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Hope in the Abortion Fight

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In New York City, 41 percent of babies are aborted.

It's even worse than that, actually.

As the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a group that supports abortion alternatives, has pointed out: "Sixty percent of African-American pregnancies in New York City were aborted in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. In a 10-year period beginning in 2000, more than 900,000 pregnancies in the city ended in abortion -- nearly one-eighth of the entire city population of just over 8 million."

Abortion, of course, is a hot-button word, bringing up all kinds of emotions in all kinds of people.

Even though it's legal, it's generally not considered a social good. Which is why groups that advocate for its ease of access -- and expansion -- typically go to great lengths to avoid the actual use of the word.

And, even though we may frequently avoid it at the dinner table and in political speech, there are some areas of consensus. For instance, even enlightened, progressive New Yorkers are shocked by the 41-percent statistic. Earlier this year, McLaughlin and Associates found that 64 percent of the city's residents think that number is shockingly high -- even 57 percent of self-identified pro-choice women agree.

So what's a desperate pregnant woman to do? If you live in New York, call the archbishop's office. Timothy Dolan has renewed a promise made by that great defender of human life, the late John Cardinal O'Connor: if you are pregnant and you need help, the Catholic Church will help you.

The Church has faced its well-publicized setbacks, but deep in the heart of its ongoing renewal is the commitment to the most innocent among us. It was a priority of the recently beatified Pope John Paul II, whose superior communication skills, fearlessness and love made it the premier human-rights issue of our day.

The awful numbers in New York present both a crisis and an opportunity. In part, to insist, as John Paul II was wont to, on a little truth.

Congress is getting in on the act. Shortly after Easter recess, the House passed a measure that would bar any taxpayer dollars from going to organizations that provided abortions. With that passage, the pro-life majority in the House codified the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion, and has been a favorite talking point of abortion advocates who oppose further government action. But the long-standing amendment is actually a narrow funding restriction, which does not apply to all federal funding. If the House bill were to pass the Senate, the president would be presented with a bill that would, for once, cover all federal funding, permanently. The House's vote wasn't a dramatic attack on women's rights as claimed by the left, but a protection for American taxpayers who don't want to be financially contributing to abortion.

And yet it was "appalling," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insists. EMILY's List, which supports pro-choice candidates for office, warns that it is a precursor to the looming "dark ages," and that it is but "only one heinous facet of (the right's) war on women." Actually, it's mainstream.

An-under-the-radar book, "Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media" by Carl Anderson, made the point that at a time when eight in 10 Americans actually want to significantly restrict the legality of abortion, the doom-laden rhetoric about a simple piece of legislation is pure nonsense. It is now long commonplace to insist you're personally opposed even when you advocate for it. Even Democrats appreciate that, at least in a lot of their rhetoric. Maybe the debate over abortion funding can united instead of a divide.

So many of us -- especially those whose lives have been changed by abortion -- want people to know they can support life, and that, besides ending a life, abortion will hurt the mother, the father, and so many around them. And there are groups out there in the trenches, spreading the word and doing the work. People like the folks at Good Counsel maternity homes in New York dedicate their lives to making sure women have options.

In 1996, during the partial-birth-abortion debate, the late congressman Henry Hyde warned of "the coldness of self-brutalization that chills our sensibilities, deadens our conscience and allows us to think of this unspeakable act as an act of compassion." Outraged New Yorkers and a simple funding bill in the House are signs we're not dead yet.

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