Bridge Over Troubled Waters

On April 3, the Obama White House held a brief but potentially historic conference call to kick off its abortion reduction initiative. The invited listeners (only administration officials spoke) reportedly were dozens of leaders from the pro-choice and pro-life movements. Their names were not released, but those who have self-identified include people with such divergent views as Cristina Page, author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, and Wendy Wright, president of the pro-life, conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America.

Describing the administration’s plans were chief domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes; Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls; and Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. According to participants, Barnes made it clear that no one was expected to change her or his mind about abortion and no one was being asked to compromise on core principles.

Instead, the goal was to find common ground on ways to prevent unintended pregnancy, reduce the need for abortions, provide economic and health care supports for struggling families, and promote adoption. The White House asked for examples of community-based programs already succeeding in these areas and announced a series of meetings over the next few months that would include advocates from both the pro-choice and pro-life movements, as well as representatives from government agencies and Congress. The desired result? Concrete legislative proposals, projects that could be included in the 2011 budget, and examples of successful local abortion-reduction programs that might be replicated.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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