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A Turning Point For the Politics of Abortion?

October 30, 2008, 3:38 pm | Posted by ehouser
RH Reality Check
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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.

Obama 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.”

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