The Washington Post headline reads: “Law Requiring Ultrasounds for Abortions is Struck Down: Oklahoma Judge Says Measure Violates State Constitution.” I’m inclined to leave the precise state legal and constitutional arguments to the lawyers. But it is worth highlighting one particular passage:
Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate for the Guttmacher Institute, said that antiabortion groups began pushing ultrasounds in the 1980s. Several ultrasound laws were passed in the 1990s, and the groups increased their efforts in the past few years. “They really have come back and tried to use the issue of ultrasound to deter women from getting an abortion,” she said. “We’re really seeing a trend now.”
Arizona and Florida require ultrasounds for abortions after the first trimester; Louisiana , Mississippi and Alabama mandate ultrasounds for first-trimester abortions. The Guttmacher Institute says that because an ultrasound is not considered medically necessary in the first trimester, when nearly 90 percent of abortions occur, it views such laws as “a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion.”
Since 2004, the Christian nonprofit group Focus on the Family has placed 341 ultrasound machines in pregnancy crisis centers, where staff members typically discourage women from getting abortions. Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of public policy for the group, said that women who have ultrasounds at the crisis centers are twice as likely to decide against abortion.
Well, here, it seems, we have reached a certain common ground on abortion. Both the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute and the pro-life Focus on the Family agree that the widespread use of ultrasounds for women contemplating abortions will reduce the number of abortions. The use of ultrasounds in pregnancy counseling, in other words, is a proven “abortion reduction strategy.”
The most charitably disposed might think that this is common ground that pro-life and pro-choice Americans have been looking for. It is something we can come together on. After all, isn’t that what Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Joel Hunter, David Gushee and the rest of President Obama’s ostensibly pro-life moderate and progressive Evangelical supporters been trying to sell us this past year or so. Let’s not focus on outlawing abortion or issues related to the legal protection of the unborn, they have been telling us. That promotes division. The pro-life emphasis on legally prohibiting abortion gets in the way of finding common ground. You know the routine.
The problem, of course, is that anyone who has been paying attention knows full well that Obama and his crew are not interested in reducing the number of abortions. How do we know this? We know it because Obama and crew keep telling us that they are not interested in reducing the number of abortions. Sooner or later you would think these moderate and progressive Evangelicals would get the message.
You will recall last August when certain evangelical pro-lifers (so-called) were invited to the Democratic Convention to pitch their “abortion reduction” strategy. They wanted the Democrats to have Obama and the Democratic party platform to go on record supporting efforts to reduce the number of abortions. This, they thought, would be a compromise. The party and Obama could still be pro-choice—keeping abortion legal—and yet be sufficiently committed to reducing the number of abortions to have common ground with pro-lifers who were after the same thing. This also, conveniently enough, might allow Obama to cheery-pick a few pro-life voters in November.
The problem was that Obama and the abortion lobby would have none of it. That sort of language, they understood, might suggest that there was something morally questionable about abortion. And so, they offered an alternative to the “abortion reduction” language. Obama and the Democratic Party will be for a reduction in the need for abortions. And, of course, the “reduce the need’ crowd won the day and the “reduce abortions” crowd were sent packing. But, of course, Campolo, Wallis, Hunter and Gushee—already deep in the tank for Obama—tried to spin the whole thing as a victory for those seeking common ground. They thus shamefully perpetuated the false impression that Obama and the Democratic Party were now really in favor of reducing abortions. After all, why quibble over semantics? Obama and the abortion lobby had found their useful idiots.
In April the chickens came home to roost when Melody Barnes, the White House Director of Domestic Policy set things straight once and for all. At a meeting to discuss common ground on abortion Barnes “testily interrupted” Wendy Wright saying, “It is not our goal to reduce the number of abortions.” Wright added, “The room was silent.” Supposedly, the room was shocked at her forthrightness, but no one who has followed this debate should have been surprised by Barnes statement. What exactly would you expect when the President appoints a woman like Barnes, a board member of the pro-abortion Emily’s list to be his Director of Domestic Policy?
And, of course, Obama followed suit in his Notre Dame speech:
Maybe we won’t agree on abortion but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually. It has both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their child to term.
Obama did not say that we all need to “work together to reduce the number of abortions.” He said, we all need to “work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.” Pretty clever common ground rhetoric until you realize that this would entirely undermine an effective abortion reduction strategy designed to dissuade women who had already begun to seek an abortion—through the use of ultrasound technology in pregnancy counseling, for instance.
That thoughtful people would be surprised by Melody Barnes’ frank declaration is in due, in large measure, to President Obama’s skillful but deceptive rhetoric, but also to the deliberate and shameful obfuscation by the likes of Campolo, Hunter, Wallis, and Gushee who continued to perpetuate the myth of abortion reduction.
If Wallis, Campolo, Hunter, Gushee, and the rest of the “let’s seek common ground” crowd were serious, you might expect them to use whatever influence they have to press for a public policy that would encourage, provide public funds for and even legally require the use of ultrasound technology for all those seeking the so-called medical procedure of abortion in order to, in the words of Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, “personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion.” After all, that is supposed to be the whole reason these moderate and progressive evangelicals want the Obama administration to pursue an abortion reduction strategy in the first place.
I wouldn’t bet the farm on any of them pressing the issue, however. It would mean, for one thing, that they would have to concede that James Dobson’s Focus on the Family has done more to advance an true abortion reduction strategy by simply funding the purchase of ultrasounds for crisis pregnancy centers they could ever hope to achieve from the Barak Obama’s or the Melody Barnes’ and other newfound conversation partners. And progressive Evangelicals would sooner have a barbed-wire colonoscopy (to shamelessly steal a recent phrase of George Weigel) than seek common ground with the despised James Dobson and Focus on the Family. Such an admission would require them to seriously rethink their infatuation with President Obama and face up to the fact that they’ve been had. Imagine the reaction of Melody Barnes and the Obama crew if Wallis, Campolo, Gushee, and Hunter insisted on public support for ultrasounds. Imagine the reaction if they seriously called for the Obama administration to support ultrasound counseling as a proven approach designed to reduce the number of abortions—a policy they ostensibly claim to support.
I can imagine that they can imagine the reaction. That is why the smart money says that the moderate and progressive evangelicals will hold their tongues. When the White House faith-based office, led by executive director Joshua DuBois, named his advisory counsel he identified four primary goals of the office, one of which is involves “reducing unintended pregnancies and the need for abortions . . .”
Wallis and Hunter, it should be noted, were selected to serve on President Obama’s Faith-Based advisory council; which is to say that reducing the number of abortions is not a part of their portfolio.