Certain pro-life pastors, academics, and activists are now working with abortion rights advocates to push for legislation intended to encourage women to continue their pregnancies by providing more health care, child care, and money. One of the pro-abortion rights allies, a Third Way, has strategized on how to marginalize both pro-lifers who favor outlawing abortion and people who oppose homosexual politics.
The pro-lifers reaching out to abortion rights supporters argue that legal challenges to permissive abortion laws will not be successful, especially following Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, the Washington Post reports.
“If one strategy has failed and failed over decades, and you have empirical information that tells how you can honor life and encourage women to make that choice by meeting real needs that are existing and tangible, why not do that?” Douglas W. Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor and pro-life Catholic, told the Washington Post.
The coalition of pro-lifers seeking policy change rather than legal change includes Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Catholics United, described as a progressive Catholic lay group; Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization; and RealAbortionSolutions.org, a coalition of Catholics and evangelical leaders.
Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J.., from Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center, has also allied himself with the effort, even though he has resigned himself to only commenting on politics in the past.
So too has Nicholas Cafardi, a former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law and a Catholic canon lawyer. He resigned from the board of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio after writing a column supporting Obama and declaring the abortion battle lost, the Washington Post says.
The Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput has criticized Kmiec and several of the Catholic groups involved, saying they have "undermined the progress pro-lifers have made and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue." Vice president-elect Joe Biden’s home diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania has also berated the Catholic groups, saying, they are “neither united nor allied with authentic Catholic teaching.” “Catholics and non-Catholics alike should not be misled by them.”
Other pro-life leaders are also critical.
"It's a sellout, as far as we are concerned," Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League, told the Washington Post. "We don't think it's really genuine. You don't have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions."
The Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has also questioned the wisdom of the approach.
“It's still to be proven what the connection is between poverty and abortion," he said at a bishops’ meeting last week.
Some of the activists who advocate policy remedies to reduce the number of abortions are working with Third Way, an abortion rights think tank, to build political support among Democratic lawmakers.
Third Way spokeswoman Rachel Laser said overturning Roe v. Wade “is not going to dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America,” arguing other avenues promise to be “very productive in terms of their goals, which is reducing the number of abortions, and that also serves the purpose of healing the divide and reasoning together.”
The Third Way group has advocated that self-described progressives marginalize social conservatives by taking a page from Saul Alinsky’s book and presenting themselves as conflict-averse consensus-builders.
In a September 8 memo reacting to the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Rachel Laser, Director of the Culture Program and Jim Kessler, Vice President for Policy, advised allies on the topic of “handling the culture wars.”
Saying Palin’s nomination would heighten the public position of issues like “abortion, gay rights, guns, and religion in the public square,” the Third Way memo warned “progressives must not take the bait.”
The memo advocated the repetition of certain talking points, such as:
“Progressives are seeking to find common ground and to move the nation forward where we have shared values; conservatives are seeking to reignite the culture wars of yesterday that paralyze the nation for the sake of short-term political gain.”
On the abortion issue, the memo recommended emphasizing the need to “find common ground” to reduce the need for abortions “while still protecting a woman’s right to have one.”
“Conservatives want to tear this country apart and throw people in jail. I want to reduce the need for abortions by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women,” the memo recommended as a message for an activist or a candidate.
The language echoes that of an April 2008 Third Way memo on the subject of “A Consensus on the Abortion Debate.” In that memo, the same Third Way staffers counseled how to marginalize pro-lifers.
“We also suggest defining those who oppose abortion rights as being in favor of criminalization and imprisonment,” they wrote.
The Third Way organization’s activism extends to homosexual advocacy. An August, 2008 memo titled “How to Talk About ENDA Support” strategized how to promote the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Advising activists to focus on the “grays”—those ambivalent about homosexual political issues—the memo said ENDA support should be defined as “common ground” and presented as a “measured step forward.”
It suggested activists highlight the legislation’s exemptions for only “faith-based employers who may feel that the hiring of gays and lesbians violates religious doctrine,” saying this would show that lawmakers respect religious freedom and “have listened to the concerns of people of faith.”
The memo noted that the “grays” tend to see homosexuals more as a protected class than one which suffers discrimination. “That is why the ‘special rights’ argument from the other side has traction,” the memo stated.