Kerry Admits Life Begins at Conception
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's declaration that human life begins at conception acknowledges the truth, but the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate continues to advocate that abortion is good for women, according to a spokes-person for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“People who hold the view that abortion is good or necessary for women and that life begins at conception … are willing to overlook the death of the baby because they think they are serving a greater cause. They think they are serving the cause of women,” said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of the bishops' conference's Pro-Life Secretariat.
In an interview published July 3 in the Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph Herald, Kerry said, “I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception.”
Ruse says the illogic of being personally opposed to something but supporting it legislatively is akin to a politician who declines to fight slavery because he does not wish to impose his personal belief on the rest of the country.
“There's a clear parallel how the laws are treating these two subjects and the question of personhood,” she said. “That parallel can't be ignored. Slaves were treated as less than a whole person under the law, and under the Roe-imposed legal system, with regard to abortion, unborn children are treated as zero.”
“It's not a Catholic view to have two sets of morals — one that you pick up when you go home and another set that you pick up when you go to the office,” she said.
Kerry is the first Catholic since John F. Kennedy to be major-party candidate for president.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, says Kerry's comments are just another example of the senator's waffling.
“With respect to the humanity of the unborn child, he has addressed it a number of times over the years,” Johnson said. “In 1985, a constituent wrote to him asking him to support the Unborn Children's Civil Rights Act. Kerry wrote, ‘I cannot support this bill because it's based on the premise that a fetus is a living human being.'”
“Fast forward to this Congress,” Johnson continued, “where a different facet of the issue was debated in the context of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act or Laci and Connor's Law.
“Abortion was specifically excluded from the bill. It dealt entirely with the status of the unborn child who is injured or killed during the commission of a violent federal crime. Despite a personal appeal from Laci Peterson's mother, Kerry voted against that. He voted for a competing bill that would have written it into the federal code that those crimes have only one victim.”
Kerry's comments to the Dubuque newspaper come on the heels of charges of heresy leveled by a Los Angeles canon lawyer. Marc Balestrieri filed the canon law charges with the Archdiocese of Boston, Kerry's domicile, on the basis that Kerry supports a “right-to-murder” doctrine. Balestrieri said Kerry's statement about life beginning at conception only strengthens the case against him.
“I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist,” Kerry told the newspaper. “We have separation of church and state in the United States of America.”
A spokesman at Kerry's campaign office who asked to remain anonymous said, “The statement in the article is pretty clear, and I don't know if there's anything more that we really need to add to that.”
Ruse, however, says abortion supporters are acknowledging that life begins at conception.
“Certainly, the majority of Americans believe that abortion ends the life of an unborn child, even if they're not willing to say when that life begins,” she said. “You have this strange paradox where you have people acknowledging the life of the child, acknowledging the reality of abortion, yet embracing legal abortion.”
Advances in medicine and science have shown beyond a doubt that life begins at conception, she said.
“In order not to be laughed at, you've got to acknowledge that life does not begin at birth,” she explained. “That's a philosophy, but that's not fact. The argument that it's not a human life is one leg the abortion-rights movement has been standing on.
“The assumption that abortion is good for women is a lie. Abortion in our country requires a double blindness — we have to be blind to the personhood of the child, which is what Roe demands, and we have to be blind to the reality of women's experiences and be blind to women.”
While Kerry's statement regarding conception implies his support for the Catholic position on life, his voting record is unambiguously pro-abortion.
“On the issues we've scored on the floor, he's voted against our position 92 out of 94 times,” National Right to Life's Johnson said. “The two times he voted in accord with our position, it was on issues that weren't of concern to the abortion lobby.
“Kerry has been absolutely compliant to the dictates of the most extreme pro-abortion advocacy groups. He has never voted against the position of the National Abortion Rights Action League on any issue. In 20 years, a remarkable number of issues have come up.”
Kerry has also been outspoken in his opposition to the Bush administration's overseas population-assistance programs. Two days after being sworn in as president, Bush issued an executive order ensuring that nongovernmental agencies wouldn't receive taxpayer funds if they perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning.
“Kerry has been savagely critical of that policy,” Johnson said. “He has abused the president for this and has said publicly that if elected, his first executive order would be to overturn that policy.
“That's hardly the posture of someone who feels his hands are tied by the Supreme Court. He wants to go out there and export this ideology. He's pledged not to consider appointing anybody who's not committed in advance to continue all of the court's pro-abortion precedents.
“If you just read the Iowa quote, you might figure this poor guy would like to do something, but the Supreme Court has hemmed us in. No. This is a guy who says, ‘You put me in the Oval Office and I'll make sure that nobody gets to the Supreme Court unless they support Roe.’”
Patrick Novecosky writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- July 18-24, 2004