Finding Common Ground on Abortion

November 18, 2008

The Washington Post today features a page-one story on efforts to reduce — not ban — abortion.

The emphasis on reduction is in part a response to the political reality of an Obama administration that will not be appointing Supreme Court justices who favor overturning Roe v. Wade, and the fact that several key ballot measures restricting access to abortion were defeated.

It’s also a reflection of the ongoing efforts of the “common ground” movement, which has been bringing together abortion foes and women’s rights supporters around issues they can agree on, such as providing more medical and economic support for pregnant women. President-elect Barack Obama actively supported this approach during the campaign.

And yet, as Jacqueline L. Salmon explains, some abortion foes aren’t interested in anything other than moral certitude:

The new effort is causing a fissure in the antiabortion movement, with traditional groups viewing the activists as traitors to their cause. Leaders worry that the approach could gain traction with a more liberal Congress and president, although they do not expect it to weaken hard-core opposition.

“It’s a sellout, as far as we are concerned,” said Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League. “We don’t think it’s really genuine. You don’t have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions.”

The diverse group that has come together to try a different tack includes prominent pastors such as Joel Hunter; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization; and, a coalition of Catholics and evangelical leaders.

Others include Catholics United, a progressive Catholic lay group; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; the Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center, a prominent Jesuit thinker; and Nicholas Cafardi, former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law and a Catholic canon lawyer.

Their actions have not come without consequences. Cafardi resigned from the board of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio after writing a column supporting Obama and declaring the abortion battle lost. Kmiec has received hate e-mail, and a priest denied him Communion in April. And Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has criticized Kmiec and several of the groups involved, saying they have “undermined the progress pro-lifers have made and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue.”

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