While public officials too often offer soaring rhetoric about protecting family values, these robust supports are more than just sound-bites in campaign speeches. The funds, distributed through state grants, will ensure women and families have access to baby food, post-partum counseling, parenting classes and other holistic services. This encourages best practices and also builds a foundation for effective future programs. A recent meeting organized by the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to gather input from faith-based organizations about these efforts is a strong signal that momentum is building for results-driven solutions that bring unlikely partners to the table. Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan Building back better by investing in workers and communities Barletta holds wide lead over GOP rivals in early poll of Pennsylvania governor race MORE, Jr. (D-Pa.) deserves praise for shepherding these measures through the health-care reform process and cultivating support from pro-choice and pro-life leaders.
We do not think that decades of divisions over abortion will simply disappear with lofty appeals to common ground. But we believe most Americans want commonsense solutions that extend a compassionate hand of support to women rather than a judgmental finger waved in condemnation. More than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States every year. Canada, Germany, Japan and Britain all have lower abortion rates than the U.S., despite having less restrictive abortion laws. Why? In large part because those countries offer comprehensive healthcare that includes robust pre-natal and post-natal care. British Cardinal Basil Hume once told a reporter: “If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it's needed she's more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn't it obvious?”
The United States finally has comprehensive healthcare that lives up to the core values and highest ideals of our nation. Low-income women, who have a disproportionate number of abortions, will especially benefit from greater access to quality medical care and critical support services such as the Pregnancy Assistance Fund. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the number of abortions declined in Massachusetts after the state enacted healthcare reform similar to what Congress has passed.
Let’s embrace the potential of this new era when pro-choice and pro-life Americans can unite behind sensible policies. Bridging difficult divides is never easy, but now is the time to transcend the failed politics of polarization and work together in common cause for the common good.
Peg Chemberlin is president of the National Council of Churches, comprised of 36 faith traditions encompassing 45 million Americans in 100,000 local congregations. Sister Simone Campbell is executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.