July 2nd, 2010
05:07 PM ET

White House ties new pregnancy assistance fund to 'common ground' abortion plan

President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in June.

The Health and Human Services Department announced Friday that it is making $25 million available to states to support pregnant women and teen parents, in an initiative that the White House is framing as a way to find common ground on abortion.

The new federal Pregnancy Assistance Fund will award grants to states aimed at providing pregnant women and teen parents support for completing high school or college degrees and for getting health care, child care and housing, HHS said in a news release Friday.

The grants can also be used to combat violence against pregnant women, the release said.

In an e-mail announcing the initiative to nonprofit groups on Friday, the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at HHS tied the new fund to the abortion issue.

"It was only a year ago that President Obama gave a seminal speech at Notre Dame urging our nation to find common ground on the issue of abortion and unintended pregnancies," said the e-mail, which was obtained by CNN.

"The Pregnancy Assistance Fund is a competitive grant program established by the Affordable Care Act to assist women who have decided to carry their pregnancies to term and those who are parenting," the e-mail continued. "...This funding is another critical step in the President's vision for common ground."

HHS did not mention abortion in its Friday news release on the establishment of the fund, which was created by the health care bill that Obama signed in March.

"The opportunity created by the Affordable Care Act will provide States and Tribes needed assistance to support vulnerable teens and women who are pregnant and parenting," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the news release.

"The Pregnancy Assistance Fund provides States the opportunity to link these families to health, education, child care, and other supports that can help brighten the futures of parents and their children," she said.

Moderate religious groups hailed the measure as an important way for the White House to deliver on its goal of reducing the need for abortion, which Obama articulated last year in establishing the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

"Pro-life and pro-choice people have gotten behind it so it's a good first step at reducing abortion and providing support for healthier babes and mothers," said Kristen Day, executive director of the antiabortion group Democrats for Life of America. "Once we show how effective this is we can go back and expand this program."

Day, who has consulted with the White House on reproductive health issues, said the new fund also had political benefits for Democrats. "We've been working on common ground around abortion for a long time because we want to take it away as a wedge issue," she said.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America also indicated that it supported the measure.

But conservative anti-abortion groups greeted the announcement of the Pregnancy Assistance Fund more skeptically.

"This money is mandated for services for pregnant teens and women - violence prevention, vocational training," said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for CitizenLink, the public policy arm of the evangelical group Focus on the Family. "It would be inaccurate to characterize it as 'abortion common ground' since it doesn't specifically address abortion."

The new health care law appropriates $25 million for the Pregnancy Assistance Fund each year through 2019, according to HHS. The grants will be awarded competitively.

When Obama established the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in February 2009, the White House said that "it will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Barack Obama • Culture wars • Health care • Politics

soundoff (323 Responses)
  1. implanty

    Great text and nice blog.

    July 12, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  2. peace2all

    @Random Pagan.......Very cogent and relevant post.....

    July 8, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  3. Reality

    Thou shalt not kill is a fundamental law for all the six billion inhabitants of this earth and pertains to the youngest of these inhabitants, growing womb babies.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:28 am |
    • Random Pagan

      Does that only pertain to when it is convenient? Because if "Thou shalt not kill" is to be followed to the letter, are you also condemning all our vets who fought many wars for our safety, considering they were most certainly killing while in combat. Or does that Commandment read to you as "Thou shalt not kill, except..."

      All are guilty of sin. It matters not what your sin is. Didn't you get the memo? The one where it explained why Jesus appeared?

      It also seems to me like I heard something about Jesus mentioning something about specks of dust vs. planks in eyes. The point being, mind your own sins. God doesn't need you pointing out others' sins to him, he knows what's going on. Nor do you need to be so worried about other people's sins, as I'm sure you have enough of your own to keep you busy.

      If you claim you are concerned about the souls of women who have had/are having abortions, then pray that God shows them mercy and forgives. You don't need to worry about the souls of those not born, as they had never sinned. So there is no need for you to concern yourself.

      July 8, 2010 at 1:04 am |
  4. Random Pagan

    Let's be completely honest; God isn't directly involved with every single pregnancy on the planet. It's just a simple biological fact that any species will reproduce. Therefore, life is not some gift you keep claiming it is. I would conceed that if a natural pregnancy somehow occurred between two people who were proven sterile, then I would agree on divine intervention.

    There are others like me who would not have cared whether we were born, nor do we care if we live or die. It is not as if the planet will miss a human, considering we are at six billion. But I am curious as to your thoughts on the use of life support? Because I think that if it is supposed to be totally up to God as to birth, then maybe we should do nothing to prevent our deaths; because wouldn't that be interfering with God's will? Maybe we shouldn't use any medical intervention that could prolong life in any way, so as not to ruin God's plan. Anyway, death is as natural as birth, so no need to fear it.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  5. Random Pagan

    @ CatholicMom from 7/5 at 10:38 pm; If I could have spoken when I was in utero, I can honestly say I wouldn't have fought to defend my "right" to live. Quite frankly, I'd have been perfectly happy to have never been born.

    Either way, one never misses what one never experienced.

    July 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      So sorry you wished you were never born. I hope it wasn’t because someone else made decisions for you…
      On the other hand, those of us who think life is a wonderful gift from God would hope that everyone would have the right to live their life to its fullest…from start to finish, without someone else making that decision for them just because they can’t speak.

      July 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • helen

      ungrateful brats.

      July 8, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • Random Pagan

      Reality, you did nothing while you were in utero. You did not "fight for (your) right to life from (your) conception", you merely exsisted once you moved past the zygomatic stage. Now, whatever you have done since you have been born, that is something else entirely.

      That's fine that you think so much of yourself that you consider yourself so valuable, but not all of us feel the same way about ourselves. So I don't see what point you were making by intruding on a conversation between myself and Cath Mom. I simply said I would have chosen to not live. That life (in my opinion) is not valuable enough to me to compel me to beg to live, were my mother to abort me.

      July 8, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  6. KMadd

    The "Male Birth Control Pill". Can't wait to see how many unwanted pregnancies happen when it is released on the market!

    July 6, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  7. Lawlers

    Jesus Christ doesn't troll comments. Neither should you!

    July 6, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  8. CatholicMom

    Nonesuch, you say you have found the gray area in which to stand…..
    Not everything is black and white, you say….no wrong or right….; you seek out a ‘gray’ area; evidently some people find a gray area inwhich they can stand. Did you know that gray is lukewarm…. never hot, never cold…..never yes, never no?...at a cross road, at a standstill…. never passionate about anything….on the fence…unstable…ready to fall. Satan loves gray for people.

    July 6, 2010 at 9:24 am |
    • peace2all

      Satan...what is that.....CM??

      July 6, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • nonesuch

      Are you sucking down that Communion wine again, dear?

      Life is full of gray areas, and your nonexistent "Satan" has nothing to do with it.

      July 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  9. ybs

    Until Christian/Islamic/Jewish/etc. sheep could prove that they are heads & shoulders more moral than atheists, moral pontification is hypocrisy. Tibetans don't need 'no abortion' (or god) laws to have one of the lowest abortion rates (before China invaded them). It's knowledge & education – not religious crock/ideologues, that help minimize abortions!

    Since Carter's days, the abortion & religiousness rates in the U.S. have steadily declined across party lines! Again, it's knowledge & education – not religious crock/ideologues, that helped reduce abortions!

    July 5, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
    • Reality

      CDC statistics show basically an abortion rate of one million/yr since Roe vs. Wade. Any recent reduction in abortion numbers is due to the use of the "morning-after pill" and RU-486 which can be ordered on the internet without prescription.

      July 5, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • nonesuch

      @ reality: wrong. Abortion rates have been dropping steadily since before the morning after or abortion pill were in existence. Get a clue.

      July 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  10. navyboy

    Abortion problem solution.
    Every 10 to 15 years we should have a special vote. ONLY women between the ages of 16 and 50 can participate. Pro-choice or make abortion illegal thats it. What ever the outcome that will be the law of the land for the next 10 years, till the next all female vote.

    July 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • peace2all

      @navyboy......Can't say your so called abortion problem solution......really solves much.

      1)It already is law......
      2)the majority of women in every major poll is 'pro-choice'
      3)the religious wing-nut zealots would still be making it a top issue to complain about above more important problems and issues in the world.

      Good try though......

      July 6, 2010 at 4:35 am |
  11. LHM

    @Catholic_Mom, You got 2 much time on your hands. You need to be watching your kids so they don't run off & have abortions. Better yet, you should be making sure that the priest isn't molesting your kids. I've read all of your post & damn you're a nuisance.

    July 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      It may seem that way to you but actually I don't have any more time than anyone else. There is still only 24 hours in a day; you have to prioritize. What is important to me these days, is helping others see the Light; my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren come first but you are not far down on the list.

      July 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  12. stacy

    I don't understand how this is common ground for abortions at all. Abortions should be legal, it is a choice, and as soon as that choice is taken away, we're one step further away from freedom...not like we really have too many freedoms anymore, anyway. But for the conservative people in this post stating "We shouldn't have to pay for your laziness...but abortions are murder..", what exactly would you like to be done here? You're against any free healthcare, but you're also pro choice, interesting that you can't seem to pick a side here. I don't want to pay for people's irresponsible actions, who choose to not work, and live off of my tax money, but I also definitely support anyone who chooses to have an abortion. It is not fair to bring a child into the world under extenuating circumstances, if the mother and/or father have no money, have no jobs, use drugs, are heavy drinkers, are obviously irresponsible... you want them to bring an innocent life into the world and see how their life turns out on wellfare? Awesome, well I don't want to pay for it.

    July 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      You might try to consider: if the baby could speak and defend himself would he say ‘my mother and father have no money, no jobs, use drugs, are heavy drinkers, and are irresponsible so, please, kill me....?

      July 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • ChristianC

      You state "Abortions should be legal, it is a choice, and as soon as that choice is taken away, we're one step further away from freedom...". Well, not really. I would agree with you if we were talking about a woman's body part. You are born with various organs (heart, lungs, etc..) and you will die with them. They are part of your body. They are yours to do whatever you and your doctor agree to do. A fetus, on the other hand, is NOT an organ. It is another human being being temporarily hosted in a woman's womb. Abortion is legal, I know, but so was slavery not so very long ago. There is no excuse for abortion except, in my view, in the case of rape or incest.

      July 7, 2010 at 1:16 am |
    • Random Pagan

      Lol, you make pregnancy sound as if it is no more difficult than toting a backpack! Pregnancy causes a large amount of destruction to a woman's body for the long term (hemorrhoids, cystocele, rectocele, vericosities, nerve damage, the list goes on...), as well as can be physiologically devastating for the short term.

      However, I am curious of something: If abortions are morally wrong to you because "it kills an innocent life!", then why would the product of a rape or incest be any less innocent? They are no more guilty of the crime committed than the woman who was assulted, and yet you can reason away their demise?

      Oh, it's because it's reprehensible the way they came into being in utero...so for their crime of existing post-rape, then it's okay to "kill innocent life!". That's rather hypocritical of you.

      The idea that women could start to see their rights chipped away stems from the fact that it has been less than 100 years since sufferage passed. Women have a tenuous grasp on any legislature allowing them anything even slightly resembling all the rights enjoyed by men (equal pay for equal work/education still has yet to be enacted. It's disgraceful!). Therefore, to begin backpedaling is to begin to see the rights of women slowly being repealed.

      July 8, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  13. nascarlucy

    Several years ago I heard a story about a pregnant woman who was badly beaten by her partner and was found hours later by a citizen who happened to be driving by lying on the ground unconcious. There was blood everywhere on the walls and down the stair case. When Police questioned residences at the apartment complex where she lived, no one heard or saw anything even though this woman was screaming for help. Her partner who have left her to die later attacked an officer who tried to arrest him. She didn't die but the child ended up with disabilties as a result. I would have to ask where were those pro-lifers in this case? You would think they would be in the courtroom every day demanding that this man be locked up in jail for good. Or could it be because the victim lived in a poor low income neighborhood that no one cared about what happened to her. . If it had been in a middle or upper income neighborhood, it would have been on national news and people would have been outraged. I never saw this incident on the news but heard about it while sitting on a bus in a large Mid-West city.

    July 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      So-called "pro-life" people are actually anti-sex. That's why they have this bizarre combination of opposing abortion while simultaneously opposing social programs to help young mothers. That seems like a huge contradiction until you realize that they think of the unwanted pregnancy as righteous punishment for sexual promiscuity.

      July 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Mike

      Hiding behind their curtains afraid to step out and help her or make a phone call. They want to get on forums like this and squawk about abortion but defend a woman? Never Happen!

      July 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  14. ybs

    Until Christians/Muslims/Jews/etc. could show that their sheep are heads & shoulders more moral than atheists, moral pontification is hypocrisy.

    Tibetans don't need 'no abortion' laws to have one of the lowest abortion rates (before China invaded them). It's knowledge & education - not religious crock/ideologues, that help minimize abortions!

    July 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  15. Mark

    Murder is killing an inocent. Abortion IS Murder

    July 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! Simpleminded is simpleminded!

      July 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • Jaci

      Nope, it's eliminating a parasite, Mark.

      Let's be honest about this; a zygote/embryo/fetus cannot live without its host (mother) until about 24-26 weeks of gestation. Lots of women choose to live with this, some don't.

      Either way, it's up to her and none of our business.

      July 5, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Remember, folks: you can prove anything by just stating it emphatically.

      July 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Mike

      No Mark. Murder is taking another life. The question then becomes; What do we consider to be a life? Apparently; some people consider a fetus, incapable of surviving without its mother or mechanical devices, a life. I call it a Robot!

      July 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  16. ybs

    Religious sheep always want to impose their god's law as the ultimate moral authority. Without it, there is no morals (e.g. killing is OK, etc.). Fact is god's law is solely the interpretation of the kool-aid they drank. It evolves with time to be more palatable! But religious sheep fail to recognize that their kind is just as guilty as the rest of the population on every moral issue that they wish to pontificate about! Religious subjugation of others has no bound! 🙁

    July 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.