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February 24, 2009


John Lally

I understand your concerns and agree with some of them. But the main things I want to say in response to your commentary about my statement are as follows.

Democrats for Life is just that – a growing group of Democrats who are advocating for the unborn, as best they can in the political arena. And it is essential to the pro-life movement that Democrats who are pro-life stay in the party and make their voices heard. Indeed, relatively small though their numbers may be, the pro-life Democrats in Congress are crucial to legislative victories. Without them, one Congressman has said, the National Right to Life Committee “cannot pass one piece of legislation in the U.S. Congress.”

But pro-life Democrats are operating in the political arena, i.e., the realm of “the art of the possible,” where the perfect is commonly the enemy of the good. In this respect, the U.S. Catholic bishops have noted, “sometimes morally flawed laws already exist. In this situation, the process of framing legislation to protect life is subject to prudential judgment and ‘the art of the possible.’”

With this in mind, I ask you to fairly examine the DFLA website http://democratsforlife.org in some detail. And for a comprehensive, in-depth historical examination of Democrats for Life, see Mary Meehan’s two-part article in The Human Life Review, Summer and Fall 2003:
http://www.humanlifereview.com/2003_summer/article_2003_summer_meehan.php and

Do we also need prophets who proclaim the full, uncompromising Gospel of Life? Of course. However, in my opinion pro-life prophets should help pro-life politicians in promoting legislation which has a real chance of getting passed and reducing the abortion rate – especially when polls consistently show that most Americans are a mixture of pro-choice and pro-life. And for this reason I again urge you to contact your U.S. senators and representatives to cosponsor and support the Pregnant Women Support Act.

One last point. I do take issue with your oversimplified, misleading characterization of Sen. Casey as, in effect, only nominally pro-life. You make your case on the basis of a selective presentation of his record in Congress.

You present NARAL’s 2007 pro-choice score for Sen. Casey, but omit its 2008 score for him –
which is 0%. Moreover, you point to his vote against “the Mexico City Policy” in order to restore funds for family-planning organizations overseas which provide contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies and healthcare for pregnant women, but which also provide abortion or offer abortion counseling. By federal law those funds may not be used to promote or provide abortion but, some argue, they in effect free up other funds which will be used for those ends. (Sen. Casey, by contrast, supports this funding as making contraception and pregnant women’s healthcare available in regions where it is lacking, as needed means to help reduce the number of abortions.)

In any case, most importantly, you fail to give Casey credit for even one of the multiple pro-life actions he has taken in the two years he has been Senator. Specifically among these: he voted to prohibit the use of funding for overseas organizations that have coerced abortions; he voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research; he voted to enforce, at the federal level, prohibitions against transporting minors across state lines to have abortions; he voted for an amendment to preclude the Indian Health Service from using public money for abortions; he co-sponsored an amendment in the Children’s Health Insurance Bill to ensure the availability of coverage for unborn children as well as pregnant women; he has voted to provide public funds for organizations that work to reduce abortions by supporting pregnant women in various ways and has introduced the Pregnant Women Support Act in the Senate; and he opposes FOCA.

In conclusion, in view of his full Congressional record relating to abortion, to refuse to credit him as a pro-life ally in Congress seems to me counterproductive to our common cause to protect unborn lives.

Carol Crossed

John, your distinction re: parties and the art of the possible brings forth another dimension, that could be expressed in the terms 'grassroots' and what? establishment? Kind of those on the 'out' and those on the 'in'. I don't mean this in a deroguertory way at all. There is a purpose for both groups.

There are those who challenge and shake up and are somewhat removed from 'The Hill' as we refer to it in Washington. The less sophisticated in understanding the ways of politics and compromise, the idealists, the more independent, because they have less in the way of reputation and power to lose. I think of them as grassroots.

The 'in' people are honorable and acceptable and make laws, have the power to make decisions, and are moved to do so primarily because of the grassroots people who annoy the daylights out of them.

The question is what roll does DFLA play? Are they The Hill or are they grassroots? Are we the 'in' or are we the 'out'? My personal answer to that is to try to be both, be the 'in' democrats and be the 'out' pro-lifers. The current DFLA policy, to focus on The Pregnant Women Support Act, borders on chummy 'in'. To call for restrictions and regulations that our Party doesn't want to hear, borders on the estranged 'out'.

If we cannot walk that fine line and do both, which granted is very hard to do, then my personal choice is to walk in the grass rather than walk on The Hill.

Gerald Yeung

This is a relevant letter I wrote to President Obama, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Rep. Lowey, Gov. Paterson, State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assemblyman Brodsky:

On Jan. 22, 2009, the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama sought common ground in the abortion debate that continues to divide our country even while maintaining his commitment to legal abortion. “While this (abortion) is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.”

While I welcome the President's attempts to find common ground, I do not agree that contraception belongs there. The contraceptive mentality of sex without consequences is what gives rise to the use of abortion as birth control when the contraceptives fail. Also various forms of contraceptives are actually abortifacient to the extent that they prevent the implantation of a human embryo in the womb.

However, reducing the need for abortion and supporting women and families in choosing life are elements that people on both sides of the abortion divide can agree on. Indeed, the 2008 Democratic Party platform “strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.”

Accordingly, legislation should be enacted that supports women in the following areas:
• Establish a toll-free number to direct women to places that will provide support during and following their pregnancy;
• Fund collection of accurate data on abortion;
• Fund pregnancy counseling and daycare services on university campuses;
• Ban pregnancy as a “pre-existing condition” in the health care industry;
• Require accurate information on abortion and its potential adverse health effects on women at facilities that provide pregnancy counseling or abortion services;
• Require pregnancy centers and women's health centers that provide pregnancy counseling and that receive federal funding to provide adoption referral information;
• Provide grants to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations for the purchase of ultrasound equipment to provide free examinations to pregnant women needing such services;
• Increase funding for domestic violence programs that help pregnant women;
• Increase funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program;
• Provide child care to low income and student parents;
• Provide parenting education in maternity group homes;
• Extend coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to low-income pregnant women and unborn children;
• Provide services to parents receiving a positive test diagnosis for Down syndrome or other prenatally diagnosed conditions;
• Provide new mothers with free home visits by registered nurses;
• Provide grants to states to help promote and implement safe haven laws;
• Make adoption tax credits permanent.

I strongly urge you to work with President Obama to implement such common-sense, common-ground initiatives to reduce the need for abortions and support women's decisions to have a child.

Gerald Yeung

The following is a piece written by Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life:

The commitment to defend the weakest and most vulnerable human beings does not arise from a political party or platform, nor from any kind of personal or communal agenda. Nor does it arise from bishops, priests, or pastors. Rather, it arises from our humanity itself, fashioned as it is by the hand of God. God, who is life, writes upon our hearts its value, and He bestows on us both the gift of life and the privilege and duty to defend it. Nobody needs any kind of permission to defend life, nor can anyone excuse himself from that duty. Nobody has a monopoly on the defense of life, nor is the pro-life task a means to an end. Defending life is an end in itself, and has in itself all the justification it ever needs.

The two major political parties in America, right now, take opposite views of the right to life. The Democratic Party platform (2004) reads, "Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay." The Republican Party platform (2004) reads, "We must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the 14th Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it."

There are, nonetheless, pro-life and pro-abortion members of both parties, including legislators on the state and federal level.

Recently, I was with some of the pro-life Democratic members of Congress at a press conference led by Democrats for Life and held at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. The topic was the "95-10" Initiative, which contains numerous legislative proposals aimed at reducing the numbers of abortion by 95% in the next ten years.

There are many proposals in this package, like women's right-to-know provisions, funding for promotion of alternatives to abortion, strengthening of adoption practices, and more. These are key goals for all of us to pursue. The precise way in which these and other proposals in 95-10 should be written into law will, of course, need to be carefully debated and refined. For example, we always have to avoid the trap of thinking that access to contraception is a solution to the abortion problem. The opposite, in fact, is true.

And in the end, we cannot be content to reduce the numbers of abortions. We have to acknowledge that laws permitting even a single abortion undermine the very fabric of our freedom and our republic. Abortion is an act of violence that no nation has the right to permit. But when anyone in our great nation, Democrat or Republican, wants to advance the Culture of Life to any degree, that deserves an "Amen!" from us all.

tom faranda

RE: Senator Casey -

NARAL does not post congressional votes for Congressional year, 2007 the first year of the 111th Congress. they only have posted for 2008, not 2007. So I can't find their scorecard for Casey in 2007, where it's reported they scored him at 65%. In 2007 he also voted to reverse the Mexico City policy, but Bush vetoed.

And of course his recent vote to reverse the Mexico City policy was in 2009, so not counted - yet - by NARAL.

The National Right to Life Committee has Casey's voting record for his entire time in the Senate - 110th and current 111th Congress. He has voted pro-life on five out of nine votes, so 44% anti-life. Not exactly a prolife champion, especially with two votes for funding overseas abortions.

By contrast, the other prolife senator, Ben Nelson, voted 8 of 9 times prolife.

Data can be found here:

John Lally


We can go back and forth on what criteria to use in correctly designating someone “pro-life”– without coming to an agreement. So I’d like to conclude my comments in this entire dialog with this:

Insofar as I wrote my original statement to try to appeal to anyone who is interested in trying to protect unborn lives to examine the Pregnant Women Support Act), I again urge you to do so. And if you agree that it has real pro-life potential, then write your U.S. Senator and Representatives and ask them to support it. (You can check the details of the Pregnant Women Support Act [S.270 and H.R. 605] at THOMAS, run by the Library of Congress, at http://thomas.loc.gov/ )


tom faranda


I have no problem supporting the bill. However I also have no doubt that it's primary purpose in the eyes of many politicians is a political one; to give cover to pro-abortion politicians who can then claim they are doing something to reduce "unnecessary" abortions.

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