At a press conference yesterday, Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) unveiled their new Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act. Hailed as the product of years of blood, sweat, and tears of negotiating between different camps that support and oppose legal abortion, the bill gained the support of prominent religious figures as well as major reproductive rights organizations.
The bill does not deal with abortion access, and reproductive rights groups pledged to continue to work to secure that access separately from the bill. As the Religious Institution on Sexuality Morailty, Justice, and Healing's Debra Haffner, who is pro-choice, wrote on her blog, "Ryan/DeLauro is a good piece of legislation that addresses many of the important issues, including comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, and support for pregnant and parenting women. Preventing unintended pregnancy, ensuring abortion access and funding family planning initiatives are intertwined issues and should be dealt with together. But this bill is only a piece of the reproductive health and justice agenda we hope to see."
Whether this bill can pass is a big question mark. For one thing, it hasn't been scored yet, and the sponsors and their allies need to be ready to make the case that its costs are worth the benefits for Americans' health. As they know, they will face opposition from religious conservatives who oppose sex education and contraception. As was evident in the dozens of statements of support for the bill, some supporters clearly favored certain provisions over others, with pro-choice supporters emphasizing the prevention provisions and anti-abortion supporters emphasizing the economic supports. (I have more on this over at Religion Dispatches.)
Evidence of a looming internecine showdown among abortion opponents includes Democrats for Life of America's recent ouster of Ryan from its board over his sponsorship of the bill. That led Ryan to call DFLA a "fringe group" because of its opposition to contraception. DFLA is one of the major proponents of the Pregnant Women Support Act (PWSA), a bill that is intended to reduce the number of abortions through economic and other measures aimed at persuading women facing unintended pregnancies to carry them to term. The PWSA is supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention.
More after the jump.