Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No sooner had President Obama taken the oath of office than he betrayed two of his campaign promises.

In pledging to unite us, not divide us, he promised to find common ground on cultural issues, especially to search for ways to reduce the number of abortions. He thus won the vote of many pro-life voters who believed they could find compromise measures to America’s most contentious domestic policy issue. In fact, Mr. Obama secured 54 percent of the Catholic vote, many of whom are staunchly pro-life. Yet, on late Friday afternoon, in as quiet a manner as possible, the president repealed the ban on U.S. funding for foreign family planning aid groups that offer abortion services. This means that American tax dollars can now be used to provide abortions around the world; America is back in business as Doctor Death to millions of the world’s babies.

Democrats and Republicans have fought for more than twenty years over this. Ronald Reagan first introduced the ban in 1984; Bill Clinton overturned it in 1993; George Bush re-instated it in 2001. Now, Mr. Obama has declared a culture war right from the outset of his presidency - an act of pure political folly as he will immediately squander much goodwill.

The ban on providing funds to American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) abroad had a tangible impact: The International Planned Parenthood Federation said that in the last eight years $100 million in U.S. aid was lost to its affiliates in 100 countries. For example, Planned Parenthood of Zambia lost almost one quarter of its funding and 40 percent of its staff as a result of Mr. Bush’s policy. Thus, eliminating the ban will lead to a large increase in the availability of abortion in many nations.

Where is the outrage among the pro-life pro-Obama supporters who assured them throughout the campaign that Mr. Obama deserved their support because he would defend life? Consider the case of long-time Catholic and Republican legal scholar, Douglas Kmiec, who endorsed Mr. Obama in a March statement that said: “I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and that he wants to return the United States to that company of nations committed to human rights.” Mr. Kmiec also said: “As a Republican and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement.” Pro-life, pro-Obama adherents insist that providing socioeconomic support to women is key to reducing abortion, but while this may have an impact, so does a ban on federal funds to foreign NGOs that provide abortion.

Certainly the Vatican understands full well the meaning of Mr. Obama’s latest maneuver. A top official, considered close to Pope Benedict XVI, did not mince words: The repeal is a mark of the “arrogance of those who, having power, think they can decide between life and death,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The Vatican said the decision was “very disappointing.” When Mr. Obama was elected in November, Pope Benedict XVI was among those who congratulated him on his “historic” victory. The repeal of the ban will now tarnish the relationship; the Pope is not known to back down from a confrontation on issues so vital to the well-being of America and other countries, not to mention the lives of innocents.

Only three days into a new administration, the president of “hope” and “change” revealed that, in this enormous matter at least, he will not be a new leader who will work towards a kinder, gentler, more unified America. Instead he is immediately exacerbating old wounds in the body politic: He is simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Mr. Obama does not seem to realize that Pope Benedict XVI, much of the Islamic world, and America’s pro-life community, including many Protestants and others, will not go silently into the night. The reality of pre-term babies being killed is not a minor matter that can be ignored according to political fortunes: It creates a moral imperative from which there will be no relenting. The battle begins anew.

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