For 30 years, abortion has been the keystone of the culture wars. It is the issue that galvanized the religious right as a national political force and brought evangelicals and conservative Catholics together. If gay rights has been a moving target that wise conservative heads see as a losing cause, abortion stands solid, as divisive an issue today as it was in 1980.
Politically, the Ryan-DeLauro “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act” threatens to remove the abortion keystone by promoting policies that arguably would reduce the number of abortions without restricting women’s access to abortion services (aka “reduce the need for abortions”). Democrats and their allies in both the pro-choice and pro-life camps are all on board. Yes, there’s a little grumbling here and there from some common-ground skeptics who don’t like the religious, “abortion is not a good thing” mood music, but it doesn’t amount to much.
On the other hand, the old-line pro-life forces are not at all happy. What they’ve fixed on is the contraception-promoting portions of Ryan-DeLauro, claiming 1) that more contraception won’t reduce abortions; and 2) that even if it did, it would be a bad thing because it promotes immoral behavior. Unfortunately for them, the American public is way supportive of contraception–including government programs to promote it. Anti-contraception does not hold a lot of promise as a an-anti-Ryan-DeLauro rallying cry. But for the GOP’s pro-life allies, it’s essential to keep the culture wars going, and that means finding whatever way they can to oppose Ryan-DeLauro.
So in the coming weeks and months, the abortion debate comes down to Ryan-DeLauro and Health Insurance Reform. The former’s a winner for the Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration, who will use it to make the case that they are with the abortion reduction program. Meanwhile, the Republicans will do what they can to ramp up the charge that the other side is all about abortion promotion via abortion coverage in health reform. Trench warfare, if you ask me.