Abortion Is Turning Democrats Off to Kerry

WASHINGTON — A new revelation by National Right to Life is timed to hurt John Kerry's standing with Catholic voters like Larry Arceneaux.

Arceneaux is a dyed-in-the-wool southern Democrat from Houma, La., who represents a vote that Kerry has seen slip from his grasp: the Catholic Democrat.

When he heard National Right to Life's revelation that the top partial-birth abortion moneymakers were contributors to Kerry's campaign, Arceneaux was saddened but not surprised.

The abortion issue was one of many that forced him to change the way he is voting this year.

“I simply came to the realization that it was impossible for me to vote for someone that is for abortion,” said Arceneaux, a retired mechanical contractor. “I'm still a Democrat, but I'm ashamed of my party. My party has let me down. I haven't switched because I want them to know that this Democrat is not voting for them.”

Kerry, the Democrats’ candidate for president, has voted six times to keep partial-birth abortion legal.

In the procedure, a baby is partially delivered. The abortionist then makes an incision in the back of the baby's head and uses a vacuum to remove the baby's brain.

Arceneaux said it's this kind of extreme position on abortion that has led him to lead a revolt. He has collected signatures from more than 6,500 Catholic voters in Louisiana, Georgia and Minnesota who have declared they will support only pro-life candidates for local, state and national office.

The revelation came to light in an Oct. 11 article in The Weekly Standard by National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson.

Using Federal Election Commission records, Johnson discovered that abortionists Martin Haskell, George Tiller and Warren Hern have contributed to Kerry's campaign. Haskell owns three abortion businesses in Ohio; Tiller operates one in Wichita, Kan.; and Hern is the owner and director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic. Election commission records reveal that Haskell donated $2,000, Tiller donated $1,000, and Hern donated $4,000.

Individuals can donate up to $4,000 to a federal candidate — $2,000 for the primary and $2,000 for the general election.

Johnson said the money is not a vast sum when compared with millions spent by other groups, but added that the contributions are worth scrutinizing because of what they reveal about John Kerry.

“The Kerry campaign has readily accepted the contributions — money that might very well have originated in fees charged to perform partial-birth abortions,” Johnson said. “These are the three most notorious practitioners of late-term abortions. My conclusion is that these men must know the real John Kerry. By opening their checkbooks, they are indicating that Kerry is trustworthy.”

Reaction to the news from pro-life advocates was swift.

“Candidates like John Kerry, and those that espouse the pro-abortion philosophy, are definitely doing the bidding for those that make their living off of the killing of tiny, pre-born children,” said Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin. “The fact that John Kerry claims that he understands that human life begins at conception makes his position of advocating for abortion even more culpable.”

Kerry, a Catholic, told ABC News’ Peter Jennings that he believes life begins at conception. Yet, he has voted against all limits on abortion during his 20 years in the U.S. Senate and has pledged to appoint to the Supreme Court only those who share his position. Both NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund have given Kerry a 100% score for his voting record on abortion.

Earlier this year, Kate Michelman, former president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, told The New York Times, “Even on the most difficult issues, we've never had to worry about John Kerry's position.”

Three recent surveys have shown Catholic voters are trending toward President George W. Bush, a United Methodist, in increasing numbers.

Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, did not return the Register's telephone calls for comment on the shift among Catholic voters.

“Clearly, President Bush's pro-family, pro-life agenda is resonating with voters in a way that Sen. Kerry's liberal record has not,” said Martin Gillespie, director of Catholic Outreach with the Republican National Committee.

Kerry didn't help matters with his comments on stem-cell research, in which embryos are created and killed for research purposes. He said early this month that Bush was willing to “sacrifice science for extreme right-wing ideology” on the question of stem cells. The problem: Bush's position is softer than the Catholic Church's (see editorial, page 8).

The Polls

A Zogby International telephone survey conducted in August discovered that 60% of Catholics in Minnesota were likely to vote for Bush, with 36% voting for Kerry.

Helen Duffy Murphy, a Catholic voter from St. Paul, Minn., is among the majority in the state.

“I find it impossible to vote for those who promote abortion,” said Murphy, who describes herself as an independent. “It is in the Democratic Party platform, and any candidate running has to support it or they won't be given support.

“We're not only voting for who the president will be for the next four years, but we're voting for who will be on the Supreme Court for the next 40 years,” she said. “The next president will have the opportunity to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.”

Similar poll results, showing Catholics favoring Bush, were seen in Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to Zogby data, among battleground states, only in Nevada and New Mexico were Catholics more likely to say they will vote for Kerry.

A second poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, showed the president with a 49% to 39% advantage among Catholic voters. The third survey, conducted by the California-based Barna Research Group and released on Sept. 27, revealed that Catholic voters had shifted with 53% to 39% in favor of Bush.

Pollster George Barna described it as a “seismic shift,” considering that a similar survey by his firm in May showed the president behind Kerry by 42% to 48%.

“Many of the Catholics now behind Mr. Bush have traditionally voted Democratic, but have chosen a different course this time around,” Barna said.

The shift arrives on the heels of multiple efforts to educate Catholic voters. Such efforts include Catholic Answers’ Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics and an ad that ran in USA Today, Priests for Life's voter education and registration efforts, and Catholic Out-reach's booklet The Five Issues that Matter Most: Catholics and the Upcoming Election. Catholic Outreach is a Carlsbad, Calif., lay-run ministry dedicated to creating faith formation resources for Catholic evangelism.

“In this political atmosphere, there are two key issues for Catholics,” Zogby senior political writer Fritz Wenzel told Catholic News Service. “Concern about the legitimacy of the war in Iraq is being overridden by ongoing discomfort with Kerry's stand on abortion.”

Tim Drake writes from Saint Cloud, Minnesota.