Culture of Death
The right-wing assault on abortion reduction.
Since none of the bill's money can legally be used for abortions, the militants extend their objection to abortion "advocacy." The bill subsidizes people who are "advocating for abortion," says Johnson. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says the bill fails to prohibit its beneficiaries from "promoting or referring patients for abortion." David Brody, the White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, adds that the bill would fund "pro-choice groups who either perform abortions or don't discourage them." By this standard, the government can't fund contraception programs run by anyone who thinks abortion should be legal. Which rules out nearly every contraception program in the world.
On the off-chance that you're a pro-lifer who runs a contraception program, the militants are against funding you, too. Perkins opposes the bill on the grounds that its birth-control and sex-education programs would "encourage promiscuous sex." Focus on the Family warns that it would promote "increased access to contraceptives and expanded Medicaid family-planning coverage." Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America, objects that it would subsidize "programs such as 'comprehensive sex-ed.' "
Don't bother pleading that your sex-ed program promotes abstinence. That isn't good enough. Focus on the Family, under the headline "Anti-Abstinence Education Measure in Congress," says the bill would "increase funding of sex education without a major abstinence component." Perkins says it "contains no funding for abstinence programs nor anything to encourage teens and young adults to refrain from risky sexual behavior." How can the militants say such things about a bill that explicitly requires grantees to "encourage teens to delay sexual activity"? Because the bill also requires grantees to provide "information about the risks and benefits of all contraceptives." Abstinence has become a code word for blocking any discussion of birth control.
Ultimately, the militants don't care what's in the bill. The mere fact that some pro-choicers support it is, by their reckoning, grounds to oppose it. Johnson scoffs that the bill was drafted "under the direction of [a] career pro-abortion activist" (Rachel Laser of Third Way) and her congressional "sock puppet" (Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio), who's trying to hide "his close collaborative relationship [with] key pro-abortion groups." Never mind that Laser has put in years of work, antagonized her friends, and risked her career as a pro-choicer for Johnson's cause. Never mind that Ryan has stood up for unborn life, vote after vote after vote after vote, in a party committed to legal and publicly funded abortion. Any pro-lifer who collaborates with pro-choicers is a traitor, any pro-life bill involving a pro-choicer is a "scam," and any Catholic who supports such a bill is a "fake" Catholic. Common ground is impossible. In the name of life, we must fight to the death.
Pro-life pragmatists take a different view. They sought, won, and commend the bill's emphasis on abstinence and parental involvement in sex education. They welcome its voluntary approach to abortion reduction even as they seek the procedure's abolition. And while some of them oppose contraception or doubt it will help, they think the bill is still worth supporting because, on balance, it will lead to fewer abortions.
I prefer the pragmatists. How about you?
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.