Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New blog: God's Politics

I like Jim Wallis' new blog, God's Politics. In his September archives (scroll halfway down the page), Wallis posts a series of dialogues with former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed on the question: "What should values voters value most?" Interesting reading. They agree that people of faith should address the central moral issues in the public arena, but they disagree on what those issues are and how they should be addressed.

Concerning Rep. Foley and the Congressional pages, Wallis puts the discussion in its proper context and says he is outraged but not surprised.
But the roots of this crisis go far deeper than partisanship. As Diana Butler Bass wrote earlier this week: "…we know that sin is not the exclusive possession of any political party. The darkness that stalks us is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is part of the human condition."

We need political leaders – of both parties – who believe in the importance of integrity, of humility, of honesty, and a commitment to the common good – and a willingness to challenge their own party’s desire for power at the expense of moral principle. And we need a pledge by all of us to make fundamental changes in our culture and support political leaders who will work for those changes.
Last, but not least: What a Low-Income Mother Told Me About Abortion
Recently, I met a woman who told me an amazing story. ...she told me that her daughter was graduating from Harvard and how proud she was.

But then she added, "I was a low-income mom at the time. And if I hadn't got food stamps and health care, I would have aborted that child. I would have aborted my daughter. And now she's graduating from Harvard. I want you to tell people that if they want to prevent abortions, they need to support low-income women like me." She looked me straight in the eyes and was very clear in what she had to say to me. She had a message and wanted me to share it. So I am.

Two new and potentially significant efforts have finally emerged in the Congress, aimed at practically and dramatically reducing the abortion rate in America. The measures proposed could make a real difference in changing the circumstances that make abortions more likely, rather than the usual political practice of using the issue as a litmus test--on both the right and the left - with nothing ever really happening to prevent more abortions.

At the request of the bill's sponsors, I made the following supportive statement:

“Sojourners/Call to Renewal applauds the recent introduction of two pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives aimed at dramatically reducing abortions in this country. We hope these two bills (the Abortion Reduction Act and the Pregnant Women Support Act) will help deepen the national conversation and lead to concrete action.”
The Kaiser Network has the specifics:
Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who opposes abortion rights, earlier this month introduced a bill that aims to reduce the number of abortions by establishing health care- and child care-related programs to support pregnant women. The measure -- called the Pregnant Women Support Act -- is modeled after Democrats for Life of America's "95-10 Initiative," which aims to reduce the U.S. abortion rate by 95% over the next 10 years.

Another bill (HR 6067) -- which also was introduced last month by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who opposes abortion rights, and abortion-rights supporter Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) -- is modeled in part on the 95-10 Initiative. Ryan and DeLauro's bill would require states to cover contraceptives for women with incomes of up to 200% of the federal poverty level, establish grants for sex education programs and require programs with a focus on abstinence to include thorough instruction on contraceptives. The measure, which includes 20 initiatives, also would increase funding for health care for low-income women with children, provide no-cost visits from nurses to teens and women who have given birth for the first time, expand a tax credit for adoption and fund child care services for parents in college (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/20).
The bills have their share of critics because one faction wants to fund contraception and the other doesn't, which means the argument is no longer about abortion as a form of birth control - the argument is about contraception. Critics insist that contraception will backfire and lead to more pregnancies according to this Washington Post article, but studies contradict that argument.
As the Youngstown diocese puts it, "Promotion of contraception leads to more extra-marital sexual intercourse, which leads to more unwanted pregnancies, which leads to more abortions." [...]

Less contraception, less sex, more women choosing life. So, the abortion rate among these women went down, right? Wrong. The decline in contraception overwhelmed the decline in sexual activity, resulting in a higher rate of unintended pregnancy. And the increase in unintended pregnancy overwhelmed the increase in women choosing to have the baby, resulting in more abortions. From an antiabortion standpoint, trading contraception for "choosing life" was a net loss.
This legislation is encouraging. As Wallis said, "the measures proposed could make a real difference in changing the circumstances that make abortions more likely," and these bills are also endorsed by pro-choice and pro-life members. They may not be everyone's idea of a "perfect" solution, but if we truly care about the sanctity of life in this country we need to find some common ground and start somewhere.

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