Abortion Debate: Do Moderates Hold Key?

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THE WHITE HOUSE -- President Barack Obama has signaled a desire to reduce abortions in this country, but pro-life groups say his policies don't give him much credibility on that front. Still, religious moderates may hold the key to the abortion debate in Washington.

The debate about abortion has usually centered on the legality of Roe v. Wade. But in D.C. these days, the conversation is shifting.

Click play to watch David Brody's report.

"Where do we go from here?," asked Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good's Jennifer Goff. "How do we gain that broad public support for this initiative?"

Trying To Start A New Dialogue

Moderate religious groups are working overtime to start a new dialogue stressing that reaching common ground DOES NOT mean people of good faith on both sides have to give anything up.

"If you hear common ground on a contentious issue that means what am I going to have to give up?," said Faith in Public Life's Katie Paris, referencing the nervousness that she has heard from people on both sides when talking about common ground.

"It means compromise automatically," Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good told CBN News.

On the contrary, these new wave religious groups believe there are results-oriented solutions that people on both sides can come together around without compromising their values. They are trying to shift the debate from a traditional pro-life position to a more progressive social justice agenda. They see the life issue as more from womb to tomb.

"Pro-Life means making sure that women and families have the resources and the tools they need to choose life," explained James Salt of Catholics United. "The more moderate groups see this as a biblical mandate to take care of the least among us. Traditional pro-lifers see this aproach as a crutch, just more government money and assistance."

Moderates Have Influence

Make no mistake, these moderate faith groups have some influence and their efforts are begininng to resonate, because they have a friend in the white house. President Obama has also expressed a desire to get away from the old debates of the past and instead look at fresh ways to actually reduce abortions.

one of the main goals of the President's newly formed faith council is to find ways to reduce abortions.

Melody Barnes is the administration's domestic policy council director. She believes family planning services needs to be a key part of the conversation.

"There are some who may disagree on that issue," Barnes said. "But I think the vast majority of Americans believe that that is important. It's something that should be available to women, so that's an area for discussion and what can be done legislatively perhaps to advance that conversation."

A Non-Starter

Family planning and increased contraception is a non-starter to pro-life groups. They are already skeptical of a White House that in their view has shown itself to be a typical pro-choice administration. However, the White House did agree to meet with representatives from some traditional pro-life groups with the goal of starting a dialogue.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America was there.

"It was a very cordial meeting," she said. "It was also quite honest. We provided information on the kinds of programs that don't work in reducing abortions and the programs that do work and so we needed to be very honest in presenting that. It remains to be seen what they will do with that information. The burden now is on them to come up with the kinds of policies that do show respect for the faith based community, she continued."

The conversation has already begun and some reducing abortion bills have floated around on Capitol Hill for ahwile now. But the next step comes from the White House. Can they really come up with a plan for reducing abortions? And more to the point, will that plan be something palatable to all sides in what has become Ground Zero in the culture wars?

*Originally aired April 24, 2009

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