Abortion-rights groups and Senate Democrats are challenging their opponents to bridge the deep divide over abortion by working together to reduce unintended pregnancies.

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NEW YORK — Abortion-rights groups and Senate Democrats are challenging their opponents to bridge the deep divide over abortion by working together to reduce unintended pregnancies. Thus far, those calls to seek common ground have been greeted mostly with silence or ridicule.

Republican leaders have virtually ignored the Democrats’ Prevention First bill, which proposes a multipronged effort to bolster family-planning programs. “It’s been met with deafening silence,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader who introduced the bill.

Similarly, a high-profile appeal for common ground in a recent speech by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has received little positive response from abortion foes. Dave Andrusko, a commentator with the National Right to Life Committee, derided the New York senator’s overtures as “meaningless” and “phony.”

Referring to Reid and Clinton, Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council said, “Their idea of reducing unintended pregnancies is more sex education and distribution of contraceptives. … That’s not the solution, that’s part of the problem.

“If they want to start promoting abstinence, fine — but they won’t.”

Reid’s bill focuses on the fact that nearly half of America’s 3 million annual unintended pregnancies end in abortion. The bill proposes to reduce the need for such abortions by:

• More than doubling, to $643 million, federal money for family-planning clinics.

• Encouraging states to subsidize family-planning services for more low-income women.

• Requiring private health plans to cover prescription contraceptives to the same extent they cover other prescription drugs.

• Promoting emergency contraception, and ensuring its availability at hospitals that treat rape victims.

• Requiring federally funded abstinence-only education programs to provide accurate information when they broach the topic of contraceptives.

Though Reid is one of the few Democratic senators opposed to abortion, abortion-rights groups endorse his bill.

“If the Republicans really are serious about reducing abortions in this country, they’ll join his initiative,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“If they don’t, it exposes how extreme and fringe their position is compared to the rest of America.”

Democrats doubt the GOP leadership will allow the bill to come to a vote.

Calls to the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., produced no appraisal of Reid’s bill or the broader question of common ground in the abortion debate.

The New York-based Alan Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive-health issues, is one of several abortion-rights groups warning that family-planning programs face erosion nationwide because of expected funding cuts and pressure from conservative groups.

In a report yesterday, the institute said there is a widening gap between women’s birth-control needs and the availability of affordable services.