Democrats have long tried to eat into the Republican grip on voters of faith, and now that they have control of Congress, they may have hit on a formula that works. Instead of their normal absolutist position on abortion rights, the Democrats have offered two bills that work to support women who choose to have their babies. Some Republicans are calling foul, however:
Sensing an opportunity to impress religious voters — and tip elections — Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail have begun to adopt some of the language and policy goals of the antiabortion movement.
For years, the liberal response to abortion has been to promote more accessible and affordable birth control as well as detailed sex education in public schools.
That’s still the foundation of Democratic policies. But in a striking shift, Democrats in the House last week promoted a grab bag of programs designed not only to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also to encourage women who do conceive to carry to term.
The new approach embraces some measures long sought by antiabortion activists. It’s designed to appeal to the broad centrist bloc of voters who don’t want to criminalize every abortion — yet are troubled by a culture that accepts 1.3 million terminations a year.
The Democrats may have discovered a middle ground on abortion, one that has been rumored to exist but few have seen. They have taken a few steps towards the middle with the Reducing the Need for Abortions Initiative, attempting to recast government services away from incentivizing abortions. It uses the same big government approach that once funded abortions, but now counsels women on the adoption option, home nurses for pregnant women choosing to have their babies, and even federal day care for those who keep the children themselves.
Republicans such as Mike Pence sense clouds in all this silver lining, however. Noting that Planned Parenthood would garner substantial new funding from these programs, Pence says that sending federal monies to the nation’s largest provider of abortions in the name of reducing abortions makes no sense at all. Traditional pro-choicers see issues in the new approach as well; New York’s Rep. Louise Slaughter argues, women don’t have abortions because they can’t afford day care.
This new, moderate approach will not win over the entire pro-life caucus, and for good reason — it doesn’t do anything to impede abortions. Democrats still refuse to mandate a review of ultrasounds before an abortion, which pro-lifers insist will reduce the number of abortions. It also seems more than a little like a stalking-horse for government-run medical care.
However, it will provide some hope of saving some children from the abortionist’s vacuum pump, and that means that some in the pro-life movement may find themselves swayed by these efforts. Primarily, that will be the pro-lifers who have less investment in the rest of the Republican platform. While that number may be small, it won’t take much to boost Democrats in these days of razor-thin margins in state and federal elections.
It’s a smart move by Democrats, and as they turn away from their knee-jerk endorsement of abortion, we should applaud the change. However, it really shows how much Republicans have resonated on this issue, and how bad being associated with over 40 million abortions has become for the Democrats.