Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 27, 1996 A M

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Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 27, 1996 from: Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #168 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/27/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * Abortion Ban Vote -- A "Breather" In A Longer Battle * TheistWatch ~ In Front Of The TV? Put "God On Our Side." * About This List... ABORTION BAN VOTE EMERGES AS THEME IN NOVEMBER ELECTION Senate Upholds Veto On "Partial Birth" Procedure The U.S. Senate yesterday upheld President Clinton's veto of the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" in a 57-41 vote, nine votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for override. Anti-abortion leaders quickly announced that the ban would become a key issue in congressional elections, and even in the presidential contest in November. Last week, the House of Representatives voted 285-137 to overturn the Clinton veto. Yesterday's action in the Senate halted -- for now -- an effort to outlaw a specific abortion procedure for the first time since the 1973 Supreme Court case of ROE v. WADE, which legalized abortion. The "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" was a key plank in the Christian Coalition's "Contract With the American Family." Critics charged that it was also a first step in eventually outlawing abortion, and threatened to pave the way for the so-called Human Life Amendment which would treat clumps of fetal tissue as a "person" (presumably with a "soul") and make abortion illegal. Last April 10, President Clinton announced that he would veto the Partial Birth Abortion Ban since it did not include a provision to exempt women whose lives were in danger by continuing a pregnancy. There were a number of important developments in yesterday's Senate action: * Religious groups throughout the country organized supporters in a last-minute effort to flood Washington lawmaker's offices with e-mail, calls and faxes. Televangelist Pat Robertson pleaded with viewers of the Christian Broadcasting Network program "The 700 Club" to contact Senators telling them that "this is going to be a major issue in the election. This is something that America cannot have if its conscience isn't going to be permanently stained." * Former Wagergate conspirator-turned-jailhouse evangelist Chuck Colson also put out the word on his Prison Fellowship broadcast, saying that the Senate decision was "the most significant" vote in his lifetime and that "it is about life itself -- about who will live and who will die. Colson was also in the Senate gallery during yesterday's vote; he told listeners that he intended to "pray while the vote is cast...for a miracle." * Today's edition of the Los Angeles Times notes that "senators talked of receiving thousands of petitions and postcards urging that Clinton's veto be overridden, including 10,000 cards circulated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops." That figure was interesting, since there had been earlier reports suggesting that between five million and nine million pre-printed cards had been distributed in Roman Catholic parishes throughout the nation. If the figures are reliable, that indicates that only 1-out-of-every 500 cards was actually sent in. * There were anxious moments yesterday before and during the Senate vote. Phone and fax lines coming into certain Senatorial offices (like those of Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) were reportedly jammed. During debate, there was a "battle of the props" with each side "showing charts and graphics to illustrate the ("partial birth") procedure, while others offered babies beaming in photographs of healthy families to make their point." (Boston Globe). * Opposition to the veto-override appeared "soft" in some cases. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hammered away at his colleagues, branding late-term abortion a "shocking procedure that comes very, disturbingly close to infanticide. There was even late word that some Senators -- including Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who ran for the GOP Presidential nimination as a pro-choice Republican -- were considering reversing their opposition to the abortion ban. Specter told the Washington Times that "I am rethinking my position. I voted against the bill before in the context that we had only a one-day hearing. I have done some studies on the status of the fetus. I am giving a lot of consideration to whether we have infanticide or homicide here." Specter joined Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in reversing his stand, and voting to override the presidential veto * No sooner had the Senate vote come down than religious activists began incoporating the issue into the November election. Anti -feminist maven Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum declared that "Clinton made it a political issue with his veto. I hope the election will bring more (pro-life) voters in. GOP Presidential nominee Bob Dole promptly released a statement, blasting the President for his veto and pledging to sign the Partial Birth Abortion Ban if elected. That pledge had also been made two weeks ago to the Christian Coalition's "Road to Victory" Conferfence in Washington, D.C. "Every woman and man in America should demand that Bill Clinton explain his defense of this barbaric procedure," said Dole. Meanwhile, Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed, who huddled with Charles Colson during the Senate roll-call, later told reporters that the Senate vote would hurt Mr. Clinton in the November election by galvanizing "millions of evangelicals and Roman Catholic voters who will go to the polls in record numbers." * In the Dole camp, there is mounting pressure on the GOP candidate to confront President Clinton on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban veto in the October 6 televised debate. Encouragement is coming from VP contender Jack Kemp and values-guru William Bennett. Meanwhile, Republican pollsters and strategists like Ed Goeas are telling Dole that the White House is "vulnerable" While the President apparently remains "teflon" on issues like White Water and File Gate, Goeas says "We see in focus groups that it (abortion) does change people's feeling about Clinton's character." * Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council also spent the day on Capitol Hill organizing support for the override. He later told reporters that "The president and those who stood with him should be ashamed for blinding themselves to tragic deaths in an attempt to win political points." More Electoral Fallout The Senate vote also focused attention on a number of possible Congressional races where abortion is emerging as the preeminent issue. The Boston Globe noted that "Members of the Christian Coalition, the Catholic Campaign for America and National Right to Life and other antiabortion groups have pledged to work to help defeat members of Congress who refused to support the ban. Those efforts already are under way in Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Kentucky and New York." One example is in Illinois, where Rep. Richard Durbin, who voted to sustain the veto is being challenged by antiabortion activist Al Salvi. Ralph Reed called yesterday's vote "a cutting-edge issue that will bring Catholic and evangelical Christians" to the polls, and added "There are five states where the abortion issue could be the margin: Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Minnesota." Bauer called the procedure ("partial birth abortion") the "sleeper issue of 1996." The heavy politicizing of yesterday's vote, though, prompted a remark from Kate Michelman of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, who said "This bill was designed to be used as a political weapon against President Clinton and pro-choice members of Congress. It is not about saving babies. " Even the right wing Washington Times admitted that "Reliable statistics about the use of the contested procedure are hard to come by," and noted that only 1.3 percent of the 1.3 million abortions performed in the country annually are "late-term'' meaning after the first 5 months of pregnancy. The Boston Globe provided a different figure, though, saying that "According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and advocacy group that has tracked the issue, 1 percent of the 1.5 million abortions performed annual occur in the 21st week of pregnancy or later; .04 percent occur 26 weeks or later." Adds Susan Cohen, a senior analyst with the Institute: "Anyway you look at it, it's a tiny number, whether you are looking at past 20 weeks or past 26 weeks." Son-Of-A-Ban Expect legislative action and further attempts to pass a Partial Birth Abortion Ban after the November election when a new congress convenes. Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) has already pledged to work out a "consensus position" which would supposedly include narrowly defined conditions to protect the health of the mother. He said that such a bill, if properly crafted, could "pass 100 to 0 next year." The November elections could prompt certain Senators to change their votes, especially if abortion plays as an effective electoral weapon for the Christian Coalition and its allies. A "Wedge" Issue But if the so-called "partial birth abortion" procedure is rarely used, why all the fuss? After all, many of the groups and public officials protesting the relatively-rare surgical procedure don't boast "children-friendly" voting records in terms of aid to dependent families, school lunch programs and other less popular parts of the "pro-family" agenda. * "Partial Birth Abortion" is an emotionally-laden term, one which provides opportunity for graphic (and, say critics, distorted) descriptions and hyperbole. Senator Phil Graham, for instance, in debate over yesterday's vote, said that permitting the procedure means terminating the life of a child "three inches away from full constitutional protections of the law." * For anti-abortionists intent on outlawing most or all abortion, "partial birth" allows them to begin capitalizing on the "gray area" which surrounds late-term procedure. There is a significant difference in the decisions of women having an abortion at, say, 20-weeks to those who terminate a fetus at 26-weeks. Even the Supreme Court acknowledged that there were considerable legal and ethical complications in trying to decide when a fetus is a "human being," and fully "viable." For militant anti-choice zealots -- especially those who believe that a fetus has a "soul" beginning at the moment of conception -- distorting or eradicating distinctions like this is imperative. Kate Michelman (NAARRAL) noted "The goal of those who wish to ban this ("partial birth") procedure is to ban all abortion, procedure by procedure." And the Los Angeles Times noted today that "Abortion foes believe that they have begun to pry many Americans away from blanket support of abortion by focusing on the controversial procedure..." The Push For Patriarchy... Simply put, pro-choice activists are now in a difficult position. Susan Lamontagne of the Planned Parenthood Federation hoped that "cool heads" would prevail during yesterday's Senate vote, and noted: "Obviously it is an emotional issue that lends itself to sensationalism and very disturbing rhetoric... The rhetoric on this issue has hit an all-time low, with groups making horrible accusations that the reasons for these abortions is that some women can fit into prom dresses. Clearly, they have made a calculation to bring this up now in an election year." But election year politics is just part of what is happening with the abortion debate in America. * Anti-abortion groups have successfully managed to use the "partial birth" issue to subsume the issue of clinic violence and anti-abortion terrorism. Indeed, arrests from violent confrontations at clinics have steadilly decreased over the past 18-months, in part due to new restrictions on blocking entrances and other favorite tactics, including "sidewalk counselling" by "prayer warriors." * Observers note that a slew of cultural phenomena, from the Million Man March to the rise of the Promise Keepers movement, suggests that a cultural impulse for "traditional values" in the form of patriarchy is making itself felt. Advertisers, programmers and culture-pulse watchers agree that the "alpha-male" is back. Interestingly, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban would permit the father of the fetus (or the woman's parents if she were younger than 18 -- to sue the doctor who performed the abortion. The ban not only brought government into the touchy area of abortion (and the status of a woman's body), but parents and male sperm-donors as well. Yesterday's Senate victory may prove to be, at best, a breather for both sides in emotion-packed and politically explosive issue. *** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Even though OJ Simpson is back in the news (did he ever really leave?), there are other events going on across the globe, even in the giddy 'celebrity-watch' programs and tabloids. For instance, will "Ellen" come out of the closet? Earlier this week, AANEWS reported that Disney Co. execs and producers were debating whether or not Ellen DeGeneres should have her character (Ellen) on her show (Ellen) admit that she's a lesbian. So far, the program has attracted all sorts of attention, and DeGeneres herself has become adroit at deflecting the issue, saying that the Ellen Morgan character is "different" -- she's left-handed, or even Lebanese. But lesbian? Disney is already under scrutiny by such religious and moral stalwarts as the Southern Baptist Convention; and Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition has already begun preparing a boycott of the program for "launch" if Ellen turns out to be "too different," namely, a gay woman. The latest scuttlebutt is an Entertainment Weekly poll due out next week that reports 72% of adults "would not be offended" if a TV program's lead character were gay. But according to the current USA TODAY, "There's one catch: 40% of 1.0003 adults polled believe "Ellen" will lose viewers if it happens on THAT show..." The paper also notes that there is still no work from ABC and its parent company, Disney, over how Lebanese Ellen will be permitted to be! ** We've got another Friday night recommendation for Atheist couch potatos. Many PBS stations this evening will be airing "With God On Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America," narrated by Michael Horton. Media critic Matt Roush notes that the six-week series "gives cogent, if not always compelling, context to the political education of conservative religious leaders who tend the view a government that acts on behalf of all people as an attack on the church's value systems." "With God On Our Side" begins with the 1950's anti-communist crusade, explores Billy Graham and his problematic relationship with movers-and-shakers such as Richard Nixon, and seeks the foots of later developments such as Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, and the birth of the Christian Coalition. Check local listings. ** 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 on American Atheists, send mail to, and include your name and postal address. 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