Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Kathleen Sebelius & Obama’s “Abortion Reduction” Challenge

In the fight over whether to confirm Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services, traditional pro-lifers will focus on Sebelius’s views on late term abortion and other legal restrictions.
Interestingly, pro-life Democrats have continued with an argument they began raising during the campaign: that what matters is not whether one supports legal restrictions but whether one reduces the number of abortions. Catholics United, a liberal pro-life group has launched a pre-emptive strike praising her for cutting the abortion rate by 10%.
Pro-life progressives pushed this line during the campaign, earning both the mockery of traditional pro-lifers and, apparently, the votes of some pro-lifers (a surprising number of whom voted for Obama.)
Here’s the rub: abortion rates seem to be most influenced by economic factors. Abortions go up during hard economic time. That means the number of abortions will likely go up under Obama. If Democrats set up abortion reduction as the standard, what will they say if the numbers go up under Obama?
UPDATE: Abortion seems to be shaping up as a big element in the Sebelius fight.
Operation Rescue here attacks her links to the “abortion cartel”
Faith in Public Life and other pro-life clergy praises her for reducing the number of abortions in Kansas

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posted March 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm

“Abortion seems to be shaping up as a big element in the Sebelius fight.”
Assuming you are paying attention to the pro-life and pro-choice advocacy communities. Once you get beyond this noisy sideshow, it’s doubtful abortion is going to be a big issues of Sebelius.
We are prepping for a national discussion of health care reform. Don’t let the press releases from those obsessed with abortion confuse you.

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posted March 2, 2009 at 5:17 pm

“Operation Rescue here attacks her links to the “abortion cartel””
“Sebelius hosted a lavish secret party for Tiller and his entire abortion clinic staff at the official governor’s mansion”
May 28, 2008 –
Sebelius said Tiller won the reception after bidding the most for it at a silent auction sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. Sebelius donated her time to help the caucus raise money, something she said she had done before.
“It’s not something where I can choose the guest,” she said Wednesday.

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posted March 2, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Well, it remains to be seen whether rates of people having unprotected sex goes up during a recession- a statistic that obviously has a relationship in the abortion rates during a recession.
If casual sex rates increase, as opposed to the one related to responsible, married couples, then obviously you have a point. But I also believe younger couples(those in their mid-20s) are also increasingly realising their responsibilities.
So it’s not just one statistic about abortion rates going up in a recession. If it co-relates with other statistics, then the chances are gonna vary.

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posted March 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm

“..what matters is not whether one supports legal restrictions but whether one reduces the number of abortions.”
Perhaps, but what if the legal ‘restrictions’ (such as informed consent, parental consent, late-term PBA bans, no state or federal funding) one vetoes have statistically been proven to reduce abortions in the states where they’ve been implemented?
“..what will they say if the numbers go up under Obama?”
Simple. Say that social policies implemented by the administration have reduced the number of abortions (that would have happened without the legislation in place) by 3.5 million. No one can really argue the figure, seeing as how the hypothetical social policy-less scenario would never become a reality.

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Other Tim

posted March 2, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Economics do play an important role in abortion rates. The key there is education and access to affordable family planning services so that poor women can avoid unwanted pregnancies. The Obama administration is not pursuing abortion reduction in terms of legal restrictions; rather, the strategy is to reduce unwanted pregnancies, which will in turn reduce the need (and demand) for abortion.

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Other Tim

posted March 2, 2009 at 8:41 pm

That said, Michael’s advice is the best. Sibelius’ main job is health care reform, including universal coverage or something close to it. Let’s not let abortion politics derail the national conversation and shift our priorities.

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posted March 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I have read that the reliability of statistics on abortion are questionable – at least in past years when reporting was not required or there was no way to know if the numbers were reported.

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