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N.Y. pro-lifer is long-shot candidate for U.S. Senate
BY SABRINA ARENA FERRISIRegister Correspondent
— Of all the U.S. Senate races this year, John Spencer’s
challenge to Hillary Clinton in New
York could be the longest shot.
But Spencer is a Catholic who
doesn’t try to downplay his opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
“John Spencer takes the ideal,
conservative positions on family and morals,” said pro-life activist
Christopher Slattery, of Yonkers,
where Spencer was mayor from 1996 to 2003. “He has the values we need in the
U.S. Senate. He is the complete opposite of Hillary Clinton, who has always
But Spencer is a relatively
unknown political figure. “It would take a miracle for him to win,” Slattery
In the race, the former First Lady
has completely avoided all controversial subjects. Spencer has directly spoken
about all values issues.
Clinton’s massive funding and instant name recognition may allow
her to coast to victory. Polls have generally shown her to have a 20- to
30-point lead over Spencer.
“Hillary Clinton has always been
given a pass by the media,” said Spencer. “If she doesn’t answer the question,
no one comes after her.”
But there are many questions that
Catholic voters have — not all of which can be answered by Clinton’s well-honed website and speeches. A
cursory glance through her website’s platform issues would seem to paint her as
a moderate at best. Her website barely mentions her well-known support for
“I strongly believe that every
child should be wanted, cherished and loved. For more than a decade I have
worked to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, especially teen
pregnancies, and to promote policies with the goal of making abortion safe,
legal and rare.”
This does not specify that Clinton has been, in
fact, a champion of the “pro-choice” movement for years. She is a major
supporter of the most radical abortion-rights groups in the United States,
and has voted against every piece of legislation that would curtail abortion to
Clinton has also noticeably softened her wording — though not her
policies in recent months, calling abortion a “tragedy,” and stating that the
pro-life and pro-abortion movements must find common ground. She has also
increasingly mentioned the role of faith and prayer in her own life.
Her offices did not respond to
questions in time for this article.
“She talks a great game about
reducing abortions,” Slattery said. “But that is code for increasing the
availability of contraception. This policy has been a complete failure.”
In fact, Clinton was instrumental in pressuring the
Federal Drug Administration into making emergency contraception, or Plan B,
available over the counter to women 18 and above.
“I don’t believe that spreading
the ‘morning-after’ pill will reduce abortions,” said Slattery. “In Great Britain,
it did not work to reduce abortions. This is another sad project that,
unfortunately, many Republicans have bought into.”
Spencer — known for his tax
cutting and improvement of services in Yonkers,
New York State’s fourth largest
city — explains his pro-life position as one that came naturally to him.
“Having been adopted and raised by
a loving family, I do not believe in abortion,” said Spencer. “I think we
should get back to being a culture of life.”
Spencer has been a personal
contributor to local crisis pregnancy centers. When the National Abortion
Federation tried to regulate how crisis pregnancy centers advertise themselves
with the “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services” Act, H.R. 5052, in
March, Spencer immediately held a press conference
with a local crisis pregnancy center.
“As mayor of Yonkers,
he set up the first ‘safe haven’ in Westchester
County,” said Elizabeth Rex, a
Catholic activist in Yonkers.
“This is a place where women in desperate situations could leave their newborns
and not be prosecuted.”
Some Catholics may have qualms
about voting for Spencer, who had an affair with his secretary and is remarried
without an annulment. But not Slattery.
“I don’t want to be perceived as a
person who is indifferent to infidelity,” said Slattery, “but I don’t
necessarily think it means he would be a bad leader.”
“I’m Catholic and I’m divorced,”
Spencer said. “I’m not perfect but I try. I still go to church on Sunday, but I
don’t receive Communion.”
director of the New York State Right to Life Political Action Committee, said
her organization has given Spencer its full endorsement.
“He rejects embryonic stem-cell
research. He’s for parental notification. He’s against partial-birth abortion.
He would try to reduce the funding that abortion gets in New York State,”
she said. “He supports all our positions.”
Spencer is also plain-spoken about
his belief that marriage should be defined as between one man and one woman.
This is an area where Clinton, much to the annoyance of her supporters, has not
Clinton has publicly stated her support for the Defense of Marriage
Act, the 1996 law that gives states the option of not recognizing another
state’s same-sex “marriages” and prevents the federal government from
recognizing them as well. She has stated that she would have voted for it had
she been in Congress at the time.
She did, however, oppose the
Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Her reasoning was that
this was an issue best left to the states, and that the Constitution should not
be amended to deny a “right.” Same-sex “marriage” advocates have been angered
refusal to specifically endorse their position.
Alan Van Capelle,
executive director of the homosexual group Empire State Pride Agenda, called
her a “complete disappointment” who “does not deserve
an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) fund-raiser.” The story was
reported in the March 24, 2006 edition of the New York Observer’s “The Politicker.”
On immigration, Spencer would like
to see a more orderly process.
“We should be a nation of laws,”
he said. “Illegal people don’t live as citizens do. I know this as the former
mayor of Yonkers.
They live in fear. They’re abused by their landlords. They’re underpaid by
their employers. They are not living with dignity and are not served well in
those conditions. We need to have a process that helps them qualify for
residency. We are a nation of immigrants, but it needs to be done properly.”
Clinton has worked to pass various bills that enable illegal
immigrants to have better access to health care and education. She tried to
pass a bill that would extend legal benefits to migrant farm workers, but this
was blocked in the Senate. She has also supported legislation that provides
resources to fortify U.S.
Sabrina Arena Ferrisi
Mamaroneck, New York.