A compendium of life- and family-related news from south of the border

‘Pro-choice’ politicians targeted

The heady days of the “pro-choice” Catholic politician, who could speak out of both sides of his mouth, may be over.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference, in a sharply worded statement to U.S. Catholics, have rebuked Catholic politicians who depart from their church’s teaching on abortion and other sanctity-of-life issues. “No appeal to policy, procedure, majority will or pluralism ever excuses a public official who is Catholic from defending life to the greatest extent possible,” said the recently released statement – “Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics” – which had been in preparation for two years.

“We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin,” the statement added.

The document urges Catholic voters to consider sanctity-of-life issues first when choosing their leaders, and reflects a united Catholic front. “I think what is new is this is the first time the bishops as a body have addressed the issue in this way,” said Boston’s Bernard Cardinal Law.

The relationship between Catholic politicians and the church’s hierarchy has long been strained over issues such as abortion. However, church officials seldom criticized politicians who publicly supported abortion. The statement raises the possibility of a greater political role for Catholic bishops as the year 2000 presidential election approaches.

At least one official was unrepentant. A spokesperson for Senator Edward Kennedy said Kennedy has “great respect for Cardinal Law and the Catholic conference but he continues to support a woman’s ‘right to choose.'”

Unborn children used for ‘stem cells’

A California company is poising itself to profit from the recent announcement that researchers have managed to cultivate embryonic stem cells, which are the foundations of human growth.

The bio-pharmaceutical firm Geron Corp. bankrolled the research after the U.S. government declined to involve itself with experiments conducted on fetal cells. (U.S. federal laws prohibit experimentation on human embryos). Scientists used blastocysts (clumps of cells a few days old that were grown from fertilized eggs) “left over” from test-tube fertility treatments and “donated” by the parents, as well as cells culled from aborted unborn children.

The applications are said to be potentially enormous – scientists eventually may be able to grow crops of human “spare parts” such as hearts and livers, from the cells. Geron says it doesn’t plan to wait for clinical trials before cashing in on its “discovery.” It intends to sell embryonic stem cells to pharmaceutical firms that could test new drugs on home-grown organ tissue.

Geron’s stock closed up more than $7 (US) a share after announcement of the “discovery.”

Pro-lifers decry federal task force

Attorney-General Janet Reno, of the staunchly pro-abortion Clinton regime, is coming under attack by U.S. pro-life leaders for forming a national task force to investigate what she calls anti-abortion violence. Reno has also thrown $500,000 into the pot for information leading to the arrest of the killer of Buffalo abortionist Barnett Slepian.

“These attacks, and others, seek to undermine a woman’s basic constitutional right, the right to ‘reproductive health care,'” Reno said in announcing the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. The force will assist local investigations, try to establish links between attacks, “train” law-enforcement officials and develop security plans for “at-risk” abortuaries. The task force comes despite the fact that a similar effort in 1994 failed to produce evidence to show that any sort of movement was co-ordinating attacks on abortuaries.

“We consider the institution of yet another so-called abortion task force to be a grossly prejudicial act toward the pro-life movement as well as a serious infringement on our ability to act freely within our First Amendment right to protest abortion peacefully,” said American Life League president Judie Brown. “The real conspiracy at hand is one that would see the demise of our pro-life movement by way of backhanded lies and deceit while using a case of murder as a stepping stone to achieving such an end.”

“The Justice Department is conspicuously selective in the application of its resources,” observed Pro-Life Action League executive director Joe Scheidler. “I have received death threats, bomb threats and, earlier this week, an anthrax threat. But I would drop dead if the attorney-general indicated even a modicum of concern for my safety or the safety of any other pro-life leaders. She has chosen which side to protect.”

Meanwhile, a man nicknamed “the father of the abortion movement” is ominously predicting that the controversy over abortion will erupt into a deadly battle that will divide the U.S. “In the 90s, all (abortion opponents) want to talk about is killing you,” claimed Bill Baird. “We are on the verge, in my judgment, of a civil war.”

Catholic hospital under fire

When Julia Albano learned that she would deliver stillborn twins in Febraury 1996, she decided to go for care to St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. – a Catholic facility – to take comfort in the fact that the hospital shared her belief that life is sacred and begins at conception. Or so she thought.

Albano was horrified to learn later that the hospital had performed autopsies on the bodies of her four-and-a-half-month-old preborn children without getting permission to do so from her or her husband, Robert. The hospital argued in court that because unborn children under five months’ gestation are not persons under New Jersey law, permission for autopsies is not required.

“I don’t understand how anyone could say they weren’t persons,” said Albano, a Staten Island, N.Y. resident. She and Robert filed a lawsuit against the hospital, which was dismissed recently by a Middlesex County court judge.

Diocese of Metuchen Bishop Vincent D. Breen issued a statement afterwards saying that he and his diocese were clearly committed to Catholic moral teachings that an unborn child is a person from the moment of conception. He said the legal positions of the hospital’s lawyers were not reviewed or approved of before the court case.

“St. Peter’s is a Catholic hospital that doesn’t permit abortions, then they argue that these (unborn children) were not persons,” said the Albanos lawyer, Evan Goldman. “That’s where the irony comes in.”

Julia Albano said she and her husband are considering an appeal of the judge’s ruling. “I feel it was enough that my babies didn’t live. I didn’t see the need for them to be autopsied. I just want to raise awareness that things like this can happen.”

Abortuary gets green light

Despite valiant opposition from concerned citizens, churches and even local doctors, it looks like a proposed Planned Parenthood abortuary in Lancaster, Pa. will begin to ply its grisly trade early next year.

The city gave Planned Parenthood the green light recently when its zoning officer delivered a letter stating that PP’s plan to perform abortions is really just an “expansion” of “medical and health services” already provided at its clinic, and not a new use for the facility.

“We’re not suprised,” crowed PP spokesperson Patricia A. Brogan. “We did not think there was a zoning issue … The city just needed some information from us to reach that conclusion.”

Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute and a leader of recently formed Lancaster United for Life, said he was very disappointed following the latest development. “I guess the threat of a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood is enough to make the city turn on a dime,” he said. “It seems to us that backroom deals were made, and we don’t think that’s the way the city should do things.”

Brogan said the abortuary will likely begin its work by February or March. But there is still hope for anti-abortuary forces – Geer said his side will consult with legal counsel about launching a court appeal against the city’s actions. “We’re not going to sit idly by and let this persist,” he vowed.

Prior to the city’s zoning decision, local doctor Cary Campanella took out a newspaper advertisement opposing the abortuary, and asked 450 of his cohorts to sign on with him. Sixty-five did.

“I was opposed to it both on spiritual grounds as well as professional grounds,” he said. “I knew there was a substantial number of physicians who would come down on the side that abortion is bad medicine.”

Campanella, a doctor for eight years, said he witnessed an abortion while he was in training to become a doctor and doesn’t believe the procedure should be performed.

Parents sue abortuary

The parents of a 17-year-old girl who had an abortion at a Memphis, Tenn. abortuary are suing that facility for $12 million because staff there performed the procedure without their permission.

Michael and Sharon Blackard of Olive Branch, Miss. filed suit against Memphis Area Medical Centre for Women on behalf of their daughter, Ashley. A Tennessee law enacted in 1995 states that girls 17 and under must have the permission of a parent or judge before undergoing an abortion. However, a federal judge granted an injunction against the law last year. The law is now under review by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinatti.

The abortuary is taking the position that the law wasn’t in effect when the abortion was performed, but the Blackards’ lawyer, Robert Hutton, says he is filing suit under a valid statute.

“Had Ashley talked with her parents prior to procuring the abortion, Ashley would not have aborted her child,” the lawsuit notes. Hutton said it is “unfathomable” that abortion be exempted from parental-consent requirements. “You can’t even take a mole off a child’s back without parental consent,” he noted.

But Jennifer Dalven, of the American Civil Liberties Reproductive Freedom Project, said the injunction can only be overturned through an appeal process.

Pro-abortion ad campaign

Dismayed by what they see as pro-life initiatives in Congress and “a rise in violent attacks on abortion providers,” 46 pro-abortion groups across the U.S. have begun a multi-nmillion-dollar national advertising campaign aimed at mobilizing complacent abortion supporters. The campaign’s slogan is: “It’s pro-choice or no choice.”

“We wanted to make sure they were grabbing people’s attention,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said of the ads. And grab attention they surely have – one ad depicts a young woman with a tattoo, and nose and eyebrow rings, with the caption: “Think you can do whatever you want with your body? Think again.” Another ad asks, “When your right to a safe and legal abortion is finally taken away, what are you going to do?” The question mark is a coat hanger.

Yet another features photographs of abortionists who were killed by violence. Beneath the photos are the words: “The pro-life movement. It’s amazing how many deaths they’re responsible for.”

The ad campaign has already run into a roadblock in New York City, where the agency that looks after contracts for ads on city buses has stalled on an agreement to accept them. That has prompted the Pro-Choice Public Education Project, the umbrella group that is overseeing the campaign, to threaten the start of legal action.