Sex in the Capital City

President Obama has vowed to find common ground on reproductive health issues. Good luck!

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But judging from Republicans’ behavior already this month, he’ll find nothing but quicksand on unintended pregnancies, too. Boehner’s hysteria over the Medicaid birth-control funding isn’t the only example. There’s also an eleventh hour Bush administration regulation that left family-planning advocates in horror. 

The new policy—which took effect on Jan. 19, Bush’s literal last day in office— vastly expands the so-called “provider conscience” rule to cover just about anyone working or volunteering in a federally funded facility. In particular, it protects them from discrimination charges not only if they won’t perform abortions, but also if they refuse to provide even information about birth control—or any other reproductive health service they find offensive.  

Several Democrats have vowed to undo the move. But it remains unclear whether Obama’s order halting all of Bush’s “midnight regulations” covers this one, too, and whether Congress can do anything about it.  

That’s just the first of many small-scale, proxy wars that have come to define the abortion debate today. (Did you catch Sen. Sam Brownback actually trying to get Eric Holder to say the Americans with Disabilities Act extends to fetuses during his confirmation hearings?) Then there’s the nonsensical discussion over sex education in public schools. And the abstinence-only strings Bush tied to global AIDS money. And the big one: The two Supreme Court seats Obama will likely be asked to fill.  

The chances for finding common ground seem slim. Still, Obama appears unafraid. The president said in his global gag rule statement that he plans to get the conversation moving “in the coming weeks.” Brace yourselves.

Kai Wright is a regular contributor to The Root.

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