Democrats Seek Middle Ground on Abortion
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.
More politics coming this election season and on the abortion issue. That's not news. But on Capitol Hill yesterday, something unexpected did happen. House Democrats with very different voting records came together to introduce a bill aimed at reducing the number of abortions. The hope is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to make it easier for pregnant women to have and keep their babies.
NPR's Julie Rovner was there and filed this report.
JULIE ROVNER: Tim Ryan is a Democrat from Ohio who votes with abortion opponents two-thirds of the time. He says his pro-life leanings are the reason he's backing the new bill that would, among other things, provide more money for federally funded family planning services.
Representative TIM RYAN (Democrat, Ohio): If this is implemented it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and, therefore, abortions in the country.
ROVNER: Among those joining Ryan is Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, a staunch supporter of abortion rights. She's embracing the bill, which, among other things, includes provisions that in the past have been opposed by pro-choice groups.
Those include encouraging pregnant women to be given more information about abortion alternatives as well as ultrasound exams. And even as an abortion rights advocate, DeLauro said she's willing to say that abortion is not a positive thing.
Representative ROSA DELAURO (Democrat, Connecticut): People who support the right to choose do not celebrate abortion. No one does. We fully recognize this is a morally complex issue.
ROVNER: The bill, formerly known as the Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, has been in the works for nearly a year. It includes not only a series of provisions designed to prevent unintended pregnancies, but also ways to make it easier for pregnant women to put their babies up for adoption or to keep and raise them.
Included, for example, are grant programs for college students who are pregnant or raising children. Sister Sharon Dillon of the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good noted that two-thirds of women who have abortions cite economic factors as a reason.
Sister SHARON DILLON (Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good): This statistic simply cannot be ignored. Nor can we continue to ignore the responsibility we all share for living in a society in which raising children for some has become seen as a burden, and in which women are forced into positions in which they see no other option.
ROVNER: Illinois Democrat Rahm Emanuel says that for those on both sides of the abortion debate, coming together shouldn't be such a big deal.
Representative RAHM EMANUEL (Democrat, Illinois): Once you get out of Washington, the world of absolutes ends and there's a lot more people that are - yes, but - and no comma, well - than there are in the absolute world.
ROVNER: But it is a big deal politically says Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University, particularly here at the start of what's already a very contentious election season.
Professor CLYDE WILCOX (Government, Georgetown University): Parties have used the abortion issue very effectively to mobilize voters for a number of years and so both parties have a stake in having this issue in some sense not settled.
ROVNER: And Wilcox says for the dozen or so members backing the bill there's the risk of losing the support of groups on their side of the debate.
Prof. WILCOX: For the pro-lifers, the danger is that they're going to be accused of, you know, not being, you know, sincere in their faith or whatever. For the pro-choice side, the idea is that you're not really protecting women's rights.
ROVNER: So far the bill has won some limited praise from abortion rights groups, but not from those against abortion. They object in particular to more federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which uses non-federal funds to also perform abortions. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.
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CHADWICK: And there's more in a moment on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.
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