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Issue Date:  November 23, 2007

Democrats seek funds for abortion reduction measures

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats and religious leaders are touting a new initiative to allocate more than $600 million to reduce abortion in the United States, but critics say they’re just putting a new name on old programs.

The funding, part of the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill, represents a “pragmatic, practical way of approaching the problem [of abortion],” said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.

“It’s saying loud and clear the Democratic Party wants to reduce the need for abortion and is willing to put our money where our mouth is,” Ryan said.

Critics, however, contend that Democrats have just repackaged old programs under the rhetoric of “reducing abortions.”

“There’s nothing new here,” said Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ secretariat for pro-life activities.

The legislation calls for $615 million to finance programs to fight teen pregnancy through contraception and abstinence education, child-care aid for poor mothers and adoption advocacy.

“We are promoting the policies that are critical for reducing the need for abortion in this country,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

For several years Ryan and DeLauro, both Catholics, have sponsored legislation aimed at reducing abortions, but the measures have failed.

Groups on both sides of the abortion issue have criticized their past efforts. The Catholic bishops, for instance, oppose birth control, and Planned Parenthood fears the restriction of reproductive choice.

Ryan called birth control “the new fault line in the debate.” But, he said, “we can’t run from the fact, as a Catholic I say this, that if we do not provide birth control for these women we’re going to have [more] abortions.”

The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, a prominent evangelical pastor from Florida, who describes himself as “just to the right of Attila the Hun,” praised the funding measure Nov. 8.

“I love what the Democratic Party is doing here,” he said in a teleconference to promote the funding. “I think it’s just fantastic.”

Liberal evangelical author and activist Rev. Jim Wallis called abortion “the third rail of American politics” and said the bill “fits where the American people are.”

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, November 23, 2007

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