Bridging the Divide on Abortion

September 15th, 2006



Yesterday was a historic day for progressives. Pro-life Congressman Tim Ryan and Pro-Choice Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, with many other members of Congress on both sides of this issue, introduced H.R. 6067 “The Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act.” In so doing, Democrats announced that they are making it a priority to find common ground on abortion and to reduce abortions in America.

The bill reduces abortions through the comprehensive strategies of preventing unintended pregnancy and supporting pregnant women through to parenthood. (See the bill summary.) It dovetails perfectly with Third Way’s recommended messaging on abortion – dramatically reducing abortions in America while preserving personal liberties. We talk about the message and its popularity among voters in our just-released Memorandum: A New Direction on Abortion for Progressives: Winning the Battle of Reasonableness.

I was honored to speak at a press conference where the bill was introduced. Also appearing at the event were Representatives Ryan and DeLauro, along with Rahm Emanuel, James Langevin, Harold Ford Jr. and Stephanie Herseth. Sister Sharon Dillon, a Franciscan nun representing Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, also spoke.

I wanted to share my remarks with you:

Statement of Rachel Laser
The “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act”
Bill Introduction
September 14, 2006

My name is Rachel Laser and I am the Director of Third Way’s Culture Project.

I want to start by thanking each of the Members of Congress here today. But I want to say a special thanks to Congressman Tim Ryan and his tremendous staff. We began talking about this bill, ironically, 9 months ago. 1,000 e-mails, voicemails, and phone calls later – here we are. As a Mom of three kids, I cannot say it was any easier than childbirth.

I also want to thank Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and her dedicated staff, who we first sat down with six months ago, and who said, “I want to find a way to do this and do it right.”

Well, we’ve done it.

I have spent nearly 10 years of my professional life in the Choice community. I worked for Planned Parenthood and the National Women’s Law Center. I believe the right to have an abortion is a fundamental right – and that is the view of Third Way.

For as long as I can remember, starting with the women’s rights marches I was dragged to as a child, the abortion issue has been deeply polarized.

One side viewed abortion as an absolute right- the other as an absolute wrong. One as a choice –the other as a sin.

And yet – more than 30 years of post-Roe warfare later, one in five pregnancies still ends in abortion. There are still 1.3 million abortions every year in America. No one can be proud of that number – it is simply too many.

It is time for a Third Way.

Today, we unveil a series of firsts. This is the first legislation explicitly designed to reduce the number of abortions in America. This is the first time that the commitment to preventing unintended pregnancies and the commitment to supporting pregnant women and parents have been wedded together to share the common bond of abortion reduction. And this is the first time that Democrats on both sides of the issue have stood together to support a unified abortion initiative.

If this legislation passes, we could reduce the number of abortions in America by over a million over the next decade, and possibly much more than that – without trampling on personal liberties or throwing anyone in prison.

The American people want this. By a margin of 69-29%, voters in our poll supported the goal of abortion reduction while preserving a woman’s personal liberties. And the 62% of voters whose position on abortion is moderate supported this goal 79-20%. People want to turn down the heat and get something done.

Congressman Tim Ryan and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro- as well as other members on this stage – may approach this issue from different sides – but what they have done today is blaze a shared trail to reduce abortions, lower the temperature on this politically poisonous debate, and find the middle ground that voters crave.

On behalf of Third Way, thank you.