Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 20, 1996 A M

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Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 20, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #162 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/20/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org In This Issue... * Abortion Wars Continue As House Overrides Clinton Veto * "Prayer Warriors" Call For National Solemn Assembly * About This List... ABORTION DEBATE HEATS UP AS HOUSE OVERTURNS CLINTON VETO Vatican, Christian Coalition Praise "Moral Leadership" ~ But Ban Could Fail In Senate Vote The debate over abortion and the question of when human life begins, became a lot hoter -- and more complex -- in the last 48 hours. Yesterday, the House of Representatives overturned President Clinton's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban in a 285-137 vote, with both sides predicting that the issue could affect the November elections. It was a victory for anti-abortion forces, including the Christian Coalition and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops which had lobbied on behalf of the Ban. Pro-choice activists echoed Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) who told media that the House vote was "a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, plain and simply." According to the Washington Times, Republican Representatives Christopher H. Smith (NJ) and Charles T. Canady (Fl.) "worked late into the evening...seeking the four votes necessary to override Mr. Clinton." Canady is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The Partial Birth Abortion Ban was a key provision in the Christian Coalition's "Contract With the American Family" released during the summer of 1995; it would outlaw a rarely used, late term procedure where the fetus is supposedly partially delivered , the skull collapsed and brains and other organs allegedly suctioned out. But opponents of the ban noted that the method accounted for less than 1,000 of the 1.5 million abortions performed each year in the United States. And President Clinton, in vetoing the legislation last April 10, defended it as a "potentially life-saving, certainly health-saving" procedure. Clinton announced that he refused to sign the ban unless it contained a provision for cases where the health of the mother was at risk. Clinton's veto triggered an avalanche of anti-abortion sentiment, including a rare letter of condemnation issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, who vowed to lobby congress to overturn the President's action. Last week, several Cardinals and other church officials prayed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Their allies in groups such as the Christian Coalition began flooding congress with faxes, letters and e-mail. And on the floor of the House, Ban supporters began dragging out gruesome, colored photographs which they said depicted a so-called "Partial Birth Abortion." Included in the visual aids were a series of line drawing of the procedure (known to those who perform it as "intact dilation and extraction" or D&X) which had been produced by the office of the National Conference of Catholics Bishops. Supporters of the ban also skillfully used the occasion to denounce not only late term abortion, but suggest that all abortion might be morally wrong and destructive of human life. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.),poster-boy for the Christian Coalition agenda, said that the issue was not just a rare abortion procedure: "Our moment in history is marked by a mortal conflict between a culture of death and a culture of life, and today, here and now, we must choose side." Hyde, who has also helped frame proposed legislation on school prayer, rhetorically asked "Can't we draw the line at baby torture? There's no argument here about when life begins. The child here is unmistakable alive, unmistakable moving..." Following yesterday's vote, both the Christian Coalition and its subsidiary token group for Roman Catholics, the Catholic Alliance, sent out press releases praising the House action. CC Director Ralph Reed gushed that "Today's vote represents an historic turning point in the movement to protect innocent human life. For the first time since ROE v. WADE, Congress is poised to outlaw an inhumane and indefensible abortion procedure." Reed also noted that the vote was "a turning point in the 1996 presidential campaign," and "gives the lie to President Clinton's attempts to portray himself as a moderate on the abortion issue." The Coalition leader, whose group is now under investigation by the Federal Elections Commission for partisan political activity, said that the vote would "mobilize millions of evlangelical and Catholic voters who will go to the polls in record numbers in November." Meanwhile, Catholic Alliance Director Maureen Roselli described the House vote as "a victory for all Americans who consider life sacred and a victory against what Pope John Paul II has called, "a culture of death." A disturbing aspect of the House vote was the defection of many House members who had long records of supporting abortion rights. There was speculation late yesterday that some of this involved tight political races, and a fear of appearing "extreme" on social issues. A Matter Of Timing? Opponents of the override managed to bring up concerns about the timing of the vote -- a question which has also arisen about other key legislation. This morning's Los Angeles Times observed that some House members voiced the opinion "that abortion foes have deliberately delayed the vote to hand many Republican candidates an advantage at the polls this November." The same concern has been raised about other legislative items as well, and the time frame for the release of 50-65 million "voters guides" published by the Christian Coalition just days before the November election. Last week, Americans United for Separation of Church and State called upon Ralph Reed and his group to release the guides in time to allow candidates to respond to material and ratings included in the handouts. Critics have charged that the "voters guides" are inaccurate and simplistic, and are distributed late in campaigns so that candidates who receive unfavorable ratings do not have adequate time and opportunity to reply to charges. In addition, Reed and other religious right figures have boasted of their efforts to "fast track" key legislative items -- including an overturn of Mr. Clinton's veto -- to "get legislators on record" before the November election. But "One Step Forward"... Abortion rights advocates, though, got some good news before the veto override when the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug RU-486. Known also as misoprostol, the substance involves a spontaneous miscarriage up to the seventh week of pregnancy, and would require three trips to the doctor. The cost of the RU-486 regimen is expected to be competative with the price of a surgical abortion, or approximately $300. Anti-abortion groups have expressed worry about RU-486, originally pioneered in France. The pill was banned by the Bush administration, but President Clinton issued an executive order on Jan. 22, 1993 which directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lift the prohibition. The Population Council holds the U.S. patent on the drug and has been testing the substance in controlled studies of over 2,000 women at 17 abortion clinics nationwide. Even with FDA approval, however, RU-486 won't be widely available until mid-1997. The campaign against RU-486 has attempted to raise issues concerning potential threats to women using the pill; even the FDA admits that there are possible adverse reactions including "painful contractions of the uterus, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pelvic pain and spasms, and headaches..." But abortion providers suggest that based on calls from 220 clinics, only about ten percent of patients would be suitable candidates for using RU-486. Even that figure seems to disturb anti-abortion groups, though. More militant organizations, including Operation Rescue, have focused their efforts on abortion clinics, often blocking patient access and harrassing women through "sidewalk counselling." The prospect of having thousands of individual physicians throughout the country licensed to dispense RU-486 creates a bigger, and more diffuse problem for anti-abortion groups, and tends to "privatize" the abortion issue even further. A Look Ahead Where does the abortion debate go from here? The answer to that, in part, revolves around the November election: * President Clinton continues to hold on to a hefty lead, although the Bush camp's negative ad offensive will not start until Saturday. On the election front, expect more mud-slinging from all sides (including the Perot camp). After yesterday's House vote, several religious-right figures including Ralph Reed and Gracie Hsu (Family Research Council) accused Clinton of being "extreme," and even made appeals to moderate Democrats. With the economy relatively stable, Dole handlers may be returning to the "culture war" themes as their only possible salvation in november as they focus on drug-war hysteria, Clinton's moral stature, and the contention that the President is "extreme" on key issues -- including abortion. * Expect continued efforts at "linkage" within the abortion issue, and to other hot-button issues. The House debate over abortion was often directed at ALL abortion, not just the late-term procedure. The "slippery slope" which anti-euthanasia activists warn about may be more apropos to the abortion question. Unless pro-choice elements begin to find new ideological ground to defend -- namely, that a fetus is NOT a human being (complete with a "soul") -- anti-abortion forces remain on the offensive, well organized and masters of emotion-laced rhetoric. * Expect an external "linkage" of abortion to other "life related" issues including euthanasia, genetic engineering, even biotechnology. The Family Research Council has distributed an article from the October issue of its magazine, Focus on the Family Citizens, to newsmedia attacking Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian is painted in the darkest of terms; and while abortion is not mentioned in the article by Focus associate editor Jack Hooten, the timing of its release -- on the heels of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban veto -- is no coincidence. Hooten takes Kevorkian to task for a number of things, including the doctor's staement that "Jesus would have been better off dying in the back of his rusty van." There can be other related issues as well, including the use of fetal tissue for medical research, or even the patenting of genetic materials. On all of these points, expect to see a recurrent theme -- that we are fostering a "culture of death," or "befouling God's creation and tamperring with life." ** IF REED STRATEGY FAILS, OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS WAITING... "National Solemn Assembly" Is Called for October 24-26 During the Republican National Convention, AANEWS observed that Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition were cloaking their religious agenda in an aura of reconciliation, "reaching out" to other groups, even (at times) a limited tolerance of different opinions. Reed's new book, "Active Faith" often took his religious comrades to task; and the Coalition Director engineered a relatively successful PR stunt to involve the group in the issue of an alleged arson conspiracy of black churches throughout the country. Behind the scenes, though, the Coalition has remained firm on issues like abortion, and even the inclusion of a "tolerance" plank within the Republican platform. The Reed strategy seems to link the Coalition to the fortunes of the GOP come November. At last weekend's "Road to Victory" Conference in Washington, D.C., Reed was still able to reassure some edgy Republicans that his group can deliver enough votes to provide the crucial margin for a Dole-Kemp victory -- or at least continued GOP control in the House and Senate. But that strategy seems to have distanced Reed from other elements of the religious right. Howard Phillips of the U.S. Taypayers Party was excluded from the "Road to Victory" celebration, and instead had to content himself with a sidewalk campaign rally outside the meeting hall. That event may underscore a problematic relationship which seems to be developing between Reed and the Coalition, and other organizations including advocates of Christian Reconstructionism. Next month, several religious groups will be holding a "National Solemn Assembly" in Washington, providing a forum on behalf of some of the extreme elements of the Christian right, inlcluding Reconstructionists. The Assembly is slated for October 24-26 and is being organized by The Capitol Hill Prayer Alert, a project of Sound the Trumpet Ministries, Inc. and the Christian Defense Coalition. Most of the groups and individuals participation in the gathering are part of a growing movement identified under the label of "prayer warriors," who combine organized praying sessions with fervent political activism. "Are you concerned about the unrepentant condition of the Church in America?",asks Sound The Trumpet Ministries. "Does the anti-Christ bias and agenda of the Clinton-Gore administration disturb you? Would you like to see abortion outlawed in America? Do you want to influence the 1996 Congressional and Presidential elections?" Supporters are reminded that "Prayer can change history! Prayer moves the hearts, minds, attitudes and votes of presidents, congressmen, senators, Supreme Court justices and state and local officials. It also affects the outcomes of elections, dramatically!" Among the "prayer warriors" associated with South The Trumpet and the National Prayer Assembly are: * Harry Valentine ~ Former minor league baseball team owner, "prayer advisor" to the Alan Keyes presidential campaign. * Gretchen Wynne Trump ~ Organized "Women of Faith" prayer gathering, project coordinator for "Enough is Enough!", the anti-pornography group headed by ex-Gary Hart campaign bimbo Donna Rice. * Barbara Plating ~ Associated with the extreme anti-abortion group American Coalition for Life and the Coalition for Revival. Endorsing the "prayer warrior" activities of the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert is anti-smut crusader Dee Jepsen ("Enough is Enough!"), Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, and Congressman Steve Stockman who insists that "My election to Congress over a 42-year incumbent was truly a miracle -- attributable to answered prayer." This Representative also insists that "Capitol Hill Prayer Alert intercessors prayed for me throughout my entire campaign. I thank God for CHPA's faithfullness in interceding as we continue to engage in warfare to save our nation." The National Solemn Assembly (another in a seemingly endless round of calls from different religious group for "atonement," "prayer" and other spiritual expression) promises to be a platform for two groups who advocate distressing and highly authoritarian theopolitical agendas. * Christian Reconstructionists believe that American (indeed, global) society needs to be "reconstructed" to form a male-run "government by god," or "dominion," in effect a theocracy. In Reconstructionist theology, the death penalty is mandated for offenses such as homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy, "witchcraft," incorrigible juvenile behavior, profanity and enunciating "false doctrines" Observers note that while the number of Reconstructionists is relatively small, followers are highly active in other religious right groups including the Coalition for Revival and the semi-secret Council for National Policy. Known Reconstructionists who are scheduled to speak at the National Solemn Assembly include: * Rev. R.J. Rushdoony -- Reconstructionist theologian, founder of the Chalcedon Foundation * Rev. Jay Grimstead -- Chairman, Coalition on Revival. Grimstead is currently presenting a series of COR road conferences which includes the Reconstruction "vision for rebuilding civilization on the Bible," according to Freedom Writer Magazine. * George Grant -- Author on over a dozen books popular on the religious circuit including "exposes" of Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. Grant is a protege of Rushdoony's son-in-law, Gary North who is a prolific Reconstructionist author and publisher. * The other tendency represented at the National Solemn Assembly is one associated with extreme anti-abortion activists, including persons linked with possible violence against clinics and abortion providers. The Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition which is helping to organize the Assembly, is mentioned in a "Factsheet" Publication of the National Abortion Rights Action League titled " 'Justifiable Homicide' And The Anti-Choice Movement." Mahoney told the New York Times that "there may be a link between advocating the use of force and people acting on it," in reference to violent behavior directed at clinics. The Reverend is also a regular abortion clinic protester at militant demonstrations organized by Operation Rescue, and refers to pro-choice advocates as a "Philistine army." A high-profile speaker at the National Solemn Assembly will be Randall Terry, founder of the Operation Rescue movement and a recent convert to Christian Reconstructionism. Terry has failed to distance himself from known violent anti-abortionist behavior and groups, and asked "Is it so surprising that the abortion industry should itself reap a portion of what is has so flagrantly and violently sown?" in comment over the murder of abortion clinic workers by protestor John Salvi. Other scheduled speakers are identified with numerous religious right causes. They include: * Michael Farris -- Founder of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, attorney for Concerned Women for America and active in litigation against "anti-Christian" materials in public schools. Farris was also the lawyer in the famous Faith Baptist Church battle discussed in past issues of AANEWS with the State of Nebraska; that case became a "rallying point" for the Coalition for Religious Freedom, formed in 1984 with a grant of $500,000 from cultist Rev. Moon and his Unification Church * Jim Henderson -- Attorney, American Center for Law and Justice (Pat Robertson) * Alan Keyes -- Former presidential candidate, former Deputy U.N. Ambassador * Janet Parshall -- Radio talk show host, Parshall's three-hour daily gab fest is a platform for the fundamentalist political and religious agenda, including groups like Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. While the National Solemn Assembly labels itself "A time for Fasting, Repentance and Prayer for America," it nevertheless has distinct political venues. "Prayer warrior" gatherings are scheduled for the U.S Capitol Building and the White House. While Reconstructionists have gravitated toward the U.S. Taxpayers Party (in part due to Howard Phillip's own conversion to dominionist theopolitical doctrine), Bill Clinton remains enough of an enemy that many religious activists will be throwing their support behind the Dole-Kemp campaign -- if only to ban abortion. The "Solemn Assembly" should stoke up enthusiasm for some last-minute campaigning, an urgent requirement since, as the gathering's promotional literature declares, "America is facing her hour of decision." ** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send mail to info@atheists.org, and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at http://www.atheists.org. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org.

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