Searching for Common Ground
In his commencement speech to Notre Dame graduates last spring, President Barack Obama spoke of “Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.” And on the issue that made his speech so controversial, he said: “So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”
Today, pro-choice Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) and anti-abortion Representative Tim Ryan (OH) are introducing a bill that seeks to find common ground on the historically polarizing issue of abortion. The “Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act” meets President Obama’s call by including both provisions to prevent unintended pregnancies through comprehensive sex education and increased access to contraception and family planning, as well as support for women and couples throughout pregnancy and children after birth.
The bill has unprecedented support from both sides of the aisle and marks an extraordinary step forward in ending the ideological deadlock that, for too long, has plagued conversation around reproductive rights. That said, the debate is far from over.
At the same time as pro-choice and anti-abortion groups are coming together to support the Ryan-DeLauro bill, they are coming to heads over health care reform.
A coalition of anti-abortion advocates launched a campaign this week to oppose any health care reform bill that does not formally exclude abortion funding. Indeed, they claim (misleadingly) that existing health care proposals constitute a stealth “abortion mandate” that will spend taxpayer money on abortions and require insurance companies to cover abortions. Pro-choice advocates, on the other hand, are one of the strongest supporters of health care reform regardless of abortion funding.
Women pay higher health care costs, are more likely to be uninsured, receive inadequate benefits, and are more likely than men to experience difficulty accessing care. So, while, as a pro-choice advocate, I believe abortion and other reproductive health services ought to be included in any national health plan, I know that, regardless, health care reform is good for women’s health.
In my opinion, this is where we should be able to find true common ground. Whether pro-choice or anti-abortion, I think it is time that we all agree that our current health care system is unsustainable. Let’s keep abortion out of the debate – for now, at least.