Pro-life movement making a comeback

Published: Saturday, April 30 2011 11:01 p.m. MDT

Title-X-funded sites also conducted more than 2.1 million pap smears last year, with 12 percent of tests indicating a precancerous or cancerous condition, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Family Planning Annual Report from 2009.

However, "by law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." Planned Parenthood and clinics that do provide abortions must use private funds, not federal dollars.

Yet pro-life advocates say funneling any federal money toward programs that support or provide abortions, even with other funds, is irresponsible and immoral.

"We shouldn't be using federal taxpayer dollars to support, condone or promote abortion," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah), who was one of the 103 co-sponsors of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, and is someone who is "clearly opposed to abortion and the funding of abortion," he told the Deseret News.

Still, many worry about the immediate effect on women and families if Title X is axed.

"For many clients, Title X clinics provide the only continuing source of health care and health education," the 2009 report states.

In 2008, contraceptive services from Title X-funded clinics helped women avoid 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 406,000 abortions — a cost savings of nearly $3.4 billion, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute.

In Utah, Title X-funded clinics served nearly 29,000 women who avoided 5,900 unintended pregnancies. Without such services, Utah's abortion rate would be 69 percent higher, costing the state nearly $23 million.

Yet many dismiss the idea that contraceptives can prevent abortions, pointing out that methods often fail, and can even promote increased promiscuity due to a feeling of security.

When asked about the potential for abortions to increase if Title X funding is eliminated, Chaffetz dismissed it as a "scare tactic."

"I don't believe it to be true," he said. "I just disagree with that assessment."

Bridging the divide

Far too often the abortion debate descends into bickering about "us versus them" or "good against bad." And as soon as the conversation turns to name-calling or unfair labeling, the potential for progress is gone.

"In the heat of really polarized debate, then it's … sort of Armageddon," says Jacksteit with the Public Conversations Project, adding that each side often focuses in on winning because they believe the other side is "so terrible."

"(But) coming to decisions about important issues requires some compromise, some accommodating," she said. "There's no simple answer, no one answer, no group of bad people or good people."

Consider the fact that 65 percent of Americans agreed with the statement in a Pew Research Center survey that it's a good idea to reduce the number of abortions in the country. And another 76 percent said they favor the requirement that a minor needs her parents' permission before an abortion — positions seen by many as pro-life.

Then consider that while many Americans, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe that abortion for the sake of personal convenience is wrong, they follow the church's stance that abortion should be available in rare instances such as rape, incest, health risk to the mother or a fatal fetal condition — thus making that large group of Americans pro-choice in a limited sense. (see box)

Yet, in today's vernacular, it would seem inappropriate to call a woman who believes in fetal rights "pro-choice" just because she believes that abortion should be available only in rare instances.

And a women's-rights advocate may agree with some rules and restrictions, but wouldn't want to be labeled "pro-life" because of what that has come to connote.

Thus stepping away from the labels and their attached assumptions is one of the first steps toward having a constructive and polite conversation.

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