The Democrats are showing signs of change on abortion. Yesterday, the Democratically controlled House easily passed an appropriations bill that contains a major – and brand new – abortion initiative. But unlike Democratic abortion bills of yore, this one brings together both sides of the debate and is aimed squarely at abortion reduction.
This “Reducing the Need for Abortions Initiative,” which grew out of a bill crafted by Tim Ryan (pro-life D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (pro-choice D-CT) passed as part of the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill. It invests real money – $647 million – in reducing the need for abortion by funding programs that address the circumstances that lead to abortion. It contains provisions that prevent unintended pregnancies, such as increasing the funding for the nation’s only dedicated family planning program (Title X) and also creates and funds a new teen pregnancy prevention program at CDC. At the same time, it includes measures designed to help support pregnant women and new families who need more support to go forward with their pregnancies, such as increased funding for child care, after-school programs, and nurse home visitation programs for new moms. It also funds an adoption awareness campaign at CDC and domestic violence prevention.
In proposing and then passing this bill, the Democrats have made a bold new statement about their changed outlook on abortion. First, they are showing that they are dedicated to finding common ground on this divisive issue. As Congressman Ryan put it: “It is our moral obligation to address those issues with which all sides agree. Whether you are pro-life like me or pro-choice like my friend Congresswoman DeLauro, the common ground we must build upon is our serious desire to reduce the rate of abortions.”
Second, – the Party is now letting pro-life Democrats inside the tent. We saw this with their loyalty to Bob Casey, Jr. in Pennsylvania – his dad was barred from the podium at the 1992 Democratic Convention for his pro-life views, but now-Senator Casey (who shares his father’s views on abortion) was warmly embraced by the Party during his Senate run last year. We are seeing it again in their decision to listen closely and follow the lead of pro-life Congressman Tim Ryan.
Third, by prioritizing an initiative designed to reduce the need for abortion, Democrats are making a clear statement that they understand the moral complexity of abortion.
The Democrats remain and will always be the party of abortion rights, but they are looking more and more like they are ALSO the party of reducing the need for abortion.