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Posted on July 1, 2009 at 9:17 AM

President Obama isn’t really asking for much. Really it’s quite simple: both sides of the issue, conservatives and liberals, must give up a little bit to reach a “common ground” on a perennial issue to lay this “culture war” on abortion aside. Then both sides will have achieved a little good (in their eyes) and not have given up completely on their issues.

As Dan Giloff’s God and Country blog explains this week, the White House is attempting to package an all-in-one abortion bill that would satisfy both parties–and provide access to reproductive services for pregnant women and provide contraceptives and sex education. Both stated goals ideally would reduce the need for abortions, or so the argument goes.

Seems smart, seems reasonable–but it will never happen. It’s a little too smart and too reasonable for the one issue that seems to elude our rationality–at least in this country. The culture wars cannot be “repackaged”, tied up with a tidy bow, and then sold as a problem so easily resolved. I think anybody can see the plausibility of such a proposal in an ideal world and see the utility of a moderate abortion policy for the United States. However, ours is not such a political world–ours is one filled with advocacy groups (on both sides) hanging on to this issue, in particular, as the barometer of their social policy and the future of women’s health. More than that, It is simply just one of those issues that is supercharged, laced with all the emotion a policy issue can have, and therefore, is not amenable to the kind of reasonable approach President Obama’s White House is attempting to exercise on it.

While this is probably the most imaginative policy approach to abortion policy in years, I am a bit skeptical as to its success. Asking both sides to give a little to get a little is more likely to result in each side asking the other side to give a little more for them to get a little more until the bills do not resemble anything like what was started with. Ultimately, the issues may have to be uncoupled and pushed through the Democratic Congress if progress is to be made on this issue. Common ground will be lost, but progress (at least in one direction and according to one set of folks) will be made.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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