Abortion Common Ground

By Jim Wallis 7-31-2009

In recent days, it seems that the Religious Right is trying everything they can to derail the health-care reform our country so desperately needs. Their most recent line of attack is to claim that "liberals" are using health care as cover for fully funding abortion. And in the process, they are distorting my views.

The Family Research Council's Ken Blackwell has written a piece for The American Spectator in which he says:

Evangelical writer Jim Wallis has until now remained strong on the idea that nationalized health care should not force Americans to pay for killing unborn children. But, as May push comes to July shove, Wallis' liberal friends are giving him a "wedgie." Now, he seems to be wavering. He says he hopes that abortion will not become a "wedge issue," one that will prevent us from enacting a sweeping takeover of the health care industry.

Let me assure Ken that my position has not changed in the least. I am opposed to federal funding of abortion.

Last March, in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network's John David Brody, I said that "Making abortion provisions part of health-care reform will kill health-care reform." Brody concluded that, "Jim Wallis is simply speaking in realistic terms." Indeed, I was.

Now, four months later, that realist view seems to be happening. But it is coming not only from my "liberal" friends, but also from my "conservative" friends. Some on the left are insisting that health care specifically include abortion funding; some on the right are insisting that it specifically exclude abortion. Neither has enough votes to pass a bill with their position, but each has enough votes to prevent the other from passing. It is that stalemate that could kill health care and leave 46 million Americans uninsured.

My position, which is also that of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is that health-care reform should be "abortion neutral": It should not specifically include or exclude abortion. Federal funding of abortions is prohibited by current law, and that prohibition should be maintained. Any final legislation should make clear that no private insurance company will be mandated to pay for an abortion, nor should they be prohibited from paying for an abortion with private funds. Last evening, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed an amendment which appears to do just that.

Common ground solutions to reduce abortions, such as the recently introduced Ryan/DeLauro bill, address both how best to prevent unwanted pregnancies and support pregnant women who desire to carry their baby to term. That approach is an opportunity to advance our shared values and common goals at a crucial moment in our country's history.

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners. To read more about building common ground around abortion reduction, read this article from Sojourners magazine's June 2009 issue.

To learn more about health-care reform, click here to visit Sojourners' Health-Care Resources Web page.

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