I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but …

Last week, the White House announced its new plan to reduce the perceived need for abortion — as part of the expanded White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

I’m pleased to see President Obama following through on this campaign promise. All the same, I couldn’t help being disappointed. The word “women” was used exactly once in the announcement. Three out of the fifteen named council members are women.

I had hoped that the abortion-reduction program would be under Health and Human Services, or possibly a revived White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Basing the program there would have shown that President Obama understands that the problems driving women to abortion are not just personal, but systemic. A woman-centric abortion reduction program also would have made partners of women’s advocates and abortion opponents — two groups who should have so many of the same goals, but often end up in opposite camps due to our toxic abortion politics.

I worry that this move is more about placating religious people who are distressed by abortion than it is about actually ending it. I also worry about abortion reduction being stereotyped as solely a religious concern — like that isn’t enough of a problem already.

2 thoughts to “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but …”

  1. Call me an artifact of the ‘divisive culture of political rancor’ if you want, but I’ve got no problem with sounding ungrateful. I think that this is just a bit of political theater.

    This is my theory:

    >Pro-choice groups are hoping to co-opt discouraged pro-lifer by suggesting that they redirect their energy from criminalization to “reduction efforts”. These efforts are part of a larger social and health care agenda that would have been advocated by the administration independent of any relation to abortion, and there isn’t any guarantee that they will actually reduce rates.

    >Those who don’t get on board will be portrayed as hypocrites for not doing what they could to save lives. They will be portrayed as divisive and intractable, and the president will make a show of how he tried to cooperate with the other side (in spite of overturning the Mexico City Policy and opposing any limitations- like the sonogram laws being pushed forward now). In effect the pro-lifers will have to choose between supporting his agenda with no assurance of benefit and with no concessions on the other side, or being painted as unreasonable and unprincipled.

    >Any of these “reduction efforts” will be put forth by the faith based initiative group because it serves to frame the issue as a question of religious beliefs rather than a philosophical and moral one. The strategy of the pro-choice movement is and always has been to equate the ‘freedom to have an abortion’ with things like ‘being free to have sex before marriage’. That isn’t merely a cynical ploy. Most believe that there is a true equivalence, but from a political perspective, it is essential that this approach be the one adopted by media and popular culture. Any memes which challenge this interpretation must be discredited.

    I see it as a way to appear to be reaching out to pro-lifers while marginalizing them.

    My tone is coming across as very strident, I think. I don’t like when that happens, but this issue upsets me. I think that it is the strategy of a new generation of politicos who will admit to viewing abortion as a distasteful activity (unlike the previous generation who blocked a change in the party platform because they didn’t want to imply that choosing abortion should be viewed as less desirable than choosing life) but who are trying to frame abortion by putting it in the same category as smoking cigarettes.

    PS: I joined the Pro-Life Nonbelievers group on Atheist Nexus, and I’d like to invite you to join SPLASH: Society of Pro Life Agnostics & Secular Humanists on facebook. (link above)

  2. PPS: I’m not opposed to what the administration seems to intend to do for “abortion reduction”. I’m generally sympathetic the the Democrats’ domestic agenda anyway. I do object to the way that it is being packaged and I am sympathetic to those who are pro-life but do not support a liberal domestic agenda. I also think it is worthwhile in this context to point out the following (the date says Jan 2008, but that is an error- it was 2009)…


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