New YorkAuxiliary Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York, perhaps the first U.S. bishop to serve a jail sentence, said that his night in jail in Chester Country, Pa., on November 18, gave him no sense of guilt – and that he slept well.  “I had even more than a clear conscience,” he said.  “I had a sense of purpose.”  Along with several others, he was serving a sentence for refusing to pay a fine after being arrested during an Operation Rescue.

Asked about future protest actions, he replied, “I go one step at a time.  In the same circumstances, I would unquestionably do it again.”

New York’s Cardinal O’Connor said he wanted Bishop Vaughan to know that if he was prevented from carrying out some of this regular duties, such as confirmations, while he was in jail, the Cardinal would willingly perform them for him.  He added that there might come a time when the Bishop would have to perform some of the Cardinal’s own functions – and for the dame reason.

Secretary Of Health

WashingtonThe office for Pro-Life Activities of the American National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), is opposing a federal panel of the National Institutes for Health on experimental transplants of aborted fetal tissue, report Origins, a weekly Catholic documentation service (January 5, 1989).

The 21-member panel concluded that federal support for the research use of organs and tissue derived from induced abortions is acceptable as public policy with certain safeguards.  Some researchers believe that the use of such tissue offers hope in the treatment of some diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

A separate statement signed by eight panelists misrepresented the Vatican’s teaching on this matter as expressed in the document “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin” (March 1987).  This document rejects any “complicity in deliberate action” in order to obtain such tissue.

On December 19, 1988, the NCCB reiterated its opposition expressed earlier, on September 14, when it declared that: “the government must not be involved in programs that perform or encourage abortion as part of its efforts to obtain legal organs.

It concludes again that “the federal government should not lend its support to experimental transplants using abortion victims . . .[it] would compromise its position by engaging in collaborative arrangements with [the abortion] industry.

In Canada, the issue was raised when two Halifax doctors – Harold Robinson and Alan Fine – applied to Victoria General Hospital for permission to transplant fetal brain tissue in September 1988.  In November, Federal Health Minister Jake Epp refused to continue financing medical research that uses aborted fetal tissue.  For this, he was attacked by University of Victoria philosophy professor E.H. Kluge, a member of a provincially appointed ethics advisory panel in British Columbia.  She is also co-author of a book approving euthanasia.

As far as known, the Halifax hospital where most of Nova Scotia’s abortions are committed still has the request under consideration.

Repentant Politician

Los AngelesFormer Governor Jerry Brown of California was reported in December 1988 (Wanderer, December 8, 1988), to be in serious trouble with his fellow Democrats for coming out against abortion.  Working the previous year with Mother Teresa in India, he declared, had given him a different perspective on the whole question of abortion.

“That this country and Europe see the need to kill so many unborn babies,” he said, “does not seem justified.  It’s just that we’ve organized society to be anti-life.”  Earlier this year, he had described the killing of the unborn as “crazy.”

Abortion Law in Guyana

Georgetown, Guyana – The first law to legalize abortion in South American has been circulating in draft form in Guyana.  Prime Minister Hamilton Green conceded that “this is an emotional subject,” but that his government’s aim was to strip it of hypocrisy.  He pointed out that: “there is a good deal of butchery by quacks and charlatans.”  Clement Rohee of the opposition People’s Progressive Party said that the bill is “the culmination of a long debate” and that his Marxist-line party would support it.  He stated that the need for abortion was “a reflection of our economic crisis – not many here can keep children with a five pound tin of powdered milk costing more than $100 in Guyanese dollars.”

When news of the draft legislation broke in the weekly Catholic Standard last summer, Roman Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh produced a strongly-worded pastoral letter saying that life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception, and that “the deliberate killing of the unborn child is essentially evil, forbidden by God and no human authority can make it right.”

The great increase in abortions and the terrible effects of back-street abortions, he continued, have convinced some that abortion should be legalized; but this would create more problems than it would solve.  He added: “The ultimate solution must be to remove the pressures that force or encourage people to seek abortions.  Making abortions more available does not do that.  On the contrary, as experience in other countries indicates, by providing an easy so-called solution, it takes away the motivation to seek real solutions to our underlying social problems.

Pro-Life in England

LondonReporting in the British weekly The Tablet (October 22, 1988), on the annual conference of the Life organization last fall, Mary Kenny called special attention to a talk by an American counselor, Susan Stanford, on post-abortion counseling and post-abortion syndrome.  The behaviour of the woman affected by this syndrome is marked by her not having grieved for the loss of the child.  Her repression and denial of feelings manifest themselves in other ways – chronic restlessness, abuse of drugs and alcohol, self-punishing behaviour, nightmares about babies, and so on.  Some of the most valuable pro-life work in the United States, Miss Stanford said, is coming from groups like Sisters of Rachel – support groups of women who have been through the abortion experience and help each other overcome their sense of loss.

Rex Brinkworth, consultant psychologist and a founder of the Down’s Syndrome Association, described sadly his break with this group.  He believes that Down’s babies have a right to life, but the medical trend is now to concentrate on pre-natal killing, i.e., to eliminate rather than to educate.

David Alton, M.P., sponsor of the bill to curtail late-term abortions, said that a majority in Parliament favours a change in the law, but there are powerful financial interests defending it.  The industry grosses 12 million pounds a year.  He also claimed that the “conscience clause” which allows doctors to opt out of doing abortions is nonsense when it is clear that they do not get promotion unless they do perform abortions.

Dr. John McLean, senior lecturer in embryology and anatomy at the University of Manchester, underscored the fact that natural conception has its advantages: in vitro fertilization of eggs is easy, but implantation of fertilized eggs succeeds in only 8.5 per cent of cases.  He also raised questions about the ethics of doctors pressuring women who are about to be sterilized to participate in egg donations, and pointed out that the failure rates of present contraceptive methods are often ignored: a one per cent rate in the case of the pill, for example, means 30,000 unwanted pregnancies a year.  Mary Kenny concluded, “We are not at all as much in control of nature as we think.”


RomeThe Fathers of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law decided the following queries proposed in the plenary meeting of January 19, 1988, should be answered as follows:

“Whether abortion, mentioned in Canon 1398, is to be understood only of the ejection of an immature fetus, or also of the killing of the same fetus in whatever way or at whatever time from the moment of conception it may be procured.”  (Osservatore Romano, December 5, 1988).

Canon 1398 reads: “A person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic excommunication.”

The decision of the Commission, approved by Pope John Paul II on Mary 23, 1988, and published in the Osservatore Romano (English edition) on December 5, 1988, clarifies the legal definition of abortion to include new drugs and surgical procedures.

America magazine of December 17, 1988, carried the following notice: “The Rev. Joseph Fox, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, spoke for the commission, saying that any method used to terminate a human life from the moment of conception until birth is an abortion and therefore an excommunicable offense.  The ruling clarified Canon 1398, which says that: “a person who procures a completed abortion incurs an automatic excommunication – one that does not require any official church declaration of the fact.  Father Fox said the traditional understanding of abortion has been the ejection of a ‘living but nonviable fetus’ from the uterus.  But new technologies had eclipsed this understanding.  For an excommunication penalty to go into effect, one must know there is a pregnancy, and there must be a free choice to abort.

Father Fox acknowledged that in the case of the IUD as well as abortifacient drugs, one might not know if an abortion has occurred.  Procuring, or helping someone to procure an abortion is one of only seven offenses explicitly punished by excommunication under Canon Law.  Father Fox said Catholics seeking to have an excommunication penalty removed should first go to a local confessor to find out what the procedure is in their diocese.


Fredericton, N.B. – The Moncton Times Transcript reported in mid-December that Henry Morgentaler had asked the Court of Queen’s Bench to rule that the province policy on abortions does not apply to abortions performed outside the province.  He stated that he had performed three abortions earlier in the year in his Montreal clinic for which Medicare New Brunswick refused to pay.  The provincial health department would not pay the bills because it required each abortion to be approved by two doctors and to be performed in an approved hospital.  The Court will hear the challenge on February 14, 1989.

Morgentaler has tried unsuccessfully to establish abortion clinics in New Brunswick.  Premier Frank McKenna has pledged to oppose him if he begins operations in his province.