May 1, 2009


Let’s back Democratic plan to reduce abortions

During his speech at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement on May 17, President Barack Obama said that the positions of opponents on the abortion issue are irreconcilable.

However, he went on to say, “Let us work together to reduce the number of abortions. Let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term.”

OK, we’ll buy that. Let’s do it.

One way of doing so is by supporting a bill that has been introduced in the U.S. Congress by Democrats. It’s called the Pregnant Women Support Act, and its purpose is to provide practical resources to pregnant women who otherwise might consider abortion.

It’s not exactly a new bill since Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) first introduced it in 2006, but it was reintroduced on April 22 and so far has 29 co-sponsors. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The bill grew out of the Democrats for Life of America’s

“95-10 Initiative,” an ambitious plan to reduce the number of abortions in the United States by 95 percent in 10 years. (We first editorialized about the initiative in our Sept. 30, 2005, issue.) The bill was designed to get the support of politicians on both sides of the abortion issue.

According to an article in the May 24 issue of the national Catholic periodical Our Sunday Visitor, here are some of the provisions of the bill. It would:

  • Remove the designation of pregnancy as a “pre-existing condition” in health care coverage.
  • Establish a federally funded, toll-free hotline to direct women to services that can provide them with assistance during and after their pregnancy.
  • Provide support, including education grants and child care, to parents who are teenagers or college students.
  • Extend coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to pregnant women and their unborn children, and increase funding to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program.
  • Increase federal funding to programs for pregnant domestic violence victims.
  • Offer parenting education programs in maternity group homes.
  • Provide services to parents who learn that their child will suffer from Down syndrome or other prenatally diagnosed conditions.
  • Distribute grants to health centers for the purchase of ultrasound equipment.
  • Require institutions that offer abortions to provide accurate information to pregnant women about their options, including adoption, and the potential short-term and long-term complications associated with abortion.

Aren’t these provisions that anybody interested in reducing the number of abortions, whether they are called pro-life or pro-choice, should support? It doesn’t try to limit abortion rights, it tries to limit abortions.

The bill has the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities. Its chairman, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, recently wrote a letter urging the members of the House of Representatives to back the legislation. He cited the fact that many women get abortions because they feel that they have no other choice, and this bill would empower women to make more informed choices.

With the U.S. Congress seemingly bogged down with other important national problems, this common-sense bill might get lost in the shuffle, as it has in other years, unless we urge our Congressmen to press for its consideration. We have to let them know that we consider this an important bill.

One national pro-life expert encouraging us to do that is Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications for the bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

In that article in Our Sunday Visitor, McQuade was quoted as saying that, although the bishops’ conference is optimistic about the legislation’s passage, it will take a strong showing of support from the public to ensure that Congress gives the issue the attention that it deserves.

We would like to see President Obama gives his support to the bill since it would do exactly what he said we should do during his speech at Notre Dame.

Let’s urge him to follow up his words with support for this specific bill.

—John F. Fink

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