Abortion ‘absolutists’ blocking bill to support pregnant women, pro-life Dem says

The U.S. House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives


Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, has criticized the lack of support among the more “absolutist” Democratic supporters of abortion rights for a bill that aims to reduce the number of abortions by helping pregnant women. Day claimed the bill’s opponents think the bill “goes too far toward common ground.”

Day authored a May 22 essay in Newsday, titled “Is there a middle on abortion?”, explaining the provisions of the Pregnant Women Support Act (PWSA) and the proposed legislation’s political reception.

A “minority of Democrats on the pro-choice side” object to a provision requiring that abortion providers offer women the voluntary option of receiving pre-abortion counseling to learn of the risks associated with abortion, Day said.

“The opposition may even extend to objecting to the bill's providing pregnant women much-needed financial support,” Day wrote in her Newsday.com essay.

Describing the PWSA, Day said the bill would lead to fewer abortions and provide more support for women to carry their pregnancies to term.

The proposal would prohibit health insurance issuers from discriminating against a woman by classifying a pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. It would allocate more funds to campaigns against domestic violence targeting pregnant women, some of whom are “forced to undergo abortions” because of threats by the violent father of their child, she explained.

The bill would provide grants to colleges and universities for pregnant and parenting student services to help women and mothers finish school. Additionally, PWSA would increase support for food stamps for new parents and amend the tax code to increase the adoption tax credit.

Day reported that opponents’ biggest objection to PWSA was that “pregnancy-prevention measures” such as family planning services for the poor and “medically accurate” sex education programs about contraception are not funded by the bill.

She said that sponsors left such proposals out of the PWSA because they are addressed in bills such as the Prevention First Act.

Despite opposition from “absolutists” on the side of abortion rights, Day said that many are attracted to the legislation and want to expand it. However, she explained that efforts to merge teen pregnancy prevention, sex education and more funding for contraception programs failed in the 110th Congress and “detracted from the central premise” the PWSA, which Day characterized as “a comprehensive effort to address the needs of pregnant women.”

In a Monday phone interview, CNA asked Day to expand on her comments about pro-choice “absolutists” who think the PWSA goes too far towards common ground.

“A lot of people don’t want the abortion debate to be settled because it keeps people in business,” she said. “To actually solve this great problem, people don’t want to move in that direction. Or they want an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach. Some people just want to ban abortions, but don’t work towards reducing it.”

“It’s the same on the other side. Any compromise goes too far.”

Day told CNA that to her knowledge President Obama has not personally been asked to support the PWSA.

“We’re talking to the administration on a regular basis and whenever we do we bring it up,” she explained. “We’re very hopeful that we can get the support of the White House. The indications are moving that way.”

She cited President Obama’s comments at Notre Dame about more support for pregnant women as one such indication.

Asked about Congressional leaders’ views of PWSA, Day explained that DFLA had been talking to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid’s office. She told CNA there were “good indications” from them.

“They’re looking into the bill,” she reported, noting that in the last Congress, House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) was a co-sponsor of the bill.

PWSA supporters were concentrating on building “bipartisan support” in the House especially, Day said.

“If you simply have a Democratic bill with only pro-choice Democrats on board, that’s not common ground,” Day said. “What we’ve built here is really a common ground proposal.”

“If we are serious about reducing abortion and helping actually end it we have to step in and look at the value of life,” she continued, saying the bill took into account measures which have successfully reduced the number of abortions.

Day told CNA that one part of the bill would help direct women to a 1-800 number to secure assistance. A similar program in Michigan helped reduce the abortion rate by 11 percent, she reported.

“The lower numbers we have, the better. Even if we cut the abortion rate in half, that is a lot of lives we're saving.

“If we are serious about most vulnerable, we need to use money to do it.” she said, then posing the question: “What is the value of life?”

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