A New Approach to the Abortion Debate: Obama’s Smart Move

The debate on abortion can never yield a winner. Giving people the right to have an abortion never feels like a victory since it allows for the snuffing out of potential lives. Taking away the right to abortion is even less appealing because we attack rights pertaining to reproduction, a gift bestowed by evolution. Taking away the right to abortion also forces children into already overcrowded families and into the arms of parents who may do considerably more harm than good. Our new president is taking the best possible steps in terms of both his policies and the manner in which he is treating the issue.
Barack Obama recently took steps to end this completely difficult debate. Days after being sworn into office, the president (man it feels good to call him that) reversed a Bush administration policy that prevented the government from lending money to international non-governmental organizations that promote or provide abortions.
Bush’s policy was nothing new. Ronald Reagan first administered the ban in the 1980s in a very public announcement. Clinton lifted the ban on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but Bush reversed the reversal with all the subtlety of a dog marking his territory.
This back-and-forth conflict highlights a frustrating aspect of the modern political system. Political powers have drawn the line: Either you kill babies or you love them. Perhaps you value your sister, mother or girlfriend’s rights or you hate women. In the end, the issue is polarized into such simple terms that it’s almost comical. The point is to divide party lines and draw people closer to your side.
Obama’s reversal is going to help change all this, but not because of the new policy. His contribution to change is in the way he said it. The new president waited until the anniversary following Roe v. Wade and did not make a public announcement. The public only knew thanks to a written statement issued after 7 p.m. on a Friday. This kind of quiet release will help prevent the issue from becoming a dividing political line. Without the media circus, there is no reason to use the policy as something to define the party for either side.
The move is also appropriate because even without government support for safe abortions and information regarding them, abortions still continue. Preventing women from receiving information or proper medical treatment only encourages them to try more dangerous methods such as poison and back-alley surgeries. On the other hand, providing them with safe methods and information regarding the possible consequences will save lives. “Pro-life” factions tend to make it seem as if women show up at abortion clinincs just to give the procedure a try.
“Pro-life” groups also falsely argue that this decision promotes abortion to every part of the world. First, abortion is already in every part of the world. Do pro-life groups honestly believe that pregnant women in third-world countries do not wonder if they should bring their child into this world?
Second, the policy does not strictly promote abortion. Obama’s work simply allows the United States to fund organizations that provide abortion as an option. Abortions are not the only services these organizations provide. No one is standing in a parking lot attempting to sell abortions like used cars. These organizations also provide condoms, birth control and valuable education. Enacting this policy will help to reduce the number of abortions worldwide.
Obama has taken the first steps of a less partisan leadership within a week of entering office. By announcing the lifting of the ban so quietly, Obama successfully avoided the media circus and needless debate that typically comes with abortion issues while still enacting his own policy. He gave a press announcement regarding this decision, so he was clearly not trying to keep it a secret. When the ban was lifted, Obama also acknowledged the reality of the world. Abortions are a facet of society that cannot be avoided. By giving family planning organizations increased freedoms and funding, he is ensuring a better life for many people around the world.

Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at kpease@uci.edu.