One of the most prominent leaders in the progressive evangelical movement is hailing a new "common ground" bill as a "good and wise piece of legislation" that addresses both how best to prevent unwanted pregnancies and support pregnant women who desire to carry their baby to term.
"The bill demonstrates how searching for common ground can lead to higher ground, in ways that both sides of the debate can embrace," commented the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of the progressive Christian network Sojourners.
"It could lead to genuine progress in reducing the number of abortions and improving the quality of life for women and children - all by addressing the real issues that lead to abortion," he added.
Sponsored by self-described pro-life congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and pro-choice congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act" focuses on the prevention of pregnancies and support for women who find themselves pregnant.
Noting that almost half of all pregnancies are unintended and four in ten unintended pregnancies end in abortion, the bill includes a number of policies to help prevent unintended pregnancy. It also includes policies that support pregnant women who wish to carry their pregnancies to term and assist new families, noting that one of the two most common reasons women report having an abortion is that they cannot afford a child.
"Tim Ryan and Rosa DeLauro are wise public servants who are trying to unite us around the new common ground of abortion reduction, one that people on both sides of the debate can agree to," Wallis commented Wednesday.
"Helping young people to delay sexual activity, preventing the pregnancies that people don't want, economically supporting low-income women to give them real choice about having a child, and encouraging adoption all will reduce abortion in America; and who could be against any of that?" the progressive Christian leader added.
Ryan and DeLauro plan to hold a press conference Thursday announcing their unique approach to the abortion debate, joined by supporters of the bill including Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor at Northland Church and board member of the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals; representatives from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Pastor Derrick Harkins of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church and board member of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Though the members of Congress say their bill's supporters span across the abortion divide, the bill notably lacks support from more conservative leaders and even played a role in the dismissal of Ryan from the national advisory board of Democrats For Life of America, which he served on for four years.
"DFLA gave Congressman Ryan ample opportunities to prove he's committed to protecting life, but he has turned his back on the community at every turn," reported DFLA Executive Director Kristen Day, who said Ryan's voting record had become more and more pro-abortion in the last year.
Though Ryan suggested Monday that his dismissal from the board of the "fringe group" had to do with his defense of contraception as a necessary part of any plan to reduce unintended pregnancies, DFLA clarified Wednesday that it does not oppose contraception.
"DFLA does not take a position on contraception," the group stated in their website.
In the same statement, DFLA also expressed its support behind its self-created bill, the Pregnant Women Support Act, introduced two years ago by Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) and Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
"We are focused on helping pregnant women carry their pregnancies to term and making sure that families have affordable health care, a living wage and the means to support their children during the pregnancy and beyond," it stated."The Pregnant Women Support Act ... will support these goals."
The Pregnant Women Support Act has reportedly received statements of support from organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Democrats for Life of America, National Council on Adoption, Life Education and Resource Network, and CARENET, among others.
According to reports, Planned Parenthood opposes parts of the bill that are designed to influence women to decide to forgo abortion but has not officially come out against it.