Tags: Roe | Wade | Called | 'Disastrous' | Bishops | Meeting

Roe v. Wade Called 'Disastrous' at Bishops Meeting

Tuesday, 12 November 2002 12:00 AM

The organization's president, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., made the remarks to open the four-day meeting in Washington, D.C. Later in the week, the bishops are expected to adopt a statement calling for the reversal of the landmark Supreme Court decision.

Many of the actions planned at this week's meeting have been overshadowed by revised guidelines the bishops are expected to adopt as a result of a child-abuse scandal that resulted in the removal of more than 300 priests.

With the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaching in January, the bishops are planning to issue a strong condemnation about abortion. It is one of several items on the agenda.

"Roe v. Wade has been disastrous for our nation," Gregory said to the applause of bishops. "That decision, more than any other in our recent history, has been responsible for blinding our national conscience to the truth about our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

He thanked the bishops for keeping the "truth about human life alive" in the aftermath of the decision.

Shortly after Gregory's address, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, introduced a statement, "A Matter of the Heart," which bishops plan to vote on later this week. The document calls for the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Bevilacqua, chairman of the bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, said there is a "disparity between public opinion, which is largely on the side of protecting life, and public policy, which is often antithetical to life."

The statement also praises the work of youth in the pro-life movement and commends individuals for turning away from abortion.

"This pastoral message also reaches out to anyone considering abortion," Bevilacqua said, "telling those who are suffering that the church and its ministries will help them with compassion and without condemnation."

The bishops' meeting comes on the heels of an election that gave Republicans a majority in Congress, creating hope that a partial-birth abortion ban would be enacted. The House of Representatives passed legislation on July 24 by a 274-151 vote, but the Democrat-led Senate never took action.

The bishops urged lawmakers to approve the measure in a letter of support earlier this year. Bevilacqua said the bill narrowly defined the procedure - a concern that prompted the Supreme Court to strike down a similar partial-birth abortion ban in Nebraska.

But not all advocates of a ban on partial-birth abortion think the legislation that passed the House was a step forward.

Jim Sedlak, vice president of the American Life League, said the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act had a loophole that would have rendered it worthless even if Bush did sign it into law. A provision in the bill would have allowed the procedure when "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered."

While the American Life League vigorously opposed such a provision, Sedlak said the new political landscape has given him hope that Congress will pass stronger legislation in the coming year.

"Based on the political conditions over the last 10 years, this is the best opportunity yet to put a total ban on partial-birth abortions," he said.

The shift of power has given hope to other anti-abortion groups.

"The fact that Bush didn't do it in his first 100 days was a mistake because he had a tremendous amount of momentum," said the Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International. "Now he has the momentum back and he's in an even better position. If he does not take advantage of this, he's going to make a grave mistake."

Some abortion supporters have observed the Republican-led Congress as a threat. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) have launched outreach efforts in the wake of last week's election.

NARAL President Kate Michelman said the election left America with "one of the most hostile political environments" to ever face pro-abortion advocates. Most alarming to both groups, however, are the potential appointments Bush could make to the Supreme Court, should a liberal or moderate justice step down.

"NARAL fully expects President Bush to select nominees who appease the far-right wing of his party and serve his own stated desire to have government make abortion illegal," Michelman said.

Added NOW President Kim Gandy: "Roe v. Wade hangs by a single vote. Tipping the balance of the Supreme Court with one more extremist justice would ensure the loss of abortion rights for generations."

Abortion supporters might be clamoring at the thought of a Republican-led Congress, but Sedlak and Euteneuer are hoping anti-abortion lawmakers seize the opportunity.

"The big obstacle during the Clinton years was the presidency and then in the last few years it was the Senate," Euteneuer said. "Right now [Republicans] have no obstacles, so they have no excuses."

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The organization's president, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., made the remarks to open the four-day meeting in Washington, D.C. Later in the week, the bishops are expected to adopt a statement calling for the reversal of the landmark Supreme Court...
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Tuesday, 12 November 2002 12:00 AM
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