Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Why The New Abortion Common Ground Bill Matters (Ryan-DeLauro)

The “common ground” abortion legislation re-introduced today does seem to represent real political progress.
I’m on jury duty today so I haven’t been able to do any extra reporting but looking over the summary of the legislation, known as “Ryan-DeLauro,” here’s what provisionally strikes me:
For starters, last time Planned Parenthood would not sign on to this bill. This time they did. So the legislation pretty much has the full support of the pro-choice world. (See the full list after the jump)
At the same time, the bill’s sponsors were able to get some serious pro-life people to endorse legislation that includes expansion of family planning and sex education. We now have a clear division in the pro-life community between those willing to promote contraception as a piece of the puzzle to reduce unintended pregnancies and those who won’t. (Jill Stanek here explains why most pro-life groups oppose contraception).
No major pro-life groups endorsed the bill, and Doug Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee calls it “a scam” and especially criticizes portions of the bill that will end up funding groups like Planned Parenthood which, in addition to doing the family planning work they’ll get money for, also performs abortions. As of now, I don’t even see endorsements from Democrats for Life or Feminists for Life.
The pro-lifers who signed tend to be on the progressive side but the group does include a few who are moderates or even cultural conservatives, such as Rev. Joel Hunter of Lakewood Church, Rich Cizik, the former vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Significantly, Frank Page, the immediate past President of the very conservative Southern Baptist Convention, “tentatively” supported the bill. (Full list of pro-life supporters below).
The pro-lifers got something of great importance to them: more support for women who want to carry a baby to term. Specifically:


  • A National Information Campaign to “promote accurate and positive information and messages on adoption and the benefits it can bring to children and families.”
  • An increase in the adoption tax credit from $10,000 up to $15,000
  • Money to increase the availability of ultrasound equipment. (Many pro-lifers believe that the more women who get ultra sounds, the more will choose continuing a pregnancy rather than choosing abortion)

Joel Hunter explained his support:

“We need an all-encompassing approach: comprehensive sex education with an abstinence emphasis, better access to contraception for low-income women, and better enlistment of parents in preventing teen pregnancy. We also need to increase awareness about adoption and ensure that pregnant women and new families have the support they need to finish school, put food on the table and feel confident that their new family can thrive.”


This breakthrough resulted from many years worth of bridge building and discussions, with the group Third Way playing a key roll. They adopted a simple principle: rather than forcing compromises, let’s focus mostly on what we already agree on.
Nonetheless, it took a certain leap of faith by certain pro-lifers that the sex education money won’t go toward polarizing liberal causes like condom distribution in public schools and by the pro-choicers that the pro-adoption efforts won’t evolve into efforts to ing a “coerce” women into choosing that path over abortion.
There’s a lot in this bill that is easy to support — who doesn’t want better maternal health care? — but each side had to take some risks, too.
(Below is the list of pro-life and pro-choice sponsors)


In addition to Third Way, I hear Faith in Public Life, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good all rustled up religious sponsors.
As far as I can tell, the pro-life endorsers of Ryan-Delauro are:
• Brian D. McLaren, Author/Activist
• Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
• Charles C. Camosy, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Fordham University; Coordinator, Curran Center for American Catholic Studies Conversation Project
• Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University, Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University
• Dr. Frank S. Page, Pastor, Taylors First Baptist Church, Taylors, SC; Immediate Past President, Southern Baptist Convention
• Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland – A Church Distributed
• Dr. Paul de Vries, President, New York Divinity School
• Dr. William Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention
• Glen Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary
• Joe Battaglia, Founder and President, Renaissance Communications
• Jonathan Merritt, Faith and Culture Writer, and National Spokesperson, Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative
• Lisa Sharon Harper, Author, Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican…or Democrat; Cofounder and Executive Director, New York Faith & Justice
• Lisa Sowle Cahill, Professor of Theology at Boston College; Past President, Catholic Theological Society of America
• Nicholas P. Cafardi, Civil and Canon Lawyer; Professor and Former Dean, Duquesne University School of Law
• Rev. Adam Hamilton, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection
• Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor, Nineteenth Street Baptist Church
• Rev. Gabriel A. Salguero, Executive and Public Policy Advisor, The Latino Leadership Circle
• Rev. Joseph A. Darby, Senior Pastor, Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church
• Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
• Richard Cizik, President, The New Evangelicals
• Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
• Sojourners
• Vivian Berryhill, Founder and President, National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses
As far as I can tell, the pro-choice endorsers are:
• American Civil Liberties Union
• American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
• Anti-Defamation League
• Catholics for Choice
• Family Violence Prevention Fund
• Frances Kissling, Visiting Scholar, Center for Bio-ethics at the University of Pennsylvania; Former President, Catholics for Choice; Member of the Board of Directors, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
• Guttmacher Institute
• Jewish Council for Public Affairs
• Kate Michelman, Former President, NARAL Pro-Choice America
• Marilyn Cohen, Executive Director of the Sioux City Jewish Federation; Former Director of the Emma Goldman Clinic for Women; Co-Author of “A Search for Common Ground on Clinic Activism”
• NARAL Pro-Choice America
• National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
• National Coalition of American Nuns
• National Council of Jewish Women
• National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
• National Partnership for Women & Families
• National Women’s Law Center
• Nicholas P. Cafardi, Civil and Canon Lawyer; Professor and Former Dean, Duquesne University School of Law
• Planned Parenthood Federation of America
• Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
• Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
• SIECUS – Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
• The Abortion Care Network
• The Episcopal Church
• The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church
• The Rebecca Project for Human Rights
• Third Way
• Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
• United Church of Christ
• Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
• Faith in Public Life
• Melissa Rogers, Visiting Professor of Religion and Public Policy, Wake Forest University Divinity School; Former Director, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
• NETWORK- A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Comments read comments(7)
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posted July 24, 2009 at 12:23 am

The only common ground that is necessary is a shared commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the legislative process established therein. It’s not necessary for us to agree on what our laws should be, as long as we can agree on how they are to be made. It’s time to overturn Roe v. Wade and resolve the matter democratically. That way, regardless of which side wins, they will at least have done it without cheating. A fair process is all the common ground that we need.

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Douglas Johnson

posted July 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

I’m glad to see that you listed Third Way among the pro-abortion groups (or, as you prefer, “pro-choice”), since they wrote this bill, under the direction of the capable career pro-abortion activist who heads their “cultural issues” division, Rachel Laser (previously with the abortion-rights project at the National Women’s Law Center, and before that general counsel to a major Planned Parenthood affiliate that provides abortions). Their current congressional front man, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), has not cast a pro-life vote since 2006. His most recent abortion-related vote came on July 7, when — as a member of the House Appropriations Committee — he voted to repeal the longstanding ban on the use of public funds for elective abortions in the District of Columbia. Even some pro-Roe members of the committee voted to keep the pro-life policy in place, as did (of course) all the real pro-life committee members of both parties, but they were narrowly outvoted by Ryan and the other pro-aborts. If Ryan’s position on this issue (which, of course, is also Obama’s position) prevails, the result will be that 4,000 or 5,000 babies will be aborted in D.C. during the next fiscal year WITH FUNDS APPROPRIATED BY CONGRESS. (D.C. is a federal enclave, and ALL its funds are appropriated by Congress.) About 1,000 of those are abortions that would not happen in the absence of a public subsidy.
Well, as P.T. Barnum said, you can fool some of the people all of the time.
By the way, Democrats for Life of America had expelled Ryan from its advisory board even before his attack on the D.C. abortion funding ban. That’s because his sock-puppet relationship with Planned Parenthood and Third Way had become abundantly evident long before the past week, to those who have been paying attention.
Ryan is also busy trying to undercut the efforts of bona fide pro-life lawmakers, such as Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mi.), to amend the Obama-backed health care bills to remove authority to impose federal abortion coverage mandates and to prevent massive federal subsidies for abortion. Indeed, the Third Way-Planned Parenthood bill was re-introduced yesterday precisely in an attempt to disrupt pro-life lobbying efforts on the health care bill.
By the way, National Right to Life has no position on contraception. Ryan claims otherwise merely to deflect attention away from his poor voting record on abortion and his close colloaborative relationship key pro-abortion groups.
Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
Washington, D.C.
Documentation on the abortion mandates and abortion subsidies in the Obama-backed health care bills:
Rachel Laser short bio:

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Rev. Debra Haffner

posted July 24, 2009 at 11:24 am

I agree 100%. Ryan/DeLauro is a good piece of legislation that addresses many of the important issues, including comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, and support for pregnant and parenting women. Preventing unintended pregnancy, ensuring abortion access and funding family planning initiatives are intertwined issues and should be dealt with together. But this bill is only a piece of the reproductive health and justice agenda we hope to see.
In addition to reducing unintended pregnancies, we must work together to address the circumstances that result in the decision to have an abortion. Poverty, social inequities, lack of education, sexism, racism and unsupportive relationships can severely restrict a woman’s ability to freely choose.
Rev. Debra Haffner

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Gerard Nadal

posted July 25, 2009 at 6:12 pm

“We now have a clear division in the pro-life community between those willing to promote contraception as a piece of the puzzle to reduce unintended pregnancies and those who won’t.”
If contraception were so effective at reducing unintended pregnancies, we wouldn’t be looking at this piece of legislation in the year 2009, and we would not have had 50+ MILLION abortions since 1973.
The failure rate of contraceptives, multiplied by the increased number of sexual acts performed in the belief that protection is operative, leads to increased numbers of unintended pregnancies. Anyone capable of basic arithmetic should look at the CDC data in the link below and do the math.
Increased propaganda about the reliability of contraceptives leads to increased sexual activity, and ultimately increased pregnancy.

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posted July 26, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Since when is the Supreme Court of the United States not a democratically legitimate Constitutional Organ of our government?
Honestly, when I read such anti-American statements from christianists, I despair of our ever reaching any agreement.
There obvious goal is to overturn our government and impose their hateful regime, complete with torture and incarceration for gays, murder of transgender and oppression by any means of all women who dare to think for themselves.

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posted July 26, 2009 at 2:54 pm

make that ‘their’ not ‘there’.
Just because the christianists can’t spell, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try to.

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Your Name

posted July 29, 2009 at 11:22 am

” It’s time to overturn Roe v. Wade and resolve the matter democratically.”
I am so very wary of this supposed ‘democratic’ way to ‘resolve’ issues. It clearly means put it to a popular vote. Sorry, but too many issues are put to popular votes that never should be.
It usually means that the ‘majority’ get to tyrannize minorities (Prop 8, anyone?). People’s rights should never be put to a popular vote. That is a perversion of your ‘democracy’.

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