Pro-Lifers Assess Obama’s Abortion Reduction Plan
BY GAIL BESSE
National Catholic Register
May 24-30, 2009 Issue | Posted 5/15/09
WASHINGTON — Pro-life leaders see President Obama's "abortion reduction" plan as
public relations spin: feel-good language that lacks measurable goals and aims
at changing perception but not policy.
"It's very important for us to be educated and not taken in by rhetoric," said
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
Wright was a silent participant in an April 3 conference call with White House
aides that was billed as the start of Obama's plan to gather "diverse
perspectives" from both abortion advocates and faith-based groups.
Obama said at a press conference marking his first 100 days in office April 29
that he had formed a White House task force to work with pro-life and
pro-abortion groups to develop policies aimed at reducing the number of
The administration's goal is to "support maternal and child health, reduce
unintended and teenage pregnancies, strengthen adoption and reduce the need for
abortion," media spokesman Shin Inouye said.
"The qualifiers 'unintended and need' come straight from the liberal abortion
handbook," said Wright. "The language is intentionally vague. A pregnancy may be
unintended but not unwelcome."
"People hear the phrase 'reduce abortion' and they think 'reduce the number' of
abortions. The administration is not saying that," she explained. "Number is
quantifiable, but need is subjective. You can't prove that 'need' is reduced.
Someone may feel a 'need' for abortion after going to Planned Parenthood, but
they won't after going to a crisis-pregnancy center."
The only speakers on the conference call were Obama appointees, Wright said. She
and Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, listened
in "silent only" mode.
"We didn't get any specifics," Day said. "We didn't know who else was listening
on the call."
According to a U.S. News report, White House speakers were Joshua DuBois,
director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Melody
Barnes, Domestic Policy Council director; and Tina Tchen, director of the new
White House Council on Women and Girls.
Barnes is a former director of Planned Parenthood and former board member of
Emily's List, a group that promotes pro-abortion candidates. Tchen is a former
vice president of the National Organization for Women.
"The speakers framed the debate," said Wright. "They're looking toward the 2011
budget and will come up with a plan for the president in a few months after
holding small group meetings and seeing 'what's used in communities.'"
Administration officials de-clined repeated attempts by the Register to identify
pro-life participants on the conference call or explain who would be contacted
for future meetings.
Commenting on the White House plan, Heartbeat International's president, Peggy
Hartshorn, said, "I see this rhetoric about 'reducing abortion' as another ploy
to try to convince the American people that Obama is a 'moderate' on abortion.
"However, his record indicates clearly that he is the most pro-abortion
president we've ever had. He knows that the policies he's promoting (birth
control, comprehensive sex education, funding of Planned Parenthood, abortion as
part of a national health-care system, etc.) will only serve to entrench and
expand abortion in America and around the world, and this is really his goal."
Why has the "reduce abortions" spin worked so well?
"After the 2002 elections, Democrats realized people didn't like the party being
perceived as hard-core pro-abortion," Wright said. "They convened seminars,
brought in speakers and morphed their language."
As the Los Angeles Times noted, in December 2004, soon-to-be Democratic National
Committee Chairman Howard Dean signaled he would maintain the party's defense of
abortion, telling NBC's Tim Russert, "We can change our vocabulary, but I don't
think we ought to change our principles."
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, suggested, "People
who say they're 'pro-choice' are usually ambivalent about abortion, and, because
of that, I think there is usually some measure of sincere desire to reduce its
"But sincere efforts by this administration to do so would place the president
and his team in direct conflict with the abortion advocates who helped to elect
them," he said. "For the abortion industry, any reduction in abortions is a loss
of business. Business interests and political interests are pretty powerful
dynamics to overcome, especially when they point together in the same
At Wright's request, on March 24 DuBois met with her and spokesmen from CareNet,
the Family Research Council and the Christian Medical Association. The
faith-based groups gave him research showing proven ways to quantifiably reduce
Wright said some conservatives have questioned why she would initiate talks,
knowing how unlikely an Obama policy change is.
"We know what works, and we can back it up with evidence," she explained. "I
felt I'd be robbing them if I didn't share that with them. It's up to the Obama
administration if they use it."
She cited a 2006 Heritage Foundation study by Michael New. It showed that
abortions increased through the 1970s and '80s, but in the 1990s, states began
adopting pro-life legislation. Parental involvement requirements, informed
consent laws and partial-birth abortion bans reduced abortions by almost 20%.
The spread of ultrasound technology and the proliferation of crisis-pregnancy
centers also helped, Wright added.
These are life-affirming efforts the administration should support, said Father
Pavone, adding, "Since there are many forced abortions in our country, a strong
national initiative to prohibit pressure tactics on the part of doctors, parents
and anyone else to make someone get an abortion would be helpful."
Democrats for Life will continue pushing its proposed Pregnant Women Support
Act, according to Day. The bill seeks to reduce the number of abortions in the
U.S. by 95% in the next 10 years by promoting abstinence, personal
responsibility, adoptions and support for women facing unplanned pregnancy.
Hartshorn concluded, "Abortion numbers have only been low when and where
abortion is illegal or very restricted. If this administration seriously wanted
to reduce abortions, they would be in favor of restricting it or eliminating
abortion as a legal option. By saying they want to reduce abortion, they imply
that it is not good; if it is not good, why not eliminate it?"
"To reduce abortions we must reconnect God's purposes to sexual intimacy: babies
and bonding within marriage between a man and a woman," she said. "Sexual
integrity or sexual wholeness -- God's plan for our sexuality -- is the real way
to reduce abortions, by making them unwanted."