Monday, December 6, 2004

Pro-choice activists need to rethink “the value of the fetus” to reach middle-of-the-road voters, says Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice in the winter issue of her group’s magazine.

Her 7,400-word essay “Is There Life After Roe?” admits the legitimacy of parental-notification laws — “Surely we agree that young women aged 13, 14, 15 (and even older) need their parents at this time?” — and criticizes support by liberals for partial-birth abortion.

“We failed miserably to touch on the broader unrest about abortion itself that the procedure raised in the minds of many,” says Mrs. Kissling, the nation’s most prominent pro-choice advocate among Catholics.

“The movement, some felt, has gone too far when it defends such gruesome procedures. I am convinced that the negative reaction, for example, of some Catholic leaders to Senator Kerry’s candidacy to the presidency was based on his opposition to banning this procedure,” she writes.

Although the essay in Conscience magazine was written before last month’s election, Mrs. Kissling seemed to foresee the emerging emphasis on values.

“I am deeply struck by the number of thoughtful, progressive people who have been turned off to the pro-choice movement by the lack of adequate and clear expressions of respect for fetal life,” she writes.

Such people “have felt forced to defend what appears to be an absolute right to abortion that brooks no consideration of other values — legal or moral. This often means a reluctance to even consider whether or not fetal life has value.”

Joe Starrs, spokesman for the American Life League, agreed with Mrs. Kissling’s reservations and said he hoped that they would bring about a change of heart.

“If Frances Kissling continues on this path, logically she would end up as pro-life,” he said. “I don’t see any intellectually honest option available to her.

“She’s admitting a lot of the pro-abortion arguments don’t make sense,” Mr. Starrs said. “They’ve failed to capture the hearts and minds of the American people because they are way too radical.”

Mrs. Kissling’s group, Catholics for a Free Choice, is mostly funded by liberal foundations and has numerous ties to the abortion industry.

The popularity of ultrasound pictures during pregnancy, Mrs. Kissling adds, has led “to a greater connection to fetal life … Examples include 3-D and 4-D pictures of fetuses in utero that appear to be awake, asleep, walking, yawning — engaging in activities that are related to human identity.”

The pro-choice movement, she says, has ignored such doubts.

“No woman needs to brag about her choice, and the decision of one pro-choice organization to sell T-shirts announcing ‘I had an abortion’ was in poor taste and diminished the seriousness of the act,” her essay says.

But she maintains her stance against the church hierarchy, saying the nation’s 300 Catholic bishops do not seem to take abortion seriously, either.

“If bishops really believed that abortion was murder, they would individually and collectively make far more sacrifices to ensure that abortions did not happen,” she writes. “It is clear that the amount of money spent on preventing abortions is very little.

“The bishops claim that abortion is the greatest moral issue of our time, that Catholics cannot vote for candidates who are pro-choice and that pro-choice Catholic legislators are committing a grave sin by supporting legal abortion. This is a weak rhetorical response to ‘murder.’

“How can any bishop or parish priest justify spending one penny on anything discretionary rather than on helping the many women who would continue their pregnancies if they had the resources to bear and raise a child? No dinners, no business-class plane tickets, no vacations, no flowers on the altar as long as one penny is needed to prevent abortions.”

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