Abortion Debate Shuns Prevention
By Harry Reid and Hillary Rodham Clinton
As two senators on opposite sides of the abortion debate, we recognize that one side will not suddenly convince the other to drop its deeply held beliefs. And we believe that, while disagreeing, we can work together to find common ground. We believe that it is necessary for all Americans to join together and embrace policies that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care.
There is no question that the rate of unintended pregnancy is too high in the United States.
Half of the 6 million pregnancies each year in this country are unintended, and nearly half of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. It doesn't have to be this way.
Most of these unintended pregnancies -- and the resulting abortions -- can be prevented if we eliminate the barriers that prevent women from having access to affordable and effective contraception.
In the Senate, we have long championed the Prevention First Act. This legislation would help to reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy in our nation, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care.
Our proposal includes common- ground, common-sense policies.
It makes family-planning services more accessible to low-income women. It improves awareness and understanding of emergency contraception, a poorly understood yet highly effective form of contraception.
It ensures that government-funded sex education programs provide medically accurate information about contraception.
It also ends insurance discrimination against women. Right now, many policies cover Viagra, but not prescription contraceptives. That is wrong, and our legislation will change it.
Ironically, those advocating the loudest for an outright ban on abortion are too often the same people who oppose prevention initiatives and instead support making contraception less accessible, particularly for low-income women who are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies.
For example, a recent analysis by the non-partisan Guttmacher Institute revealed that South Dakota is one of the most difficult states for low-income women to obtain contraceptives.
Unfortunately, the same hypocrisy applies when it comes to funding programs that support women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress have promoted budget cuts for a wide range of programs that would provide critical supports for low-income pregnant women and their children. This includes cuts to maternal and child health programs, child care programs, the Community Services Block Grant and the Healthy Start program.
We agree that it makes the most sense to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place -- and we believe we should also fund programs that support women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term and raise healthy children.
Our approach gives Americans on both sides of the abortion debate the opportunity to join together -- as we have done -- in the common goals of preventing unintended pregnancies, reducing abortions and supporting women and children's health and well-being.
As two senators who approach this issue from different positions, we have found that we can agree on a common ground that makes good sense and good policy.
We hope that the White House and our colleagues in Congress agree and will work with us to put prevention first.
Harry Reid is a Democratic senator from Nevada and is his party's leader in the U.S. Senate. Hillary Rodham Clinton, also a Democrat, is a senator from New York.