Abortion? Don't Mention It.

Science, technology, and life.
March 3 2009 8:33 AM

Abortion? Don't Mention It.


In its final hours, the Bush administration implemented a regulation expanding the right of medical professionals to abstain from practices they find objectionable. On Friday, the Obama administration moved to " review " and eventually repeal the regulation. Organizations on all sides of the debate issued press releases responding to Obama's move. This table tells you everything you need to know about the politics of the fight:

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.


1. Mentions of "abortion":

2. Mentions of "contraception" or "birth control":

To sum up: The liberal groups don't want to mention that the regulation involves abortion, and the conservative groups don't want to mention that it also covers the right to withhold birth control. Why? Just look at the polls. As Rachel Laser of Third Way astutely puts it , "If the president kept in place the conscience clause in regard to abortion but reversed it in regard to birth control, most Americans would agree that's common ground." And that's exactly what the Obama administration aims to do, according to a Health and Human Services official who spoke to Reuters :

The wording was vague enough to let health professionals invoke the conscience clause for things like contraceptives, family planning and counseling for vaccines and blood transfusions, the agency official said. ... "We recognize and understand that some providers have objections to providing abortions. We want to ensure that current law protects them," the official said. "But we do not want to impose new limitations on services ... like family planning and contraception that would actually help prevent the need for an abortion in the first place."

If Obama convinces the public that this is what he's doing, then politically, he'll be fine . And morally, he'll be well-justified .



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