January 30, 2009


A call for change? When it comes to life issues, we need to continue taking a stand

It took roughly 72 hours after he was sworn into office for President Barack Obama to show what “change” means to him as far as policies concerning abortion are concerned.

Sadly, his message did little to affirm people of faith who value all human life from conception to natural death.

With the stroke of a pen on Jan. 23, the president signed an executive order that reversed the Mexico City policy.

The policy banned U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. The move clears the way for the federal government to provide aid to programs that promote or perform abortion overseas. (See related story, page 2.)

The president’s action came a day after more than 100,000 people of various faith traditions participated in the 36th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., to prayerfully voice their opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. They say there is strength in numbers, and the event again provided a powerful witness to life.

Some have tried to reason that the president was trying to show the pro-life movement respect by not signing the executive order on the day of the march, but we view it as what sadly may be the first action by this administration that could present more setbacks where life issues are concerned.

Simply put, instead of building consensus or seeking common ground—which the new president has pledged to do—executive orders like this present roadblocks to the cause for life.

Officials from the Vatican were justifiably quick to condemn the president’s action.

Senior Vatican official Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, said, “If this is one of President Obama’s first acts, I have to say, in all due respect, that we’re heading quickly toward disappointment.

“What is important is to know how to listen ... without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death,” Archbishop Fisichella continued. “I do not believe that those who voted for him [Obama] took into consideration ethical themes, which were astutely left aside during the election debate. The majority of the American population does not take the same position as the president and his team.”

Recent polls, including one conducted in December by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have indeed shown that a majority of Americans support at least some restrictions on abortion.

Last weekend, Catholics in pews throughout central and southern Indiana were asked to participate in a nationwide pro-life postcard campaign to oppose federal abortion rights legislation pending in Congress.

Church officials and legal experts have said the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would make abortion a fundamental right that would eliminate all existing pro-life laws and policies that have been enacted since 1973.

The campaign conducted in parishes throughout the country is a way for Catholics who supported Obama for president to tell him they did so despite, not because of, his stand on abortion, said officials from the U.S. bishops’ pro-life office.

“Many Catholics voted for Obama despite his position on abortion, and they have an obligation to say, ‘This is not why I voted for you,’ ” said Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Deirdre A. McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications in the pro-life office, said it is important for Catholics to tell Obama, “If I voted for you, this [abortion] is not what I voted for.”

The postcard campaign began in mid-January, and is expected to continue for three or four weeks. It asks members of Congress to oppose FOCA “or any similar measure, and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”

“At this time of serious national challenges, Americans should unite to serve the good of all, born and unborn,” the postcards say.

It’s not too late to participate in the campaign. Check with your parish to see if postcards are still available. You can also visit the archdiocese’s Web site at www.archindy.org/prolife or the USCCB’s Web site at www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/FOCA/postcard.shtml for more information.

Our faith calls us to be voices for the voiceless, and those voices are needed now more than ever.

There is strength in numbers. May our actions, by the millions, show our unwavering commitment to life.

—Mike Krokos

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