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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    RHRealityCheck offers abortion "common ground" ... on the edge of a cliff

    Dan Gilgoff on the oddity (my description) of a "Major Abortion Rights Site [Launching an] Online 'Common Ground' Forum":
    "Coinciding with the Obama administration's move to ready a plan for "reducing the need for abortion," a major abortion rights website has launched an online forum aimed at finding what it calls "common ground" in the abortion debate. The forum, called On Common Ground, is hosted by and went live yesterday.

    The unusual project—moderator Cristina Page, a prominent abortion rights advocate, calls it an experiment—already includes posts by Third Way's Rachel Laser, Beliefnet cofounder Steven Waldman, Faith in Public Life's Katie Paris, and others.

    One of the striking features of the project's launch is that it uses the recent murder of abortion provider George Tiller to argue that the abortion debate must be wrested away from extremists. It will be fascinating to watch how antiabortion rights groups respond. Some will almost surely brand On Common Ground a cynical attempt by abortion rights supporters to co-opt the antiabortion movement. It will be interesting to see how some of the more moderate antiabortion groups react."
    I take Gilgoff's line about "it will be fascinating to watch how antiabortion rights groups respond" as an invitation to take a look at's "common ground" forum. I don't want to immediately fulfill Gilgoff's prediction that "some [pro-life groups] will almost surely brand On Common Ground a cynical attempt by abortion rights supporters to co-opt the antiabortion movement" ... so let's look at the facts first.

    First of all, RHRealityCheck is a radical, pro-abortion organization which specializes in attacking groups, bills and politicians who do not stand up to their litmus test. Just take a look at their profile of Fr. Frank Pavone's Priests for Life, where they claim: "Despite claims of being opposed to violent tactics such as bombing of clinics or murdering doctors, Pavone has long had ties to some of the most extreme anti-abortion activists who sanction such activities."
    So, Fr. Pavone hangs out with bomb-throwers? Check.
    Another gem from RHRealityCheck's profile of Priests for life: "While their primary mission is to educate and mobilize Catholic clergy as anti-family planning activists, their tactics are often aggressive and overtly political."
    So, Priests for Life is essentially a republican front organization? Check.
    I could go on and on, but time is short, space is precious, and let's get right to the main points.
    Point #1: RHRealityCheck's "common ground" is not an attempt to reduce abortion, it's an attempt to reduce the "need" for abortion, often through recourse to contraception. And they will never rule out abortion.
    Christina Page, the front-woman for RHRC's common ground initiative, is also an active blogger at Birth Control, where she writes about Alexia Kelley, co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and new Director of Faith-based and Community Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
    "Kelley is a new style pro-lifer, one who believes a progressive agenda will produce pro-life results...
    ...Make no mistake, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is a Catholic organization that accepts the Church's position on abortion and contraception. But under Kelley's leadership, its efforts were spent exploring an array of policies that succeed at reducing the need for abortion. The organization has taken a notably passive role towards the church's dictates. It has not worked to restrict abortion or make contraception less available, approaches most other anti-abortion and Catholic groups focus on exclusively.
    ... pro-choice people need to improve the national dialogue on the abortion issue. We can lower the vitriol. We can expose the anti-abortion groups that oppose all the proven ways to reduce the need for abortion. We must isolate those that only stoke the coals of hatred in this conflict and, especially those who create the inflamed environment that inspired Dr. Tiller's murderer. The vast majority of self-described "pro-life" Americans abhor the violence, want to move past the conflict and have both sides work together to find common ground. The American pro-life public has longed for leaders like Kelley and, the truth is, so have we."
    Page literally wrote the book on radical access to abortion in American politics. She titled it "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex". I highlighted one line in red above to make a simple point: contraception technically reduces the "need" for abortions, but it is an unacceptable "solution" for Catholics, for many reasons grounded in faith and reason. Page's line highlighted in red is classic wedge-politics.
    Point #2: RHRC has pre-defined the terms of debate in an unacceptable way. 
    Page's operating framework is that the only type of acceptable "pro-lifer" is an apologetic one, who admits the necessity of abortion and contraception, and only from WITHIN that framework, works to reduce the instances of abortion. That's simply unacceptable, to me.
    Point #3: Only such "apologetic" pro-lifers are invited to Page's common ground table. 
    The profiles of those involved features people who are either militantly pro-choice or covertly pro-choice, with Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life of America being the only exception I can see. But Chris Korzen of Catholics United? Sarah Stoesz, a Planned Parenthood CEO? Why are such individuals included, who have a clear bent to one side of the debate, when there is not a fair representation of the other side? In other words, if those who will always support abortion are invited, why aren't those invited who will never support abortion? (Elsewhere RHRC contributor Rachel Laser basically admits you have to "Find the Right People" to engage in dialogue. Well that's right in a twisted way: you probably won't like the outcome if you try to engage people who aren't willing to meet your unreasonable demands.)
    As for the proposals offered by RHRC's common ground, the Prevention First Act "aim[s] to improve access to family planning and encourage the development of effective state-level sex education initiatives." Note, family planning includes both contraception and abortion. This is, again, a wedge move: it implicitly attempts to paint pro-lifers as hypocrites when they do not endorse the proliferation of contraceptives and condoms. The proposal of contraception as "common ground" is poison to faithful, practicing Catholics. 
    The other proposals, from what I can see, are not as problematic. But I welcome others to do the leg work on researching the nuts and bolts of them. Sadly, the devil often hides in the details of these "common ground" proposals. 
    Point #4: The viewpoints of the RHRC-sanctioned contributors are toxic to faithful Catholics. As I was saying about nuts and bolts, let's take a look at what the contributors to this forum are actually saying. Debra Haffner:
    "Here is my suggestion: Let's stop talking about reducing abortions as a goal in itself. Let's keep talking about reducing unintended pregnancies. This is not only the better public health position; it is a faithful and moral one as well."
    Okay, so wanting to reduce the destruction of unborn human life is always off the table? Check.
    "... pro-lifers need to decide which of their beliefs is more important: their concern for the unborn or their concerns about the nature of premarital sex."
    This is slippery, he's actually making an argument that Catholics should quit worrying about contraception. He just can't bring himself to actually say it:
    "It’s hard for pro-choicers to take pro-life “common grounders” seriously if they won’t budge on birth control; it’s equally hard for pro-lifers to take pro-choice common grounders seriously if they won’t accept the basic premise of the exercise. So who will be the brave souls to break that conceptual logjam?"
    Waldman, if he is sincerely trying to present a Catholic position, shouldn't be challenging Catholics to "budge" on birth control. Catholics cannot budge on intrinsically-evil choices. That's NEVER common ground.
    The path to common ground in abortion involves Catholics fudging on contraception? Check.
    Sarah Stoesz, a Planned Parenthood CEO, meanwhile takes a swing at recent poll numbers suggesting that America is becoming a more pro-life country: "Read deeper into the results of this and other recent polls and you'll find that, no matter what the label, most Americans want to keep abortion legal."
    Oh, so of course we should always have abortion. Most Americans will always want abortion? Check.
    Conclusion: So, going back to Gilgoff's prediction, do you think there are reasonable grounds for thinking this innitiative is a "cynical attempt by abortion rights supporters to co-opt the antiabortion movement"? 
    As a Catholic who is striving to live out the commands of Jesus Christ when it comes to respecting the dignity of the human person, and as a reasonable fellow who cannot abide any solution which unjustly destroys the rights of the innocent, and who will not accept common ground that results in the destruction of human life, in RHRC's common ground initiative, I see no room at the inn for me, but rather a trap door into a precipice.

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