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In government health care reform debates, abortion coverage is the third rail. Should some abortion be implicitly, if not explicitly, covered? Should Congress promote the use of contraception? And if abortion were covered, would Barack Obama's mother have had one?
Those hoping for compromise on the issue suffered a setback yesterday when Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) was "booted" from Democrats for Life, the anti-choice arm of the Democratic Party, for sponsoring legislation that would have supported the use of contraception to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
In a statement last week, Ryan said, "I can't figure out for the life of me how to stop pregnancies without contraception. Don't be mad at me for wanting to solve the problem."
As Atrios writes, Ryan's effort seems like a good faith attempt to find common ground on the abortion issue, but the anti-choice movement proved once again that it is against "any sex without a good chance of 'consequences' for the woman taking part."
Neither health care reform bill in the House or Senate mentions abortion explicitly. But the discussion raises a larger question about DC compromise on social issues. Since he began his campaign for president more than two years ago, Barack Obama has been consistent in advocating "common ground" on divisive issues like abortion. But the anti-choice rejection of contraception indicates that common ground on this particular issue may be impossible.
Can conservatives, for example, accept compromise on health care if it includes contraception or (gasp!) abortion? And will liberals accept compromise without it?