Date: Wed, 17 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 17, 1996 nn nn A
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 17, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnn
#14 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 4/17/96
VATICAN PRELATES TARGET CLINTON FOR ABORTION-BAN VETO
American Catholic bishops and cardinals yesterday condemned President
Clinton for his decision to veto the "partial-birth" abortion ban, and
promised to "educate people about partial birth abortions."
In a letter signed by all of the Church's active cardinals in the United
States and representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,
the prelates warned, "Mr. President, your action on this matter takes our
nation to a critical turning point in its treatment of helpless human beings
inside and outside of the womb...It moves our nation one step further toward
acceptance of infanticide."
Reuters news service observed that the promise to "educate people" about
the rarely used, but controversial procedure "could be read as a veiled
threat to seek retribution in the November 5 election."
White House spokespeople immediately went into damage control mode. Mary
Ellen Glynn told the media "The president said this is a morally wrenching
issue, and he thought quite a bit about it and prayed about it." She
insisted that Clinton vetoed the legislation to "protect women's health."
The controversy over this specific abortion method ignited last summer
when the Christian Coalition released its "Contract With the American
Family," a multi-faceted political agenda. In its section titled "Restoring
Respect for Human Life," the group declared: "We urge Congress to take the
following action as a beginning toward that end. 1) Real limits on late-term
abortions by providing legal protection to children in the latter months of
pregnancy and ending the practice of "partial-birth abortions."
Critics charge that the Coalition and its allies tried to "stack the deck"
in the abortion controversy by choosing the phrase "partial-birth abortion."
The late-term abortion procedure is known as "dilation and extraction," or
D&X; forceps are used to remove second and third-trimester fetuses. An
emotional debate has ensued about the details of the D&X procedure; right to
life advocates paint a gruesome picture of live babies decapitated inside the
womb, or having their skulls crushed.
The "Contract" also noted "Most tragic of all is the fact that the
majority of these babies are alive until the end of the proceeding..."
Critics point out that referring to the fetus as a "baby" or a "victim" is
not an accurate portrayal of the late-term abortion. They also note that the
Christian Coalition and other anti-abortion groups use terms such as "unborn
child" in referring to abortions at virtually ANY stage of fetal development.
Procedure is Rarely Used
According to the National Abortion Federation, the D&X technique is
employed in less than 500 abortion procedures each year, out of a total of
over 1.3 million. 41 state restrict late-term abortions. The D&X is often
used in case of rape, incest, or when the fetus is shown to be severely
deformed. Many of those fetuses would not survive long outside the womb, and
can often constitute a serious health risk to the life of the mother.
A Wider Goal
Even so, "partial birth abortion" has become a rallying cry of the
anti-abortionmovement and the religious right. Many fear that it is "the
first step" in legislating further restrictions, and ultimately a total ban
on legal abortion.
Yesterday's threat from the Catholic hierarchy -- described by Reuters as
"a sternly worded letter of rebuke" -- included the signatures of Cardinals
Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, James Hickey
of Washington, Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, William Keeler of Baltimore,
Adam Maida of Detroit, Bernard Law of Boston, and John O'Connor of New York.
Bishops included Anthony Pilla of Cleveland, who is president of the
The letter has prompted renewed discussion of the "Catholic vote",
especially in lieu of the November elections.
Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed told a media gathering yesterday
that the "The Catholic vote is becoming the jump ball of American
politics...Whoever comes down with that ball usually wins in November."
The Coalition is also doing its best to pursue conservative Catholics.
The recently-formed Catholic Alliance, "A Division of Christian Coalition"
according to its letterhead and press-releases, blasted Clinton last week
over the abortion-ban veto. Maureen Roselli, executive Director of the CA,
declared "With his veto of the partial-birth abortion ban, the President sent
a clear message from the White House to American Catholic voters everywhere:
no matter what stage of pregnancy, no matter how gruesome or extreme the
procedure, Bill Clinton says any abortion is acceptable."
The current issue of USA TODAY observed that Clinton has been making a
"full court press for Catholic voters" by praising Mother Teresa, promoting
the peace agreement in Northern Ireland and "even endorsing the school
uniforms familiar to generations of parochial-school students."
There are indications that the "Catholic vote" does exist as a block; a
majority or plurality of Catholic voters have supported the winner of every
presidential election since 1976. Even so, Pew Research Center's March 28-31
sample poll of voters shows that the President currently has 46% of the white
Catholic vote, compared to 30% for Dole and 19% for Perot should he decide to
USA TODAY also notes that, according to a Jesuit senior fellow at the
Woodstock Theological Seminary, "It's not only their numbers but where
they're located." Catholic votes are concentrated in "big ticket" states
with large electoral college votes like Florida.
But within the Catholic vote is a large number of women who seem to
provide Clinton with much of his lead in current polls. The majority of
Catholics also disagree with church teachings over important questions such
as abortion and contraception, accentuating the gap which exists between the
ecclesiastical hierarchy and the rank-and-file laity.
Faced with the prospect of "straying sheep" in the Roman Catholic flock,
the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops have adopted a wait-and-see attitude,
echoing the Vatican's orthodoxy while desperately trying to hold their
congregations together. There are also growing organizations like Catholics
for a Free Choice and Dignity which oppose church policy concerning abortion
and the status of gays and lesbians.
The Gap Widens?
The prelates have their problems enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy; this has
become obvious in the case of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz who presides over the
80,000 member diocese centered in Lincoln, Nebraska. On Monday, aanews
reported the bishop's declaration that Catholics involved in any of about a
dozen proscribed organiztions who did not terminate their membership by May
15 face excommunication. Those groups include Masonic organizations, Planned
Parenhood, Catholics for a Free Choice and the Hemlock Society.
While many church leaders privately agree with Bruskewitz, none have thus
far come out to publically support the ban or institute a similar ban in
their own areas. Cardinal O'Connor was quoted as saying that he thought any
such prohibition would simply be ignored. Nebraska Catholics are already
declaring their intentions to openly disobey Bruskewizt, who is described as
"taken aback" by the controversy.
A Trend Towards More Political
Yesterday's letter from church authorities is only the second time that
the Conference of Bishops and all of the Cardinals joined forces to issue a
political statement and actively lobby a President. The first was back in
1994 when efforts were made toprotest U.S. policy at the United Nation's
population summit in Cairo, Egypt. There, the Vatican joined with Protestant
and Muslim fundamentalists from around the world in objecting to
population-control policies, sex education, birth control efforts and
Many of yesterday's signatories have already used their regional church
organizations to lobby on numerous social and political issues. Cardinal
O'Connor has spoken out against everything from abortion to gay rights; in
Pennsylvania. church officials organized letter writing campaigns, pickets,
rallies and even aired television commercials on behalf of state aid to
religious schools through the voucher program.
One beneficiary of this squabble may be GOP front runner Senator Bob Dole.
Despite challenges from the right in the form of Texas Senator Phil Gramm and
Pat Buchanan, the Christian Coalition supported Dole through the round of
Republican primaries. Dole had promised quick action following the GOP
landslide in the 1994 congressional races on issues such as school prayer and
abortion. Although he was unable to deliver, Coalition strategists still
apparently consider him to be their best bet against Bill Clinton.
Dole contacted Bishop Anthony Pilla, President of the National Conference
, denouncing Clinton's veto and vowing "As President, I will ask Congress to
pass the Partial-Birth Abortion Act once again and I will sign this
important legislation into law."
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