Election won't end abortion/contraception debate

Associated Press Modified: November 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm •  Published: November 8, 2012
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"It's pretty clear that at the last minute, a lot of women made a decision that Obama really understood what their economic concerns were," she said. "Yes, they want control over their own body ... but decisions over health care can limit their ability to control economics as well."

She said conservative Republicans face a challenge: "How can you package the pro-life message in a way that speaks to women's economic concerns? I don't know how they do that."

A conservative domestic policy specialist, Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation, said Republican candidates would be wise to broaden the scope of their anti-abortion message to convey interest in "the welfare of the mother and the community around her." She said candidates willing to talk openly about abortion issues would be more agile at articulating their positions than those who shied away from the topic.

One complication for the Republicans was the party platform, which opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

David Welch, a former GOP National Committee research director and campaign adviser to John McCain, blamed Tea Party activists for this hard line

"The Tea Party folks who've started this race to the bottom, of who can be more conservative, have really done the party damage," Welch said. "We'll always be a pro-life party, but we have to be compassionate about it."

Going forward, anti-abortion activists and organizations will use a variety of strategies to pursue their cause under an Obama presidency.

At the state level, there will be continued efforts in Republican-controlled legislatures to enact laws restricting access to abortion.

"We refuse to relent simply because of the presidential outcome," said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. His group plans to push for defunding of Planned Parenthood and for additional preconditions before abortions can be performed.

Roman Catholic leaders, along with some conservative Protestants, say they will intensify legal challenges to the portion of Obama's health care overhaul that requires employers' health plans to cover contraception for their female employees. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says this contraception mandate — which exempts houses of worship but applies to faith-affiliated employers — is a violation of religious freedom.

There's also the possibility of outright defiance.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the Obama administration and the Catholic Church "are on a collision course."

"It is therefore time to recommit ourselves to the basics: a clear proclamation of the truth ... and an unwavering commitment to civil disobedience," he said.

Some supporters of women's rights expressed regret that their cherished issues had become so entangled in political partisanship.

"It was not long ago that issues like fair pay, abortion rights, health reform, and family and medical leave had bipartisan support, said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. "We hope they will all have bipartisan support again very soon."

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