Last Thursday, 16 of the 25 Catholics in the U. S. Senate voted to overturn the "Mexico City Policy" to allow funding to overseas health clinics providing abortions. One of the 16 was freshman Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) who ran against, and defeated, Sen. Rick Santorum as a "pro-life" candidate. It's doubtful whether Casey, son of the legendary pro-life Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey, will ever be able to convince voters of his pro-life label again.
This amendment to HR 2764, proposed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), passed by a margin of 53-41, setting the stage for a reversal of U.S. policy regarding aid to pro-abortion groups overseas. But President Bush has to sign it, and the White House has promised he won't.
The Mexico City Policy has become symbolic of the whole pro-life movement itself. It was first articulated by Ronald Reagan at the 1984 United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City. It requires "nongovernmental organizations to agree as a condition of their receipt of [U.S.] federal funds that such organizations would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
In other words, if you want to continue taking taxpayer dollars, you can't perform abortions.
The Mexico City Policy was rescinded in 1993 by then President Clinton within two weeks of taking office, and reinstated in 2001 by President George W. Bush on his first day in the Oval Office. After taking over the Senate last November, the Democrats have vowed to challenge the policy, which they have described as a "global gag rule."
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) led the fight against the bill. Along with three co-sponsors, including Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fl), Brownback narrowly won a bid -â€“ by three votes -- to restore the "Kemp-Kasten Amendment" to the bill. This provision, first passed in 1985, allows the President to deny U.S. funds to any organization or program that "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." This means the U. S. cannot make contributions to the U. N. Population Fund, because China funds coerced abortions to control population.
"Pro-life" Senator Casey originally voted for the Brownback amendment but returned to the floor two days later to ask that the Senate allow him to recast his vote against it.
According to National Review, Senator Casey said, "It was my intention to vote 'nay' [to upholding the Mexico City Policy]. Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to change my vote since it will not affect the outcome of that vote. "Casey must have heard from his supporters at Planned Parenthood who didn't approve of his not following the "party line."
Lifesitenews.com has reported that Casey declared himself opposed to public funding of abortion in the Voter Guide before the 2006 elections. He also indicated during the 2006 campaign that he "supports legal protection for human life from conception."
This is sad news for the Democratic Party and the Church â€“ Bob Casey, Jr. had the opportunity to be the Catholic pro-life leader in a political party that desperately needs one.
The White House promises a presidential veto, explaining, "The administration strongly opposes this legislation, because it includes provisions which are inconsistent with the Administration's international family planning policy."
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, urged the Senators to preserve both the Mexico City and Kemp-Kasten policies. Rigali said that without the Mexico City policy "abortion-promoting organizations will exploit their status as the conduits for U.S. aid to promote abortion to vulnerable women in the Third World."
The USCCB expressed disappointment at the passage of the legislation and appreciation for the promise of President Bush to veto it. There was no mention of the 16 Catholic Senators who ignored the letter from Cardinal Rigali asking them to continue supporting the Mexico City Policy.
Here are their names:
Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Christopher Dodd (CT-D), Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
It would have been 17 Catholic Senators voting to fund abortion, but Catholic presidential candidate Joe Biden (D-CT) missed the vote.
To see the best and worst voting records of Catholic members of Congress visit the "Catholic Advocate" section of InsideCatholic.com.
Deal W. Hudson is an independent columnist with InsideCatholic.com