President Obama’s recent speech at Notre Dame was full of lofty and good-feeling language about finding common ground on the abortion issue. America is hungry to arrive at such ground. And indeed common ground on abortion policy does exist. But while the president has proved himself dedicated to positive tone, pleasant feeling and an air of civility in discussing the issue, he has completely avoided concrete common ground policy.
He speaks emotionally in favor of strategies to reduce the need for abortion and insists we must protect the consciences of Americans who morally oppose abortion. Surely some at Notre Dame loved hearing that given the Catholic Church’s leadership in these two areas. But his actions run in the opposite direction – trouncing conscience and enacting policies that will increase the number of abortions in America. In so doing, he undermines concrete action which would lead to long-lasting authentic trust and civility he purports to embrace.
It is like having teenagers. Which I do. You explain to them in the most compelling and loving ways that “no, you may not have a party in the house while we are gone for the weekend.” You lay out convincingly all the dangers to body and soul to themselves and friends that could occur with underage drinking and driving and sex. Then you leave them unchaperoned, with the keys to the liquor cabinet and car. They doubt you mean the policy you presented because you don’t act upon it. When there is a gap between rhetoric and action, trust and intended outcomes unravel.
Sifting through his speech and his first 120 days in office, the policy ground carved out by the President shares nothing in common with actual pro-life policy goals. The meaning in President Obama’s use of the term “common ground” is wearing thin – much like how the “pro choice” self-label is proving hollow, as a Gallup poll revealed last week.
Yet many do indeed yearn for some consensus to be established. And polls show that common ground does truly exist on issues like limiting late-term abortions, opposition to taxpayer funding, parental involvement and informed consent, which requires sonogram and health information for women.
But even though common ground policy exists, looking at his actions and not just his language, it is impossible to find even one example of leadership in bringing peace through consensus on abortion. As a candidate, Obama promised to enact the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) immediately upon becoming President. This would strike down every single pro-life law in the nation and provide taxpayer funding for abortion.
Apparently deciding to enact FOCA piecemeal, he has begun chipping away at common ground abortion policy. During his first 100 days in office, the pro-life movement was forced to fight 26 separate assaults upon pro-life policy. These occurred through procedural initiatives slipped in quietly and nominations of long-time abortion activists to positions with decision making power over abortion policy.
On day four, right on the heels of and in the face of the annual pro-life march in Washington DC, he reversed through executive order the Mexico City Policy which keeps U.S. taxpayer monies out of abortion activities in foreign nations. Taxpayer conscience was not the guiding policy here. This was the most unpopular policy move of his administration up to that date. Only 35 percent of Americans could support this move at a time of economic crisis and foreign policy unrest – especially with Muslim and Catholic nations who don’t believe in and don’t take kindly to Americans aborting their babies through independent agencies.
On day 39, he announced the overturning of Department of Health and Human Services conscience protections for medical providers who refuse to involve themselves in abortions. This, despite his Sunday speech where he spoke in compelling terms about protecting health workers’ consciences. After rejecting the only concrete policies that do protect conscience, he has offered nothing which will do so.
On day 109, he sent in his budget to Congress a proposal to fund abortion in Washington DC, which is already the abortion Capitol of the nation with the highest rate of abortions to live births. Taxpayer funding of abortion is not common ground abortion policy. Funding it increases its incidence – which common sense and data reveal. Yet the President is willing to trample the consciences of the majority of taxpayers (68 percent or more in most polls) who do not want to pay for abortion.
No common ground policy. No protecting conscience. No reducing abortion numbers. This despite his lovely language. So even as he urges the common ground of rhetoric, he undermines action and fails to arrive at real common ground abortion policy. He is unraveling consensus and his ability to lead toward it even while he proclaims it.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide organization dedicated to advancing, representing and mobilizing pro-life women in the political process.