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The new pro-choice

Abortion | Democrats for Life may be gaining some traction in their party

Issue: "Senate wars over judges," May 14, 2005

A Democrat took the House Floor on April 27 and tickled the ears of pro-lifers. Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) stumped for an initiative that aims to reduce abortion in America by 95 percent in 10 years.

Democrats did more than back the ambitious plan: They authored it. Democrats for Life of America (DLA) drafted the 95-10 initiative in an effort to reclaim the party from pro-abortion groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. "The stranglehold is being released on Democrats to really be able to vote their conscience," said DLA Executive Director Kristen Day. "The Democratic Party is starting to change on this issue."

The initiative does not seek to make abortion illegal, but rather to dissuade women from having one. It proposes federal funding for a toll-free number in each state that would direct women to nonprofit adoption centers or organizations that help women carry babies to term. Organizations providing abortion referral services would not qualify.

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The 95-10 initiative's 17 proposals do include some language indicating their Democratic origins-for example, federal grants "to school districts that are in need of funds to administer effective, age-appropriate pregnancy prevention education." Such wording leaves the door open for the promotion of condom use rather than abstinence. But Ms. Day insisted the intention is for a balance between abstinence training and the how-to of contraception.

Peter Samuelson, president of Americans United for Life, recognizes the ambiguity but sees little need to parse initiative specifics at this point. His organization affirms the overall effort and joined DLA for the introductory press conference. "We're delighted to see pro-life Democrats get active," Mr. Samuelson told WORLD. "I do think it will help them at the ballot box, but I'm far more pro-life than Republican."

Mr. Samuelson was especially encouraged by one initiative provision calling for grants to nonprofits for the purchasing of ultrasound equipment: "A picture is worth a thousand words in getting women to understand their baby is a human." Ms. Day said the initiative's requirement that licensed professionals run the ultra-sound machines was not an effort to limit use of the devices but rather to ensure proper medical standards.

CareNet, a nationwide network of crisis pregnancy centers, has also endorsed the 95-10 initiative, with President Kurt Entsminger applauding the proposal's focus on pregnancy resource centers. Legislation arising from the initiative would require abortion centers to inform women of the adverse effects of abortion, and pregnancy counseling centers to provide adoption referral information.

The stated goal of cutting abortions by 95 percent is not an arbitrary aim born of ambition, Ms. Day said, as she stated that 5 percent of abortions are performed due to rape, incest, or maternal health concerns, and that eliminating those in a decade is not realistic. The DLA website lists six Democratic congressmen and one senator as vocally supportive of the 95-10 initiative.

Perhaps more telling of Democratic support, however, was the site of the proposal's introductory press conference: Democratic National Committee headquarters. Should the initiative hiccup at the federal level, DLA plans to promote it state by state, but Ms. Day is optimistic: "Six months ago Democrats wouldn't even talk about abortion. Now we're beginning to have a dialogue."

Will there also be a dialogue about judicial appointments? For unless the Supreme Court budges on Roe v. Wade, the 95 percent goal also appears unrealistic. No movement on that question seemed apparent.

The initiative may irk NARAL and Planned Parenthood, but neither group has publicly denounced it. Ms. Day does not expect endorsements from them but is hopeful they will remain officially silent, as they did when the House of Representatives recently approved a parental notification bill. NARAL did not return WORLD's phone calls.

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