November 21, 2008


No mandate for abortion

The fall meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops has been held during the second week in November for many years. That is always after the political elections. The bishops cannot be accused of trying to influence the elections as they would be if their meeting were to be just prior to the elections.

This year, as our news stories report, the bishops discussed the results of the elections at length, both in executive session and in their open sessions, especially when giving Cardinal Francis E. George, the president of the bishops’ conference, advice on what he should say in a public statement about the elections.

Cardinal George subsequently issued the statement in his own name, but at the request and direction of all the bishops.

The advice boiled down to an acknowledgement of the historical

significance of the election of the nation’s first African-American president, but a denial that this was a mandate for Obama to carry out the promises he made to ensure that abortion on demand remains legal.

Cardinal George said that the bishops hope to work with the new administration in such areas as economic justice, immigration reform, health care for the poor, education, religious freedom and the furthering of peace. However, they made it clear that they are united in teaching and defending unborn children from the moment of conception.

During the presidential campaign, in July 2007, Obama told a Planned Parenthood group, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA].”

This act, if passed in the same form as it has been introduced in the past, would override any state laws that might restrict abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of course, FOCA would first have to be passed by both houses of Congress. So far, it has failed to get out of committee.

The bishops were correct when they stated that this election was decided mainly on the basis of voters’ concerns about the economy, the loss of jobs and homes, and financial security for families.

Unlike the 2004 election, when exit polls found that most people voted on “values” issues, this year those issues took a backseat to our country’s economic problems. Many voters, too, voted for Obama because he is a charismatic and articulate young man as contrasted with Sen. John McCain, who is 72.

There is no evidence at all that the majority of those who voted for Obama did so because they agree with his positions on life issues, such as unlimited abortion or embryonic stem-cell research.

FOCA would legally codify a “fundamental right” to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. No governmental body—at any level—would be able to “deny or interfere with” this right. State laws that currently limit abortions in some way—such as informed-consent and parental notification laws, laws that prohibit partial-birth abortions, and those that protect infants born alive after a failed abortion—would be invalid. All Americans would be forced to subsidize and promote abortion with their tax dollars.

The act would also end conscience-protection laws, which means that Catholic hospitals, doctors, medical students and health care workers would be forced to participate in abortions in many places. This, clearly, would create a crisis in Catholic hospitals throughout the country.

Although polls indicate that most Americans oppose making abortion illegal, they also indicate that most people agree that there should be some restrictions, especially after the child in the womb is viable.

If Obama tries to keep his pledge to Planned Parenthood, it would severely divide our country.

The majority of those who identify themselves as Catholics voted for Obama, just as did the rest of Americans. They did not do so, though, because they want unrestricted abortion.

As Cardinal George’s statement said, “If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve.”

—John F. Fink

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