Pro-Life Democrats Propose Abortion-Reducing
National Catholic Register
June 5-11, 2005
Washington - A shift in rhetoric by key Democrats over the past few months
has left some wondering whether the party is willing to embrace a more
life-affirming stance on abortion.
From Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean declaring that he
wants "to make a home for pro-life Democrats" to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y,
saying abortions should be done "only in very rare circumstances," the
opportunity seemed ripe for some action to back up the words.
Seizing the opportunity, the pro-life Democrats for Life of America presented
a plan, known as the 95-10 Initiative, that they predict will reduce abortions
by 95% over the next 10 years.
"We think this is a good way to work within our party to help women make
better choices than abortion and let them know there is support out there - that
abortion isn't the only option," said Kristen Day, Democrats for Life's
Several pro-life Democrats, including Congressmen Tim Ryan of Ohio and Bart
Stupak of Michigan, and former Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana, appeared at
Democratic National Committee headquarters April 21 to unveil the proposal,
which should be introduced as legislation on the House floor by early June, Day
Among other things, the initiative would:
1. Collect confidential data on women who volunteer to take part in a study
by the National Institutes of Health on why they choose abortions, with the
findings announced within five years to Congress.
2. Promote a toll-free number that would direct a woman to organizations that
provide support services for pregnant women and direct women to adoption
3. Provide grants to school districts that are in need of funds to administer
effective, age-appropriate pregnancy prevention education, including abstinence.
4. Ban insurance companies from listing pregnancy as a "pre-existing
5. Require pregnancy centers and women's health centers that provide
pregnancy counseling and that receive federal funding to provide adoption
6. Provide grants to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations for the purchase of
ultrasound equipment to provide free examinations to pregnant women.
7. Increase funding for domestic violence programs.
8. Prohibit transporting a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion.
9. Provide grants to states to help in the promotion and implementation of
"safe haven laws," where a mother in distress can drop off a newborn anonymously
at designated locations. Forty-six states have some type of safe haven
10. Mandate State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for pregnant
women and their unborn children.
11. Mandate insurance coverage of contraception approved by the Food and Drug
Day, who is a recent convert to the Catholic faith, said pro-life Democrats
hope that if most of the initiative becomes law, the abortion rate might decline
by 95% in a decade.
Stupak said he doesn't think cost will be an issue when the future bill comes
up for consideration.
"A lot of these programs exist," he said. "What we're having difficulties
doing is making [people] aware [of them] and making sure they're accessible."
Response from Catholic pro-life groups was mainly positive, except concerning
the issue of contraception.
Although Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said he
supports "in principle" pro-life Democrats' efforts to reduce the abortion rate,
he emphasized that the initiative needs more refinement and modification. His
organization is in contact with both parties, and will be offering input as the
various recommendations are hammered out in more detail, he said, including the
issue of contraception.
"No measure designed to reduce abortion should facilitate contraception, for
the simple reason that such an approach doesn't work," he said. "Every society
that opens the doors wider to contraception sees an increase, not a decrease, in
abortions - not to mention the fact that so much 'contraception' is, in fact,
early abortion under a different name."
He added that he doesn't question the sincerity of pro-life legislators who
want to reduce abortions, but he challenged both parties to resist the
temptation to "dodge" the abortion issue.
"Abortion must not only be limited," Father Pavone said, "it must be ended."
Mark Adams, communications manager for the Culture of Life Foundation, agreed
with Father Pavone's assessment that the initiative was, for the most part,
positive - with the exception of the contraception issue.
"My fear is legislation like this is going to be put forth as middle ground,"
Adams said. "I don't see this is middle ground. To get to middle ground, we have
to overturn Roe v. Wade."
Another of Adams' concerns was regarding the proposal to ask the National
Institutes of Health to conduct a study on why women choose abortions.
"We don't trust the National Institutes of Health," he said. "I know the
staffing, in general, at NIH [consists of] people who are not sympathetic to our
point of view."
Day said she expects Congress to hold the agency accountable to the accuracy
of the proposed study. Regarding contraception, she said there is a conscience
clause in the proposal that would give insurance programs the opportunity to opt
out for moral reasons.
"We felt like we came up with the best possible language we could," Day said.
"As we try to move this along, we may compromise and find better language to put
in that really addresses people's concerns" on contraception.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for an organization that supports abortions and
contraception recently said the proposal is mainly focused on services after a
woman is pregnant, and was not enthusiastic about it.
"The only way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of
unwanted pregnancies," Susanne Martinez, vice president of public policy at
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the National Journal in late
April. "I think [the initiative] is a facade, and I think people will see
through it pretty quickly."
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said if the majority of Democrats in the House
don't get behind the legislation it would be an indication of their "extreme
ideological position, which is abortion on demand."
That would be "disappointing," he said in an interview, but he praised the
Democrats who stepped forward to present the plan.
"It's a terrific plus to have folks from the other side of the aisle put
forth an agenda that, candidly, is not part of the mainstream of the Democratic
Party," Santorum said, "but one that creates opportunities for bipartisan
Carlos Briceno is based in Seminole, Florida