EVERY SPERM IS SACRED…. President Obama, even as a candidate, always seemed to have a good, politically-salient line on reproductive rights: he’s pro-choice, but he also supports common-sense measures that would reduce unwanted pregnancies, reduce the abortion rate, and improve the reproductive health of millions of women.

In general, it was an approach that resonated with many who were otherwise skeptical of progressive politicians. After all, if Obama supports steps that would lower the number of abortions, he can be pro-choice while also finding some meaningful areas of agreement with opponents of abortion rights.

At least, that was the theory. U.S. News’ Dan Gilgoff reports:

As the White House readies its plan for finding “common ground” on reproductive health issues and reducing the need for abortion, a major debate has emerged over how to package the plan’s two major components: preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion.

Many abortion rights advocates and some Democrats who want to dial down the culture wars want the White House to package the two parts of the plan together, as a single piece of legislation. The plan would seek to reduce unwanted pregnancies by funding comprehensive sex education and contraception and to reduce the need for abortion by bolstering federal support for pregnant women. Supporters of the approach say it would force senators and members of Congress on both sides of the abortion battle to compromise their traditional positions, creating true common ground that mirrors what President Obama has called for.

But more conservative religious groups working with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships say they would be forced to oppose such a plan — even though they support the abortion reduction part — because they oppose federal dollars for contraception and comprehensive sex education. This camp, which includes such formidable organizations as the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention, is pressuring the White House to decouple the two parts of the plan into separate bills.

It often goes overlooked, but a significant number of conservatives not only oppose abortion rights, but would also deny Americans legal access to contraception.

As a result, it’s difficult to have a constructive discussion. The left says, “Women should have the right to a safe, legal abortion.” The right replies, “We’re against that.” The left says, “OK, how about improving women’s access to contraception and education, which in turn would reduce unwanted pregnancies and cut down on abortion?” The right replies, “We’re against that, too.”

So much for “common ground” with conservatives.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.