While many Catholics (including Catholic politicians) remain determined opponents of abortion, some of the politicians are changing their former “sit-on-the-fence attitude” into one of open support for abortion. It is not clear, yet, whether this change in attitude is accompanied by a break of ties with their Church.
In June, Senator Jesse Helms (R., N.C.) proposed an amendment to the State Department’s authorization bill. This amendment would have reinforced presidential discretion in formulating policies restricting infanticide, abortion, involuntary sterilization and racial discrimination in connection with U.S. population programs. The Wanderer of June 20, 1985, reports that Catholic Senators Joseph Biden (D., Del.), Thomas Dodd (D., Conn.), Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.), John Kerry (D., Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D., N.H.) and George Mitchell (D., Maine) voted against the Helms amendment. The report did not explain whether considerations not directly related to these issues might have played a role. However, four years ago Kennedy (now divorced) and Kerry, both from Massachusetts, brushed aside Boston’s Cardinal Madeiros’ pastoral letter against Catholics in politics voting for abortion measures.
The same report in the same connection noted that the following Catholic members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored a bill “to ensure that services related to abortion are made available in the same manner as are all other pregnancy-related services under federally funded programmes”: Edward Narjet (D., Mass.), George Miller (D., Md.), Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) and William Clay (D., Mo.).
The process of “coming out of the closet” on abortion issues is most fully illustrated by 1984 vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. If there were still hesitations on the part of Ferraro with regard to abortion in 1984, (she claimed at that time to be personally opposed) these have now disappeared. Speaking to 5,000 women Ferraro was quoted verbatim by the Philadelphia Enquirer (June 25, ’85) as saying on the issue of abortion:
I want to be clear about this: That issue is inseparable from our struggle for economic independence. I recognize that for some women, abortion is not an economic issue. For them it is a deeply personal moral and ethical question. But for millions, abortion is a very real economic issue.
For the poor woman, it means the choice of not being driven further into poverty by the costs of caring for a child she cannot afford. For the young woman, it means a choice of not having to leave her high school or job training program. For the woman with other children, it means the financial freedom so she and her children can have the education opportunities and health care they deserve…For our society, too, it means avoiding an unequal and unfair system where the rich can get safe medical abortions and poor women cannot.
For all women it means not letting someone else – in this case male-dominated conservative religious interests – make our decisions for us.
These quotes confirm that Geraldine Ferraro now fully accepts the killing of the unborn as a woman’s “choice,” i.e. as a woman’s right.
The closing sentence indicates that Ferraro has also adopted the terminology of radical feminist Catholic theologians who, while staying in the Church, argue that Church structures and Church doctrines are corrupt because of “male domination.”