Abortion

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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What Actually Works?

Shirley Bogard was an impressive teenager in the Kentucky Baptist church where I was pastor. The church awarded her its scholarship for the most deserving teenager so she could train as a nurse. She was a devoted Christian, and she became a super-competent nurse.

Shirley, now Shirley Martin, became the nurse in Louisville and Jefferson County’s Teenage Parent Program (TAPP)—a middle school and high school for pregnant students. She hired my wife, Dot, who is also a nurse, to work with her, teaching the teenagers prenatal nutrition, healthy child-raising, and how not to get pregnant again. They worked in the ob/gyn clinic held in the school two days a week: The girls got regular medical examinations, without having to leave school and their studies.

A University of Louisville School of Medicine study reported that, surprisingly, unlike typical teenage mothers, TAPP’s teenagers produced healthy babies averaging normal birth weight. Premature babies are highly expensive when they require intensive care and are more likely to have learning problems and medical problems later in life. TAPP prevented that. It was enormously cost-effective.

And 99 percent of these girls chose not to have an abortion. By contrast, the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report for 1998—the year of the Louisville study—concludes that 75 percent of pregnant teenagers younger than 15 years old, and 39.1 percent of teenagers 15 to 19 years old, terminated their pregnancies with abortions. The abortion ratio in TAPP, with girls 12 years old and up, was a remarkably low 1 percent. TAPP gave pregnant teenagers a way to continue school while taking care of their babies, and while building an economically viable future. The clear result was that they chose not to have abortions.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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