You can view it as his greatest strength or his greatest weakness: President Obama seeks to build consensus support on almost every major issue.
That’s certainly the case with abortion.
The White House is trying to get abortion-rights supporters and opponents to agree on a policy that will curb both unwanted pregnancies and abortions themselves, The Wall Street Journal reports.
It’s difficult to discern on many issues how much of Obama’s strategy stems from where his heart lies and how much amounts to political tactics.
In this case, even if he doesn’t win abortion opponents to his side, the fact that he has reached out to them might help the president garner support from conservatives on other issues, such as economic policy.
Of course, Obama may be unwilling to bend to abortion opponents on major substance.
He has emphatically stated his support for legal abortion and reversed rules forbidding U.S. funding of international family-planning organizations that promote or offer abortion.
At the same time, Obama does express a desire to reduce abortions. “I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion," he said at a news conference last week.
At least some abortion opponents support the president’s effort.
"When people get into a room working on a common problem, it's harder to demonize them when they leave the room," David Gushee, an abortion opponent and professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, tells The Journal.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, agrees. "If you hear all points of view it makes for better policy," she says.
The meetings, which include 12-24 people, started about a month ago and are slated to last six-eight more weeks. Then the White House hopes to produce a policy proposal.
White House officials want ideas on sex education, birth control, mother and child health, workplace discrimination against pregnant women and adoption.
A suggestion has emerged to set a numerical goal for reducing abortions. The abortion total topped out at 1.6 million in 1990 and has dropped every year since, dipping to 1.2 million in 2005, the last year for which statistics are available.
Obama clearly can’t please everyone on the issue. More than 353,000 people have signed an online petition urging the University of Notre Dame to revoke an invitation for Obama to speak there May 17 because of his support for abortion.
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