woman who really, really doesn’t want to have a child has no legal choice but to do so? I’m sorry, but your claims regarding your ‘concern’ for women sound really disingenuous.

  • jodi-jacobson

    and important….

    Please don’t hesitate to ask them even if you think they are "controversial" because the point here is honest discussion and debate and asking honest questions is important.

    And your questions raise issues about which I am sure others also are curious, Mary.

    I will be replying to these and other related issues in a post tomorrow, so please check back as I want you and others to be able to engage this conversation here.


    All best wishes, Jodi

  • invalid-0


  • invalid-0

    as an immature born human, or a very young child, so I don’t know what you are talking about. Typical anti choice bending of the definitions and making up meanings of words. Abortion ends the potential life of a fetus in gestation in the body of a woman. There is no baby involed, by my two dictionaries definition. I go with the dictionaries definitions, not YOURS.

  • alexm

    Jodi is absolutely right.  We’ve been told for years that being pro-choice is "controversial" – by whom?  The anti-choice, that’s who.  The reality is that the fetal fanatics are a small, obnoxious yet extremely powerful minority. 

    The personal is political.

  • invalid-0

    I think that supporting pregnant women is important for reducing abortion rates. Those women should be looked after because a lot of times they lack the resources to get good pre-natal and post-natal care. However, I have always thought that if the pro-life movement really wanted to make a dent in the abortion rates in the United States and around the world, they should try eliminating the NEED for it; by supporting comprehensive sexual education in schools and supporting the use of contraception. Just a thought.

  • marysia

    Heather, I am glad that you, and other abortion clinic workers, were not subjected to violence.  I pray for that every day, that it does not happen ever again.

  • marysia

    Why are you–and Frances Kissling, evidently–so sure that progressive prolifers are anti-contraception, anti-comprehensive sex education? 

    You are right that prolifers should take up these causes.  But some of us figured that out for ourselves a very long time ago and have been working for these causes ever since, thank you very much.

  • sayna

    The reason that we see pro-lifers as being opposed to contraception and education is because most of them are. I have yet to see a single major pro-life organization that is NOT opposed to, or at least unsupportive of, these preventive measures. If the majority of pro-life people support prevention, why is it that the face of the pro-life movement is so vehemently opposed to it? Why would people identify with a movement that they believe is causing what it seeks to eliminate?

    I also think that the anonymous post above (January 24, 2009 – 2:40am)is pretty insulting. I see no evidence that the pro-choice movement “has not fully embraced” improving the support of pregnant women. What we do not support is promoting the idea that childbirth is the only valid option for these women. The arrogant assumption that no woman really chooses to have an abortion is absolutely insulting. Even with the best medical care and social support a woman forced to carry a pregnancy to term is still being legally and socially coereced into carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth. And no, the fact that some women feel that abortion was the wrong choice for them does not mean that it is the wrong choice for all women.

    Supporting mothers-to-be is vitally important, but it still isn’t going to prevent abortion. The only way to do that is to strike at the root of the problem and prevent unwanted pregnancy from occuring in the first place.

  • invalid-0

    I’d like to know why this issue keeps getting batted back and forth with every change of administration. If abortion is legal in this country (barely), who are we to say other countries can’t decide for themselves and their citizens. Isn’t there a way to have this made a permanent law? Or do both sides like it the way it is because they can pander to their base with the stroke of a pen?