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The long retreat on abortion rights

By Alan Maass | September 22, 2006 | Page 6

DEMOCRATS IN the U.S. House are putting more distance between themselves and their party's traditional pro-choice stance with proposed legislation setting a public goal of reducing abortions.

Co-sponsored by anti-choice and pro-choice Democrats, the legislation promotes funding for contraceptives--though it drops a provision in a Senate proposal requiring private health insurers to cover contraceptives in prescription drug benefits--as well as additional support for adoption and services to new mothers.

The proposal is explicitly aimed at appealing to conservative voters. "This is the first time Democrats have stood for reducing abortions as a primary political message," gushed Rachel Laser, of the Third Way think tank that helped prepare the legislation.

Not quite--Democratic leaders have been pushing the party to the right on abortion for years. In January, for example, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Democrats to search for "common ground" with anti-abortionists. And her husband, while president, was famous for declaring that abortions should be "safe, legal and rare."

The new proposal, backed by Democratic leaders in the House, actually represents a more liberal alternative to legislation being pushed by the explicitly anti-abortion Democrats for Life. These anti-choicers--who call their proposal the "95-10" initiative, because it sets a goal of reducing the number of abortions by 95 percent in 10 years--had a provision in their legislation introduced earlier this year to criminalize adults who help minors to travel across state lines to avoid parental notification laws on abortion.

The Democrats are retreating further and further from any recognition that the right to abortion is essential if women are to be able to control their own bodies. With "friends" like the Democrats, how can supporters of a women's right to abortion need enemies?

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