Abstinence only.jpgThe debate over the President’s “common ground” approach is focusing on two aspects: reducing abortion by supporting pregnant women, and reducing unintended preganancies by promoting sex ed and contraception.

With the package of legislation having been hashed over, the divide now is on whether to present both elements to Congress in a single package or to separate them out. Dan Gilgoff at USNews has a great story on the argument, which focuses on whether including both aspects in one bill would poison the whole package for pro-choicers, on the one hand, or pro-lifers, on the other. And on the other hand, separating them might doom each to defeat, as Gilgoff writes:

Many abortion rights advocates and some Democrats who want to dial down the culture wars want the White House to package the two parts of the plan together, as a single piece of legislation. The plan would seek to reduce unwanted pregnancies by funding comprehensive sex education and contraception and to reduce the need for abortion by bolstering federal support for pregnant women. Supporters of the approach say it would force senators and members of Congress on both sides of the abortion battle to compromise their traditional positions, creating true common ground that mirrors what President Obama has called for.

But more conservative religious groups working with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships say they would be forced to oppose such a plan–even though they support the abortion reduction part–because they oppose federal dollars for contraception and comprehensive sex education. This camp, which includes such formidable organizations as the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention, is pressuring the White House to decouple the two parts of the plan into separate bills. One bill would focus entirely on preventing unwanted pregnancy, while the other would focus on supporting pregnant women.

The White House declined a request for comment. Advocates for both plans say the administration has offered no hint about how it will come down on the matter. But with the White House expected to announce its plan on abortion and related issues this summer, advocates on both sides are strenuously lobbying for the plan, arguing that it offers the only true hope for common ground on very thorny issues.

“We welcome the opportunity to seek common ground with this administration . . . and to work on behalf of pregnant women and unborn children,” says Deirdre McQuade, a spokesperson for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, which is pressuring the White House to decouple pregnancy prevention from supporting pregnant women. “But issues of pregnancy prevention are much more divisive and would only slow down much-needed assistance to pregnant women.”

Read it all here

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