Canton Repository

September 15, 2006

Abortion bill meets resistance

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON Rep. Tim Ryan introduced legislation Thursday to reduce abortions that supporters hailed as an unprecedented collaboration on the issue by pro-abortion and anti-abortion Democrats.

But the proposal that the two-term Democrat from Niles authored ran immediately into resistance from key anti-abortion lawmakers and organizations, who charged it could actually increase the number of abortions.

Ryan, an anti-abortion Democrat, described the bill as a creative approach to reducing abortions by decreasing the number of unplanned pregnancies.

“In order to address an old problem, we need to build a new coalition,” Ryan said at a press conference that Democratic lawmakers from both sides of the abortion issue attended. “This is a new direction on reducing unintended pregnancies.”

The legislation, called the “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act,” focuses on preventing unwanted pregnancies through increasing federal support for sex education, family planning and contraception.

It also would provide more federal funds for health care and other services for pregnant women, increase the adoption tax credit and require all insurance plans to cover pregnancy.

About 1.3 million abortions are performed each year.

Because the Democratic Party has been accused of being hostile to abortion opponents in the past, the unveiling of the plan and the support it has attracted from high-profile Democrats such as Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, D-Ill., drew unusual attention.

Backers said it represents a realistic way to reduce abortions that both abortion-rights supporters and opponents can support.

“We are serious about addressing the issue of abortion head-on while protecting the privacy of women and their families,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a co-sponsor who is a strong proponent of abortion rights.

The plan immediately drew opposition from key anti-abortion lawmakers and activists, who doubted it would get any support in their quarter or pass muster in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, blasted the legislation, which he said would “lead to more abortions, not less.”

That’s the case, he said, because the bill would increase funding for a federal program that provides contraceptives to low-income women.

The added funding would increase the number of family-planning programs, which he said are often based in the same facilities as abortion clinics.

Smith said the clinics are one-stop shops where “in one room, they talk contraception, and in the other room, they kill your baby.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, said the anti-abortion organization had worked with Ryan to develop the bill but withdrew its support over the emphasis on preventing pregnancy.

“Our goal is to help pregnant women,” she said, adding that she thinks Ryan’s goal “is more prevention and contraception.”

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., the Democratic co-chairman of the Pro Life Caucus, also is not supporting the bill.

His spokeswoman Mary Kerr said the contraception provisions will prevent the bill from winning the backing of the entire caucus, which includes about 200 Republicans and 35 Democrats.

Ryan said he had pitched the bill to several anti-abortion organizations and they were not supportive.

One admirer of the proposal, Sister Sharon Dillon, a Roman Catholic nun, said Catholics could not support the bill’s promotion of contraception, which is against church teaching.

But she added, “We recognize this kind of comprehensive approach as an important step in building a culture of life.”

Two other Ohio lawmakers, Reps. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, and Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, also have signed on as co-sponsors.