September 29th, 2010
11:24 AM ET
The Obama administration announced its first round of grants from a new fund aimed at helping pregnant women and parenting teens on Wednesday, a move the White House framed as part of its "common ground" approach to abortion.
The Health and Human Services Department distributed $27 million for the federal government's Pregnancy Assistance Fund on Wednesday, the department said in a press release, awarding grants to 17 states and 13 American Indian tribes
The grants support programs helping pregnant women and teen parents who are trying to complete high school or who need assistance with health care, child care and housing, HHS said. The grants can also be used to combat violence against pregnant women.
The Obama administration sought to tie the announcement to the President's attempt to dial down the culture wars over abortion, a goal he articulated in a speech last year at the University of Notre Dame.
"These programs affirm President Obama's statement in his speech at Notre Dame that we must begin 'reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoptions more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term,'" the Health and Human Services release said.
In his 2009 Notre Dame address, Obama called upon abortion rights supporters and opponents to "work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions."
Obama's appearance at Notre Dame, one of the country's premier Catholic institutions, drew protests from some abortion opponents.
The Pregnancy Assistance Fund was created by the health care bill that Obama signed in March.
In an e-mail announcing the establishment of the fund to nonprofit groups last summer, the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at HHS tied the initiative 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. "...This funding is another critical step in the President's vision for common ground."
Moderate religious groups hailed the fund's creation.
"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," Kristen Day, executive director of the anti-abortion rights group Democrats for Life of America, told CNN when HHS launched the fund in July. "Once we show how effective this is we can go back and expand this program."
But conservative anti-abortion groups greeted the 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.
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