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Opinion

January 24, 2013

Column: In abortion debate, it’s time to focus on prevention

(Continued)

At the same time, faced with the gender gap and the perceived “war on women” that helped get Obama re-elected, the anti-abortion community has realized it needs to tweak its rhetoric to sound less as if it’s trying to deny women choices and more as if it’s trying to protect women. “You and I know it’s about the babies and their mothers, not about us,” writes Dave Andrusko about the campaign in National Right to Life News Today. Another essay calls women “abortion’s second victim.” This tactic blames the so-called abortion “industry,” as if providers are not just responding to demand.

But if anti-choice extremism cost Republicans the election, the pro-choice side has its own struggle with public opinion. Three-fourths of Americans believe abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances, but only 41 percent call themselves pro-choice. That has enabled state-level encroachments on abortion access to grow exponentially, with more restrictions enacted in 2011 than in any prior year; 2012 was a close second.

Buoyed by Obama’s victory, some abortion-rights supporters are now calling on the president to remove all restrictions on publicly funded abortions from his next federal budget proposal. For women on Medicaid, abortions are only covered if the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or endangers the life of a pregnant woman. “Women Stood for You. Stand With Us,” says Ashley Hartman of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio in an open letter to the president, noting, “We put President Obama into office. Now my generation (women age 18 to 24) must hold Obama accountable to his commitments.”

It’s true that Obama won in large part thanks to pro-choice women. But the U.S. House of Representatives remains dominated by anti-choice men.

Were it not for abortion, which probably determines more than any other issue if people vote Republican or Democratic, elections would skew differently. And so, thereby, might other public policies. People’s deeply held beliefs about abortion may never change. But their political strategies can. Forty years down the road, it’s time for both sides to disarm and try something different: reaching across camps and ideologies to make unwanted pregnancies not occur in the first place.

Rekha Basu writes for the Des Moines Register.

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