Focus on the Family’s Conversation Starter a Non-Starter

Late last week the Denver Post reported that Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, wants to have a conversation with reproductive rights advocates:

Reproductive-rights supporters say they want abortion to be legal, safe and rare, Daly said, and so his Colorado Springs-based media powerhouse will try to walk that common ground with them — lessening demand for abortion.

The “let’s talk” offer to reproductive-rights groups signals a sea change in Focus’ uncompromising approach to the abortion issue. It is bound to engender controversy about whether detente advances or hinders Daly’s ultimate goal of making abortion illegal.

However, it is in keeping with his makeover of the house that James Dobson built. Daly has said he wants the ministry, which it says reaches 220 million listeners worldwide with its daily broadcasts, to have more conversations and fewer fights.

As far as Daly’s push for “abortion reduction” goes, it’s nothing new. As I reported last year, Daly was advocating making abortion “rare” while remaining committed to “working toward a day when abortion is illegal and relegated to the dust bin of history.” But his current offer to talk led one religious pro-choice advocate, Catholics for Choice president Jon O’Brien, to remark that Daly’s “mindset is not one of understanding, compassion or respect for women — it is not possible to have a conversation when his starting point would put American woman back in the dark ages.”

We’ve head the words “common ground” before; and while many of the proponents of “common ground” on abortion said they wanted to decrease the number of abortions by, among other things, providing access to contraception and family planning to reduce unintended pregnancies, there wasn’t common ground among the common grounders on that question. At the heart of that dispute, of course, are theological disagreements about sex, sexuality, and gender roles. The Catholic Church officially forbids the use of contraception, even in marriage. The National Association of Evangelicals last year advocated for the use of contraception — but only in marriage.

Indeed Planned Parenthood, currently under assault by the anti-choice movement and in the Republican Congress, provides family planning and contraceptive services — not to mention cancer screening and other life-saving services that people concerned about the “sanctity of life” should applaud — that prevent unplanned pregnancies. As O’Brien put it, “women depend on groups like Planned Parenthood to avoid an unplanned pregnancy,” but “the religious right has spent vast amounts of money and time attacking a group that is really making a difference.”

Focus has long jumped on the right-wing bandwagon calling for Congress to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding under Title X, which supports those very abortion-reducing programs, now based in part on Lila Rose’s deceitful vigilante videos. Focus’ advocacy arm, Citizen Link, with Daly’s smiling face plastered across the top of the page, calls on its supporters to ask Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.

Out of one side of his mouth Daly wants to talk to Planned Parenthood about how they can reduce abortions, and out of the other side he wants to take away the funding that enables Planned Parenthood to do just that. But let’s talk!

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