NARAL Pro-Choice America says it is challenging anti-abortion groups and legislators to find common ground on abortion -- preventing them in the first place. It placed ads in The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, on Feb. 19 and called publicly for state lawmakers such as Sen. Rick Santorum and representatives Tim Holden, John Murtha and Mike Doyle, all anti-abortion, to find common ground with abortion-rights groups.
"We all can agree we want to prevent unintended pregnancies," says NARAL spokesperson Ted Miller. To tackle the issue, NARAL hopes Congress will pass the "Putting Prevention First Act," proposed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. It calls for requiring private health insurance to cover prescription contraceptives, allowing states to expand Medicaid family-planning services to more women, increasing money for federal family-planning programs, promoting education about emergency contraception and giving $100 million annually to states for comprehensive sex education (programs that teach both abstinence and contraception), among other provisions.
"I think people of both sides [of the abortion debate] can come to the table to look at ways those services can be increased," says Miller. That includes such conservative stalwarts as the National Right to Life Committee and Concerned Women for America, he says: "A lot of the groups have just been reluctant to talk about birth control. Honestly, I just think they haven't been asked."
Asking may be unnecessary. The NRLC did not return a call, and the CWA didn't even answer its phones, but both groups are on record as disdaining emergency contraception (the NRLC labels it "abortion by pill"). The CWA openly blames condom distribution for rates of sexually transmitted diseases; Pennsylvania's junior senator was filmed by the BBC in 2003 blaming comprehensive sex ed for STDs. Santorum is responsible for funneling a great deal of federal money to abstinence-only sex ed in the state.
Holden's and Murtha's offices did not respond to requests for comment by press time. But Matt Dinkel, press secretary for Mike Doyle, says Doyle "has no problem with ... 95 percent of the bill" introduced by Reid. "While he's a pro-life Democrat, he's also a strong supporter of family planning and education," Dinkel adds, which "does mean contraception ... and emergency contraception in the cases of rape and incest." The Congressman still has "some concerns" with emergency contraception in non-rape or incest cases.
Does agreeing with groups like NARAL bother the representative? Nope, says Dinkel. As he has noticed, says Dinkel -- and NARAL is hoping others will realize too -- "They've only put forth some of the stuff they believe in."