By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Congressional sponsors of the Pregnant Women Support Act, which aims to reduce abortions by providing assistance to economically distressed pregnant women, are growing more optimistic about prospects for White House support. The bill is backed by antiabortion groups like the Southern Baptist Convention and the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and by Democratic groups like Democrats for Life.
It was introduced this year by Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Tennessee Rep. Lincoln Davis, both Democrats.
Planned Parenthood opposes parts of the bill that are designed to influence women to decide to forgo abortions; the group says it wants to inform pregnant women of options but not influence them either way. But Planned Parenthood has not officially come out against it.
The White House won't comment on its view of the Pregnant Women Support Act. Obama aides are still working up what they say will be a common-ground policy plan on abortion and related reproductive issues. But a congressional source close to the legislation E-mailed me this status report:
Earlier this year, the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships reached out to our office at the staff level for information on the Pregnant Women Support Act to begin what would become a larger dialogue on the issue of abortion reduction. Since then, we have had ongoing correspondence with their office, and a meeting is scheduled in the coming weeks between White House Administration staff and Congressional staff to discuss the issue further. I don't want to get in to reading the tea leaves on the White House's position or strategy for this issue, but I would call their interest in the Pregnant Women Support Act significant.
The recent appointment of former Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good President Alexia Kelley to lead the faith-based office at the Department of Health and Human Services—which drew criticism from some abortion-rights supporters—is another potential sign of White House support for the bill, according to this source: "Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has shown support for the Pregnant Women Support Act under Ms. Kelley in the past."
It seems more likely that the White House could incorporate less controversial parts of the bill into its own plan around abortion; I doubt President Obama would back legislation that would trigger objections from abortion-rights groups.