WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life advocates discussed with White House staffers Tuesday some approaches that have worked in reducing the number of abortions in the United States.
Representatives of Concerned Women for America (CWA) and three other groups met with Joshua DuBois, the head of President Obama’s faith-based office, and other staff members. CWA President Wendy Wright requested the meeting after she learned that the revamped and newly titled White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships would have reducing “the need for abortion” as one of its priorities.
Wright not only wanted to meet DuBois and “open a dialogue,” she said, but “to make sure he and his staff were aware of some of the policies and programs that have proven to reduce abortions.”
As part of that effort at the March 24 meeting, a representative of Care Net shared about its work as the largest pregnancy center network in North America with more than 1,100 affiliates. That “was very helpful,” Wright said.
The CWA president “also presented evidence that federal funding of family planning programs does not reduce the number of abortions,” she told Baptist Press. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) received $70 million in federal family planning money under Title X in 2005-06 and also is the leading abortion provider in the country. Its clinics performed nearly 290,000 abortions in 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available.
It was a “very cordial meeting,” but “I’m reserving judgment,” Wright said.
“It remains to be seen if [the White House] will incorporate the information we gave to them. But it’s just incumbent on us to make it [available],” she said.
“The burden is on them to live up to Obama’s promises — that they will represent all Americans and they will reduce” the need for abortion, said Wright, who favors a target of reducing the number of abortions rather than the need for them. The White House’s goal of reducing “the need for abortion” is subjective, she said. “What I think is important is that this office have measureable goals,” which, she said, “is something this office seems to want. That’s why it’s important to look at the number of abortions.”
In response to a request for comment on the meeting, a White House spokesman said in an e-mail statement to BP, “The President has made clear that this White House will be open and accessible. In following with that commitment, he welcomes a strong debate and healthy discussion on the important issues facing the country.”
The other pro-life organizations represented at the meeting, which Wright said lasted about 45 minutes, were the Family Research Council and Christian Medical Association.
In addition to addressing abortion reduction, the pro-life representatives “also talked about the vital role of faith-based providers in health care and about the importance of freedom of conscience,” Wright said.
A pro-life physician at the meeting shared about the pressure she faced during her residency to violate her conscience.
The Obama administration has initiated the process of apparently withdrawing regulations issued at the close of the Bush administration to protect the conscience rights of health-care workers who oppose abortion and other procedures they find immoral.
In recent years, different sets of proposals have been offered in the attempt to reduce the number of abortions. Some pro-choice advocates have promoted an effort focused on providing government assistance to women in need and increasing funds for family planning organizations such as PPFA. Democrats for Life of America has offered its 95-10 initiative, a multi-pronged campaign to reduce abortions by 95 percent in 10 years through proposals to provide women with information on abortion, their unborn child and their options, as well as to offer various forms of assistance.
The number of abortions has fallen by 22 percent since 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michael New, a University of Alabama political science professor, has cited state laws requiring such policies as informed consent and parental involvement, the growth of student organizations, increased outreach to women with crisis pregnancies, and the improvement and expansion in ultrasound technology among reasons for the reduction.
Frank Page, who completed two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008, was named in early February to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Page, who describes himself as “unapologetically” pro-life, has expressed frustration with Obama’s lifting of bans on federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas and on grants for stem cell research that destroys human embryos. He has said he would resign if he felt he was “being used as a token conservative.”
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.