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Food for the Poor Godspy.com: Faith at the Edge


Angelo Matera | 11.14.08

After Obama: Why Catholics should open a ‘second front’ in the Democratic Party

I have a commentary in this week’s National Catholic Register entitled “What Now? Will New Voters Refashion the Democratic Party?” I argue that the election had a silver lining for Catholics: the same voters who turned out in large numbers for Obama—blacks and other minorities—voted strongly for California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative which amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage. (Gay marriage bans also passed in Arizona and Florida). I cite that example to make the case that it’s time for Catholics to appeal to disenfranchised socially conservative Democrats, and open up a political ‘second front’ on behalf of a consistent ethic of life in the Democratic Party. Read the article for the rest of the argument.

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By Dave AT 11.17.08 08:07PM Not Rated


I think that Communion and Liberation is doing an amazing job bridging the gab between faith and culture. Especially the Crossroads Cultural Center.

By GTN AT 11.18.08 03:20AM Not Rated


Well, I would certainly like to see socially conservative Democrats, but they are missing the other half of the coin. Economic conservatism is almost as important, and may even be viewed as just as important as the social issues if you realise economic ideology is a reflection of the spiritual state of a nation.

But I think Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, and the up-and-coming generation of Republicans will appeal to the minorities and women anyways. Better one united front than two supposed allies fighting it out with eachother and the enemy.

By dsconi AT 11.19.08 06:15AM Not Rated


How interesting.  At a time when many of our betters in the print and electronic media are blaming the Republican party’s recent election losses on the courting of culturally conservative and religious voters to the detriment of attracting a greater share of the “moderate middle”, comes an appeal for pro-lifers to switch sides and work to “convert” the Democratic party from within.  After all, it is argued,  the philosophy of the Democrats is more authentically Catholic (in a seamless garment sort of way, of course) despite the inconvenient fact that their party platform is unabashedly pro-abortion, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-euthanasia and pro-homosexual marriage.  Wrong on four out of the five non-negotiable life issues, by why quibble.  After all, the Democratic party is more serious about securing world peace, eradicating poverty, protecting the environment and going easy on terrorists and criminals—Catholic issues all!

It is a lofty goal, I suppose, but if the recent history of Democratic presidential candidates is any indication, the price of power and influence within the national party is the jettisoning of any and all traditional norms regarding sex, marriage and the family—along with a repudiation of all prior political stances favoring protection for the unborn, less-than-enthusiastic support of special privileges for homosexuals or defense of marriage.  Has any Democratic candidate for president in the last few decades not passed the litmus tests of unrestricted access to abortion and a solemn promise to appoint Supreme Court Justices sympathetic to Roe? 

I just don’t see this happening.  How can such a claim even be made when groups like Democrats for Life refuse to fight the party leadership over allowing even modest restrictions on abortion and, instead, soothe their consciences with the ridiculous notion of substantially reducing abortion through anti-poverty legislation?  Is the hope here that the Democrats for Life will begin to develop a spine with the influx of more dedicated pro-lifers?  That is, the kind of pro-lifers who speak out on the issue regardless of the cost, pray at abortion clinics, write their elected representatives, boycott companies and consistently vote against pro-choice politicians?  Will these folks join the party of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, the ACLU, People United for the Separation of Church and State, et al, with the “audacity of hope” to believe that they can effect “change” in the legal status of the unborn?  You’ve got to be kidding.

While President-elect Obama did win a majority among Catholic voters, his pro-life opponent won majority support among Catholics that actually attend mass.  Maybe the answer is to get more Catholics into the Democratic fold by discouraging them from attending mass or at least ignoring the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Church regarding a duty to vote against pro-abortion political candidates, not for them.  The sad reality is that the Democratic party has sold its soul to advocacy groups promoting an extreme sexual libertinism that is antithetical to Catholic teaching on human sexuality—and with it human dignity.  Look at the rapid assent and tremendous power of militant homosexuality over the last decade and tell me that those folks are going to tolerate faithful Catholics charting the future course of “their” party.  I’m afraid that the kind of Catholic Mr. Matera’s proposal is likely to draw into the Democratic party is already comfortably there.

By Debra Murphy AT 11.20.08 08:32PM Not Rated

Debra Murphy

It makes no sense to me, strategically, to abandon to the pro-aborts a party which a) has more registered voters than the Republicans, b) is on average in power about half the time, and c) is currently the only viable alternative to a party which, despite its admirable pro-life talk, has a) done little to decrease the number of abortions in this country, b) led us into a disastrous “pre-emptive” war condemned by the pope and rejected by the majority of Americans, c) attempted to legitimize torture, d) stood by (and arguably contributed to) an unprecedented Fleecing of America, and e) offered us as their Best and Brightest candidates who were either unqualified and polarizing (Palin) or (McCain) verbally trigger-happy and confused on human life issues. 

See the Democrats for Life page (http://www.democratsforlife.org/) for information on prolife inroads into the Democratic party. Especially for Catholics living in the overwhelmingly “blue” states (such as my own state of Oregon), these initiatives are very important.

By GTN AT 11.21.08 11:43PM Not Rated


What’s wrong with polarizing? God polarizes. Heaven/Hell, saved/unsaved, right/left- I mean wrong.

By dsconi AT 11.22.08 08:33AM Not Rated


Why do I waste my time here?  If it wasn’t for the misleading “Catholic” designation in subtitle I wouldn’t feel obligated to check in on occasion and comment about the heterodoxy that tends to dominate Mr. Matera’s articles—and also in the comments of those who disagree with the opinions expressed in my posts.  As I often find myself asking the students in my confirmation class: “Are you forming your opinions on these matters according to the teaching of the Church, or the teaching of the secular world?”

I’ve been down this road a few times before, and in typical Godspy fashion, comments supported by incontrovertible facts, sound logical reasoning, and authentically-Catholic teaching either elicit a trite response that redirects without addressing my key arguments, or turn out to be “thread killers” that receive no response at all.
I’ll play along with Debra Murphy since she was kind enough not to ignore me completely—even if her comment completely ignored the substance of my post.  If I am not mistaken, I wasn’t the writer advocating that anyone abandon their current party.  I believe it was Mr. Matera who made such a proposal.  I simply pointed out that a significant movement of Republican-voting pro-lifers into the Democratic party would be as fruitless as it is unlikely.  Period.  Would anyone like to show me where I am mistaken in my thinking with respect to facts, logic, recent history or the Catechism?

I’ve addressed the supposed “failures” of the Republican party to decrease the number of abortions in previous posts—the thread killer kind of posts that get no response.  It amazes me that any thinking person can honestly claim “Republican failure” in this area when the root cause of such “failure” is Democratic opposition!

The full explanation requires a civics lesson and a history lesson that I don’t have the time to repeat in full.  Been there.  Done that.  No response.  As for the civics, suffice to say that the President doesn’t get do do whatever he wants, nor does a Congress—even under single-party control.  Now the history:  every single pro-life initiative of a Republican President or a Republican Congress in my adult lifetime has been impeded by the efforts of Democrats—and very often prominently Catholic Democrats, from heavily Catholic states!  From legislation to judicial appointments to policy matters, the Democrats fight tooth and nail to defeat any measure that places any restriction on abortion.

Ronald Reagan(R) nominates staunchly pro-life Robert Bork who is rejected in the Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Joe Biden(D)(C).  Instead we get Anthony Kennedy who decides against pro-life laws in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Carhart v Gonzales and others.  Bill Clinton(D) twice vetoes legislation banning partial birth abortion.  Majority leader Tom Daschle(D)(C) keeps the same bill from a floor vote with George W. Bush (R) anxious to sign it into law.  Bush(R) appointees Roberts and Alito side with Reagan(R) appointees Scalia and Thomas in getting partial birth abortion ban upheld.  Lesser known Republican pro-life successes such as the Hyde Amendment and the Mexico City Policy, in place under Republican presidents, were rejected under Clinton(D) as will be the case with Obama(D).  And so, so much more.  We are talking human lives in the balance here, not just statistics.  Actual human lives saved due to Republican initiatives, actual human lives lost due to Democratic opposition. 

Can someone please tell me what the Democratic party has done FOR the cause of life and not AGAINST it over the past few decades?  And, please, can we do this without redefining “life” as a social justice issue—about which Catholics are free to disagree regarding the efficacy of various policy prescriptions?  Why can’t we just admit that the Democratic Party is brazenly pro-abortion and that pro-lifers within its ranks are wholly ineffective at defending unborn life in the political arena?  I would love to hear from a Democratic-voting pro-lifer who is actively involved with the Respect Life ministry at their church, who prayerfully provides witness at their local abortion clinic, who financially supports groups fighting abortion and who risks the ire of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers by boldly and uncompromisingly defending the unborn.  Does such an individual exist?  Actually, I think Jesus might have addressed that one:  “Can a man serve two masters?”

By chassup AT 11.22.08 03:43PM Not Rated


Prop 8 prevailed, not because the ads were reasonable, civilized and thoughtful, as the video illustrates and Angelo proposes, but because California voters are decidedly center-right on moral issues.  As a matter of fact, similar ballot initiatives in other states all prevailed as well because America is center-right.  The ads may have increased awareness of the proposition, but it won the day because Californians agree.

During the election, during all elections in the past two decades, many Catholics suggest that the Democratic candidates offer the best hope for a pro-life government because they are closer to the church’s teaching on social justice for the born.  The problem is that the argument is based on the false conventional wisdom that the modern liberal world view is pro-life, it is not. 

For example; The war on poverty has taken $3 trillion from taxpayers and the problems are worse.  The death and destruction left in the wake of liberal social engineering in the name of justice is anything but pro-life.  An entire generation of black children have been slaughtered as a result.  Inner city traditional families are a minority, failing schools, crime, violence and racial divide are all symptoms of policies based, not on God’s laws, but secular humanist ideology.  To argue that the Dems offer a home to Catholic voters yearning for leadership that will lead America toward the light is irrational.

The Democratic platform not only demands total access to abortion for any reason, and at any time—Obama advocates even in the fourth trimester it seems—they also advocate we continue down their failed path misnamed “social justice” by many Catholics.  The Democratic ethic must deny God as Catholics know Him to be rational.

I implore my fellow Catholics to think about this, government policies designed to remove personal responsibility as an integral part of the solution to the human condition are not just, are not compassionate, deny the natural law and are doomed to failure.  A pro-life ethic can not exist alongside such a world view, because it requires individual human liberty, it requires we hold one another accountable in mercy and justice, it requires we love one another authentically, not through a collective arrangement that relieves us of our individual responsibilities to relationship with our fellow man.

The Republican party has its warts, and is hardly 100% pro-life, but the party offers Catholic voters a seat at the table where our leadership can make a difference, because we don’t have to first change their foundational moral framework to be considered relevant.  In a word, we don’t have to define God to be understood.

By Vico AT 11.23.08 11:43PM Not Rated


Well at least I take some comfort from knowing my children are not in DSCONI’s Confirmation class.

By dsconi AT 11.24.08 04:48AM Not Rated


In what sense, Vico?  Are you comforted to know that your children will not be learning what the Catholic Church actually teaches on issues of faith and morals?  Why bother to have your children confirmed in the Catholic faith if you prefer that their hearts and minds be conformed to the thinking of the world instead?  Should I not point out the obvious contradiction in holding beliefs that are diametrically opposed to the teaching the faith in which they are seeking to become confirmed?  Are you suggesting that I spend the class period criticizing and undermining the teaching of the Church instead of clearly explaining and vigorously defending it?  Wouldn’t you agree that a major problem in the Church today is nominal Catholics who do not know the fullness of the Catholic faith, let alone embrace it, practice it and joyously share it?  According to the archbishop of my diocese and also my pastor, the role of a catechist is to faithfully transmit the actual teaching of the Church.  I am not to teach my own opinions, nor, I suppose, those of Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, Catholics for Choice or other dissident groups.  Of course, the kids in my class are free to reject the teaching authority of the Magisterium if they so desire, but at least they will be rejecting the true faith (or embracing it for that matter) and not some morally neutral, politically correct substitute. 

What does it mean to be a Roman Catholic if one rejects the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in favor of a secular worldview?  If the Church is wrong about supposedly “minor” issues such as abortion, homosexuality, chastity, and a host of others, how can any of us be certain that the Church is right about the really big ones such as Divine Judgment, Heaven, Hell, and Salvation?  Or am I not supposed to bring these issues up in class either?

If you are a Catholic, I am genuinely confused by your comment.

By zorozero AT 11.24.08 11:59AM Not Rated


From an Interview with Bishop Hermann on the Courage to Die for Life 11/22/2008

“I have great empathy and great compassion for people who are influenced by society and are taken in by the big lie that God does not exist. My job is to raise their awareness to, yes He does (exist), and it does make a difference what you believe. It makes a big difference in what you do.

In addition to this premise that God does not exist, we also have to be aware that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and the powers and the spirits of this world of darkness, as Paul tells us in Ephesians.

Therefore, behind Planned Parenthood, behind the abortion issue, is the evil one. I often see human beings caught up in this as victims of the evil one who need my prayers and who need my compassion and who need my love. We don’t only want to save our children from destruction; we also want to save our adult brothers and sisters from eternal destruction.”

The bishop also points out we have aborted fifty times the number of Americans who have died defending our freedom since the Revolutionary War.

I teach a Confirmation class as well.  My agreement is to teach what the Church teaches. I think that the Church teaches we need to love God and love our neighbors…all of them, beginning with those newly conceived.

By Vico AT 11.24.08 03:36PM Not Rated


Disconi I do not want my children to get an impression that God is a giant syllogism in the sky. I also don’t want them to confuse rules with principles. Tradition Disconi, is the living faith of the dead, a continuing argumentive conversation; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.
  As for dissenters, how about Francis and the Incarnation? Newman and the development of doctrine?
  Not once in your description do you mention the fundamental pedagogical function of the Liturgy. That is sad but revealing.

By dsconi AT 11.25.08 05:07AM Not Rated


Vico, how did we get to this point in the conversation?  And how, I wonder, can you possibly presume to infer that I am a “Traditionalist” practicing a “dead faith”?  How do we go from my respectful critique of Mr. Matera’s contentions that pro-lifers would do well to join the ranks of the Democrats to your false and baseless attacks on my sincere efforts to declare and defend the Catholic faith?  How does questioning Catholic teens about the influence of secular sources in informing their consciences set me up for criticism of this nature?  I cannot even begin to imagine what could possibly be so “sad but revealing” about my failure to mention “the fundamental pedagogical function of the Liturgy”—in a series of comments addressing the stranglehold that abortion has on the Democratic Party!  This is absolutely absurd. 

Syllogism, smyllogism.  Once again, not a single substantive criticism of my comments regarding the intersection of abortion, politics and the Catholic faith.  Shift the focus to attacking the messenger, and perhaps we can all ignore the message.  Where am I, Daily Kos?

By chassup AT 11.25.08 04:11PM Not Rated


Hey DSCONI, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been called a Pharisee, a neocon, I’ve been compared to a Nazi, I’ve been accused of incivility and lacking enough intelligence to understand nuanced arguments.  The way I see it, I’m not saying anything of value unless political liberals are calling me names, that’s what they do when the facts are against them.

Your argument against getting into bed with the Democrats is correct and articulate. 

BTW, I taught 8th grade CCD for 4 years—I rarely used the milk-toast text, instead relying on the catechism, the bible, and my old Baltimore catechism to prepare my students for Confirmation.  We had class in the church often—in adoration, I didn’t speak, they listened, something many never did before.  Homework was prayer with family members, many parents were grateful, many were outraged, all the students liked it.  I included heavy doses of morality as taught by Holy Mother Church contrasting our modern culture, even when it conflicted with popular opinion or their own home situations.  They love it when you tell them the truth, it gives them self confidence, it proves Catholicism is something real, instead of a surface identity.

Keep telling the truth, I sense you are no coward.  Remember your own Confirmation, the Bishop told me one day God would require my service as a soldier for Him.  We are in the midst of a great spiritual battle that has overtly spilled onto our political scene, no longer hidden in the dark.  We must continue to speak truth to earthly power, and endure baseless attacks, and more.

For those who think their is common ground in the Democratic party for the culture of life, remember that their candidate is the most ardent supporter of abortion to ever run for the office.  Remember also that he skips church on Sundays to instead go to the gym.  A man goes to church to worship God, he goes to the gym to worship himself.

By Harold Fickett AT 11.25.08 04:17PM Not Rated

Harold Fickett

DISCONI, I think we can (and should) stipulate to the realities you cite in your original post.  The last couple of years, as I’ve been writing for GODSPY, I’ve been frank about the godless philosophical model regnant in the Democratic Party and the impossibility of voting for Obama because of his pro-abortion stance.

At the same time, wouldn’t it be wonderful if both parties were pro-life?  Then we could talk about what government should do, what it does well, what it cannot by its nature do well, how alliances between the public and private sectors might be formed or strengthened, and the twin but competing imperatives of individual liberty versus the collective good. We could actually have a discussion about other fundamental issues in governance.  As it is now, Catholics, as you argue well, are obliged because of the non-negotiables to support Republican candidates.  But there’s a strain of libertarianism in the Republican party that doesn’t care about the social issues or indeed much at all about the common good. I’ve been voting for a new Supreme Court since Reagan.  While I’ve gotten Roberts and his kin, I’ve also gotten Souter, Kennedy and Stevens. 

Plainly, Obama will appoint judges that will enshrine abortion rights and further diminish the sanctity of life for the next generation. Since that’s the reality, we need to reach out to as many people as possible—we need to do even more to engage people culturally.  There are more Nat Hentoffs out there, or could be—or at least we should investigate the possibility.  I don’t dispute your facts, though; nor can the forbidding realities you bring forward be gainsaid.

By jmedaille AT 11.26.08 04:01AM Not Rated


The abortion issue has been the devil’s greatest triumph: on the one hand, he gets one group of people to support a philosophy of the slaughter of the innocents, and on the other, he uses it as wedge to get people to vote for war, economic oppression, torture, debt, and a host of other evils. Either way, the devil wins; he has bets on both sides and collects on both ends.

The problem with the anti-abortion movement is that it never really articulated a pro-life agenda. My own take on what that would look like can be found at http://distributism.blogspot.com/2008/09/pro-life-or-just-anti-abortion.html

And there is a pro-life segment of the Democratic Party, the Democrats for Life. See http://distributism.blogspot.com/2008/11/democrats-for-life-and-9510-plan.html

By dsconi AT 11.26.08 05:09AM Not Rated


Thank you Chassup for your support and encouragement.  Thank you Mr. Fickett for addressing the substance of my arguments and affirming thier validity.

Over the long term, the major political parties have undergone dramatic change as old alliances have been severed and new have been formed, as old constituencies have been snubbed and new ones embraced.  Of course it is perfectly reasonable to believe that today’s Democratic party may one day become a genuine party of life embracing the full spectrum of Catholic social teaching with respect to human dignity and the promotion of peace, justice and the common good.  I just cannot fathom how the Democratic party can possibly get to there from here in the foreseeable future.  The trend lines are headed in the opposite direction with regard to the sanctity of all human life half of the equation, and this downward slope is getting steeper by the election cycle.

Can I be so bold as to suggest that perhaps Mr. Matera actually has it backwards in his article?  To my mind it would be far easier to present a reasoned argument for the efficacy of increasing, strengthening and expanding the scope of the existing pro-life front within the Republican party as the means to realizing the dream of a social order founded upon principles shared by Catholics of varied political leanings.  If the conventional wisdom surrounding the Republican’s recent election losses is to be believed, a widening fissure between the social conservative and libertarian wings of the party is largely to blame.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to this analysis, but you’ve got to admit that there’s not much questioning of the strength of the coalition the Democrats have cobbled together.  Any chance the Democrats are looking for a change within their own ranks?  Not on your life.  Which party would appear to be more ripe for change?  Perhaps even change we can believe in?  How about an internal effort to steer the Republican party away from all that its Godspy critics detest?

Is there any political position or philosophy proportionately repulsive to abortion that keeps social justice, seamless garment-type Catholics from even considering a place under the Republican tent?  Anything more repulsive to them than the current practice of joining hands and hearts with groups and individuals aggressively promoting abortion, euthanasia, the gay agenda, secularism, relativism, radical personal autonomy and a public square devoid of any and all expression of religious faith?

Ideally, we would have a multitude of viable political parties and all would have an effective pro-life presence, so that there would always be pro-life representation at all times and in all places regardless of the inevitable shifts in the balance of power.  Right now, however, the Democratic and the Republican parties are the only major players, and the game is essentially winner take all.  The oft-mentioned socially conservative candidates fielded by the Democrats lately are a perfect case in point.  These candidates increase the party’s majority in Congress and its ability to shape policy, but without having their pro-life or pro-family positions get in the way of Democratic legislation antithetical to such.  Barring a 180 degree turn, adding more pro-life members to the Democratic fold will only serve to engender more aggressive pro-abortion legislation and more overtly pro-abortion justices.  How long should we patiently wait for this turn-around to occur, and how many precious lives will be exterminated in the interim?

I cold really use some convincing here.  Perhaps Mr. Matera could chime in if he is not too busy penning his next piece?  Anyone?  Anyone?

By jmedaille AT 11.26.08 05:26PM Not Rated


The problem is that after 35 years, the anti-abortion movement has become a rump group even in the Republican Party. According to a Fox News poll, only 9% of Republicans named it as an important issue.

I believe that the problem is that it is NOT a pro-life movement, but an anti-abortion movement based on a Lockean “right” to life. The anti-abortion movement, despite making the claim, was never able to place the argument in a pro-life context. In any case, it is clear that whatever we have done has not worked. Angelo may be wrong, but he can’t be any more wrong than the movement has been up until now. Time for some new thinking, if we are really serious about this.

By Harold Fickett AT 11.26.08 05:44PM Not Rated

Harold Fickett

DSCONI, What you say about the Republican Party is true enough as well. Boehner & Company seem to have drawn the conclusion from the election that the Republicans should stick to being a party of national defense and low taxes and forget about the social issues—since “the suburbs” are now irretrievably pro-choice. 

What this says to me is that the next two decades must be all about transforming the imagination of the culture—on all fronts. We have to first reconvince the Catholic and evangelical laity that revelation provides us with information that transcends the historical-cultural moment and therefore serves as a reliable basis for moral choices.  Presently, people, particularly young people, are in thrall to a live-and-let-live tolerance that’s highly intolerant of moral distinctions. Angelo pointed out that the reasonableness of the Proposition 8 ads is the way to go in countering such.  We cannot be coopted by secular thinking; nor can we let the secular world stereotype us as know-nothings and nags.  The hatred that the cultural left harbors for Christians is truly stunning, as reflected in online posts everywhere.  Most Christains are intimidated by this.  We cannot be.  That’s why forums like GodSpy are absolutely essential.  We have to be in the marketplace of ideas in new and suprising ways.  That means running a publication where a variety of viewpoints can be presented—something religious journalism has been distinctly bad at, as almost every Christian publicaion devolves into a thoroughly predictable house organ.  GodSpy is not Commonweal nor is it The National Catholic Register.  It may become, God willing, something truly new in religious journalism—faithful, smart, and unpredictable. A place to agree on the essentials, debate everything else, and grapple with new developments in cultural as best we can on Catholic terms.

By chassup AT 11.26.08 06:50PM Not Rated


HAROLD FICKETT, Boehner & Company’s conclusions from the election are wrong, we have a lot less “transforming the imagination of the culture” to do than you think.  As a matter of fact,  DSCONI’s proposal to work from inside the GOP is the smart move.  The GOP ran the wrong guy, he wasn’t conservative enough.

I am involved in a long term project that tracks American values—Americans continue to be decidedly center-right, including on social issues.

Our new poll numbers—which have yet to be made public—show that 49% of Americans oppose Obama signing the Freedom of Choice Act (while 39% support; 12% no opinion)  Also, 54% of small city voters, 51% of suburban voters, and 52% of rural voters said they also oppose Obama signing FOCA.
58% of Americans also said they’d support a constitutional amendment allowing states to enact anti-abortion laws if the Congress removes restrictions on abortions.  (58% of suburban voters, 62% of rural voters and 55% of large city voters also feel the same way)

What we need are truly conservative candidates who aren’t ashamed of their faith in God.

By Harold Fickett AT 11.26.08 07:32PM Not Rated

Harold Fickett

CHASSUP—Good news is always good news.  I hope your organization will help correct Boehner & Company’s erroneous conclusions. 

At the same time, I do think the Republicans need to start thinking harder about individual liberty versus the collective good.  I liked Tim Pawlenty’s speech at the Republican convention, but noticed it left the delegates unmoved.  Not enough “red meat.”  But he’s a true pro-life advocate, from what I know, and he was trying to think about what globalization means and how to re-think governance in our world.  “Compassionate conservatism” has been so regularly ridiculed that no one wants to be tied to the nomenclature, but in fact the public-private partnerships that were formed under President Bush did some fine work.  As you’ve pointed out in other posts, because government must pursue “one size fits all” policies, it can never be adept in treating social ills.  That’s not to say that they don’t need to be treated or that the nation as a whole doesn’t have a responsibility to apply government where only government can suffice.  Health care is a case in point.  No one wants to turn the health industry into the post office—what a nightmare!  At the same time, government already intervenes in a myriad of way from licensing doctors to practice to giving huge tax benefits to large businesses to supply care that self-employed scribes like me do not enjoy.  Government can do much just by being a truly fair arbiter and by over-riding naked greed and the tendency of capital to drive out competition.  Well, this is a long discussion, but what I want to say is that the Catholic case for the sanctity of life and social justice must be presented to all parties, and we should be thinking through the application of universal principles in today’s world. 

Although you get whacked a lot Chassup, and I may not be quite as conservative as you, I always appreciate your posts, and they are an important aspect of the discussion here.

By jmedaille AT 11.26.08 09:39PM Not Rated


I rather doubt that 49% of Americans oppose FOCA for the simple reason that I suspect no more than 10% or less have ever heard of it. It is more likely that 49% would oppose at least some of what it contains, which is a different statement.

84% are willing to accept limitations on abortion of one sort or another. The repeal of abortions is not a realistic near-term goal; the limitation of it is, and on that we should concentrate. In the political order, you usually get what you can, not what you want.

But more than that, we have passed up the chance to revitalize Catholic politics by uniting the anti-abortion movement with other issues inherent in Catholic Social Teaching. In fact, the movement has moved in the opposite direction, being Catholic on the one issue and anti-Catholic on all the others. Such schizophrenic movements usually fail.

And we have failed.

By Joe Schriner AT 11.27.08 12:24AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

We shouldn’t work to “limit” the killing of innocent babies.  We should work to “end” it.  However, the real work of ending it simply scares us all…  Pro-life people need to take to the streets en masse day in an day out.  They need to protest, not just in front of abortion clinics, but in front of their: neighbors.  They need to create the same kind of social unrest that those in the South created to finally end the practice of Segregation.  A corollary…

I give talks in Catholic Churches all over the country where I take people back to Nazi Germany during World War II.  On Sunday mornings trains would slowly come down the tracks toward Concentration Camps, as parents screamed and pleaded for their childrens’ lives.  The response in the Christian Churches close to the tracks?  They’d turn the organ music up and sing louder. 

We, as Christians, get aghast.

It’s the year 2008 in America.  And every day on a metaphoric track in a metaphoric train—some 4,000 unborn babies go to their deaths.  And we, just as metaphorically, ‘sing louder.’  We busy ourselves with entertainment, with superfluous extra-curricular activity, with working more to have more… while these babies go to their deaths every day.  We’re now approaching 50 million since 1973—and there have been Democrat administrations and Republican administrations.

To protest in Nazi Germany would have meant death.  To protest in America?

The sin of omission?  In spades! 

Ps… If you’re looking for a presidential candidate to vote for in Campaign 2012, one who has based his entire platform on Catholic Social Teaching (http://www.voteforjoe.com)—then that candidate would be: me.  What’s more, the time to tangibly get behind the campaign is now—so it will be viable in 2012.  Or, well, you can just continue to go through the same ‘lesser of two evils’ lamenting next election as well.

By dsconi AT 11.27.08 05:47AM Not Rated


Last year I learned first hand exactly why the Holocaust happened:  because of people like me.  The day a Holocaust survivor addressed the faculty and staff at my public school about her experiences surviving two of the more infamous death camps, she implored us “Don’t be silent!”.  Her description of scraping human flesh off of the bricks of just-felled crematorium chimneys at the news of Russia’s advance was as chilling and sobering as anything I have ever read or heard, and it continues to haunt me.

I was inspired by her story, and took up her charge to no longer remain silent in the face of such grave evil.  I shared the words and images of her moving witness with each of my classes that day and clearly, concisely and convincingly connected them to the ongoing holocaust in our midst—the legally sanctioned slaughter of the unborn.  Even those students consistently up for a fight over controversial topics were reduced to dropped jaws and wide-eyed silence.

The parallels are too obvious to miss—the current pro-abortion/pro-choice rationalizations and euphemisms could have been spoken by Joseph Goebbels himself.  These precious children of God are, it is argued today, inferior lives that are unworthy of life, not quite human, and lacking legal standing.  Their deaths are the necessary and final solution to a perceived societal problem.

Anyone care to guess the result?  Hostile parents, teachers, and administrators seeking my job and the end of my career in public education.  You see, the survivor was brought in for the express purpose of increasing our sensitivity and enlisting our support for the district’s latest PC initiative to combat the serious social problems of bullying and intolerance!  The intentional destruction of unborn children on the other hand is not a problem worthy of discussion, debate or mere mention.  After all, it is a legally-protected right and one of the few words that dare not be spoken in school, “Jesus” being another.

I was completely unrepentant.  I stood my ground, I challenged my principal and my more vocal detractors to consider my arguments and find fault with my reasoning.  (Just like I do here on Godspy, and with the similar results to boot!)  No substantive criticism, no reasoned counter-arguments, just indifference, distractions, distortions and insults.  No interest in pursuing a meaningful dialogue among any of the incensed adults, and no interest in providing the students with an appropriate forum to address the debate. 

Ultimately, I told my principal that I was prepared to pay whatever consequences may come for the incident at hand and agreed not to mention the “A word” again—with the full awareness that I was going to have to be a good little Nazi if I wished to retain the privilege of holding the second most important job in America—right after “parenting”.  On a scale of 1 to 10, the disciplinary action was about a 3, with “Start looking for a new career” at number 7 and “Don’t drop the soap” at number 10.  My teaching career has survived many a “level 3” and I’ve got plenty more of those still to earn prior to retirement or death.  Ten-inch high letters on the back wall that I face as I address my students boldly spell out the message inspired my Mrs. Friedman:  “I WILL NOT BE SILENT”—with a big red “X” striking out the “NOT”, of course.  It serves as a constant reminder that a less overt witness is required if I am to bear witness at all.  It is also quite a conversation starter with many who enter!

By dsconi AT 11.27.08 05:54AM Not Rated


An interesting addendum to the story shared in my previous comment (and excised for length) was a visit by a second Holocaust survivor scarcely two weeks later.  His presentation was scheduled for the students on my team and it sorely lacked the visceral emotion of his predecessor as he dispassionately told his story with a central theme of incessant hunger, a preoccupation with securing food for himself by whatever means necessary, and a reduction of his familial relationships to mere sources of an extra morsel of food without the slightest care or concern for their own plight.  I brook no criticism of the hard choices made as a young boy in a concentration camp, but it was an interesting perspective to share with egocentric early adolescents already sufficiently preoccupied with their own self-gratification and indifferent to others.  I spoke privately with this gentleman at the conclusion of his talk in order to solicit his view of the validity of the parallels between his own brutal treatment at the hands of the Nazis and the current fate befalling the unborn.  He readily agreed that the legal status and treatment of the unborn today is not at all unlike that of the Jews (and all Poles for that matter) under Hitler.  The language used then and how was, to him, eerily similar.  I walked away in stunned disbelief, however, as he opined:  “Sure, it’s happening, but it really doesn’t affect me.  And besides, what can anyone do, its the law?”  Ah, a fellow “good Nazi” just like me, but one who feels no compulsion to utilize his experiences and platform to spare others a similar fate.  To his credit, he did take a strong stand against bullying.

By rightdemocrat AT 11.27.08 09:18PM Not Rated


I have long argued for social traditionalists becoming more involved within the Democratic Party. The pro-life, pro-family movement faces a dismal future if we continue to depend on an aging and largely rural white Republican base.

As you point out in the National Catholic Register column, the growth markets for social conservatism are the African American and Hispanic communities. It makes far more sense to mobilize African American and Hispanic voters into a force to bring traditional values back into the Democratic Party instead of continuing a futile effort of trying to realign minority voters into the GOP.

We also need to attract young voters to the cause of life and traditional values. Aligning ourselves so strongly with the Republican Party isn’t helping us to influence young people. We need to fashion a progressivism that respects life and traditional family values to build a new coalition around minorities and youth.

By jmedaille AT 11.28.08 06:46PM Not Rated


It’s all very well to call for “mass protests,” but there is no longer a “mass” upon which to build these protests. Even in the Republican Party, only 9% consider this an important issue, and 50% of nominal Catholics consider themselves “pro-choice.” And as much as I’d like to vote for you, Joe, I don’t think a third-party candidacy is a practical alternative.

We are required to search for real solutions; we are required to serve God and neighbor in the actual circumstances in which we find ourselves. We know that tying our movement to the Republican Party has made us weaker, not stronger. Angelo’s suggestion must be taken seriously, and the RightDemocrat’s observation that our biggest opportunities lie with the hispanic and black (and Asian, I might add) communities. Further, from the totality of CST, we have more to offer these communities then the Republican party does, and we have more practical solutions for them then does the Democratic party. We have a lot to give, we just need to be better at finding a way to give it.

By Joe Schriner AT 11.29.08 04:33AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

Then God told the Isrealite Army to walk around the walls of Jericho seven times and shout…  But the Isrealites said:  “I’m sorry God, but we’re required to search for ‘real’ solutions…”  Then David looked up at Goliath, thought again, and said:  “I’m sorry God, but I’m required to search for ‘real’ solutions…”  I’m sorry, but the Bible is filled with ‘against all odds’ stories being carried out by a few brave souls—who trusted God for a miracle.  By the way, I’m not asking people to vote for me right now—I’m asking them to tangibly help the campaign now (http://www.voteforjoe.com) so it becomes viable in 2012.  We’re counting on kind of a ‘loaves and fishes’ thing…  And the apostles said to Jesus:  “What do you mean feed five thousand people with a couple loaves and fishes?  We’re required to search for ‘real’ solutions…”

By dsconi AT 11.29.08 06:25AM Not Rated


Any interest in the facts?  Again, I ask, what has the Democratic party done to support the rights of the unborn in the last 20 years?  What has the Democratic party NOT done to OPPOSE Republican pro-life efforts during that same time?  How is today’s Democratic party possibly the preferred party from which to create a genuinely pro-life culture?  It takes more than Obamanesque “hope” to conceive of the Democratic party becoming a pro-life party at any time in the next 20 years.  Can someone please suggest a realistic mechanism by which this may occur?  A scenario by which the influence of the abortion lobby wanes?  Why such a desperate attempt to repackage this party of death? 

Wake up!  The body count of innocents in on the increase courtesy of the Democrats!  Could we please stop blaming the Republican party when it is the Democrats who have repeatedly frustrated every effort to enact pro-life legislation or appoint pro-life judges?  Can anyone produce historical facts to the contrary?

As for the trends among newly registered voters, I’m not quite ready to hop aboard the bandwagon.  It is presumptuous to assume that these folks are now lifelong Democrats and that our only hope lies in infiltrating the party and changing it from within.  What is keeping these folks out of the Republican party?  What detestable constituencies within the GOP are any more influential or firmly entrenched than are the forces of death within the Democratic party?  Blacks and Hispanics may be more socially conservative than the party leadership, the major donors, and the most influential constituencies, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that social concerns take a back seat and they vote Democratic out of economic self-interest.  How many Democratic-voting Catholics do the same or similar, putting second-tier issues above the non-negotiable life issues.  How could anyone in their right mind suggest that a strong, unified, influential pro-life voice will be awakened among those who have already chosen other issues above defending innocent life?

I remain firmly unconvinced.  Authentic pro-lifers (the kind that vote pro-life) joining the ranks of the Democrats will only insure that ending, restricting or otherwise reducing abortion becomes even less of an issue in the elections to come.  Here’s an idea:  Why don’t we gauge the prospect of success for Mr. Matera’s suggestion by consulting the current Democratic base?  Does ROTFL or LMAO mean anything to the rest of you?

By rightdemocrat AT 11.29.08 09:08PM Not Rated


I would sugguest to DSCONI that the body count of innocents will continue to rise as long as the pro-life movement embraces the failed strategy of working solely within the GOP.

Black and Hispanic voters who are socially conservative may well put a greater emphasis on economic issues. The title of this post suggests that pro-lifers should open a second front. Let’s suppose that the pro-life movement put some of its energy and resources into organizing the latent pro-life sentiment already existing in the African American and Latino communities. Once an organizational base is established, pro-candidates could be recruited to run in the Democratic primary within African American and Hispanic districts. Such districts are areas where no Republican candidate is likely to be competitive anyway. Would electing more pro-life candidates to public office harm the cause of life ? I think not and it would certainly put more pressure on both parties to respond to our concerns.

Changing the direction of a political party is not an easy task but it has happened before. The original advocates of legalized abortion were mostly Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller. The Democratic Party organization became heavily pro-abortion rights in part because pro-lifers abandoned their efforts within the party.

I am old enough to remember a far less partisan (and even political) pro-life movement and it was effective in greatly expanding public concern for the cause of life. The early pro-life movement was more personal than political. It was more educating the public about life issues than about legislating and politics. The early pro-lifers recognized that most politicians would follow public opinion on a highly emotional issue like abortion. Unfortunately, the movement got caught up with partisan politics and lost much credibility.

President Jimmy Carter is never given any credit by the pro-life leadership but he signed the Hyde Amendment (banning federal funding of abortion) into law which was passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1977. Of course, Carter should have done even more for the cause of life and pro-lifers were disappointed. From the 1980 election forward, pro-life activists have worked almost exclusively within the Republican Party.

The reality is that we need Christians and pro-life activists working within both parties. It doesn’t help the pro-life movement to be associated with only one political party. Many young people look at the pro-life movement and think what a bunch of hypocrites. Many of the favorite “pro-life” Republican politicians vote against health care programs for children. Opening a second front within the Democratic Party would expand pro-life influence.

By dsconi AT 11.30.08 05:52AM Not Rated


Carter’s signing of the Hyde Amendment was 30 years ago as RIGHTDEMOCRAT indicates.  Like I said, NOTHING pro-life from the Democrats in the last 20 years.  What has Mr. Matera’s supposed pro-life majority within the Democratic ranks been doing on behalf of the unborn all of this time?  Absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G!  Where were their individual or collective voices this time around?  S-I-L-E-N-T within their party ranks, but loud and clear when directed against those pro-lifers who refuse to lend support to a candidate and a party committed to expanding access to abortion on demand.

Yes, yes, of course it makes sense to have a strong and influential pro-life presence in every political party and I acknowledged as much in an earlier post.  But why hasn’t such a presence existed in the Democratic party for the past several election cycles?  Can anyone name a single successful initiative of the nicely-named but woefully ineffective “Democrats for Life”?  If self-professed “pro-life Democrats” are so committed to the cause of the unborn, why are they continually fighting AGAINST Republican-voting pro-lifers by rationalizing their presence in a pro-death party and minimizing the preeminence of ending abortion by championing second-tier issues like poverty and health care instead? 

As I have stated repeatedly, Democrats in the Oval Office and the Congress have defeated pro-life legislation and blocked the confirmation of pro-life judges while passing pro-abortion legislation and confirming pro-abortion judges.  Who is complicit in voting these pro-abortion politicians into office?  Why the same “pro-life Democrats” who claim that a single-party strategy isn’t working, of course!  Blind guides leading the blind?  Brood of vipers?  Useful idiots?  I know it isn’t very nice to say such things, but aren’t these descriptions accurate?  Of course the single-party strategy isn’t working, but it is precisely because “pro-life Democrats” are working AGAINST the cause of life instead of for it.  Why is this so difficult to understand and acknowledge?  Would it be inappropriate to suggest the analogy of a “pro-Polish” German citizen passively disturbed the systematic slaughter of the Poles but actively supportive of the Nazi’s “other policy goals” in the sincere but mistaken belief that conquering the country would provide a better life for those fortunate enough to survive and eventually make such killing less of a necessity?

I think RIGHTDEMOCRAT has the cart before the horse regarding the politicization of the abortion battle and the necessity of dedicated pro-lifers voting Republican. Would the fight against abortion have become so partisan had the Democratic party not wholly embraced the “dark side” on the issue?  Would the battle be reduced to which presidential candidate is committed to nominating pro-life justices to the SCOTUS if not for Catholic Democrat Mr. Biden’s foray into considering judicial “temperament” above qualifications beginning with the confirmation hearings of Judge Robert Bork?

Democrats for Life is often favorably mentioned in these articles and comments. I think their efforts this election season are particularly instructive as to why they have been such an abject failure and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  They quietly accepted the most pro-abortion platform in history—one committed to destroying every legal restriction on abortion—then held a scarcely-noticed press conference off-site of the convention to express their confidence that abortions would be more significantly reduced by increased social spending.  The logic used is as repugnant as it is stunningly ignorant.

By jmedaille AT 12.01.08 03:03AM Not Rated


DSCONI, I don’t quite understand why you complain about the failures of the Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), which has had no support from the “official” anti-abortion movement, yet are so tolerant of the repeated failures of the Republican Party, which has enjoyed 40 years of that support. DFLA is new, and we ought to do our utmost to encourage it.

I know this: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We cannot continue the insanity and expect to actually save any infants or change the culture of death. Pro-life forces have a natural base within the Democratic party, one which has not been exploited by either the so-called Pro-life movement or the Catholic Church. There may have been some valid tactical reasons for that in the past, but since that whole strategy has failed, it is time for a change. We need to reach out to the Hispanic, black, and pro-life white voters, voters who are, by and large, feed up with the Republican Party.

I know I am.

By rightdemocrat AT 12.01.08 03:21AM Not Rated


Yeah, just keep voting a straight Republican ticket and eventually a culture of life will be restored. Unfortunately, many of us have done so and it hasn’t worked as pro-lifers are taken for granted by the GOP. We get pro-life rhetoric at election time while Republicans concentrate on tax cuts for the rich once in office. The pro-life movement has become a virtual division of a party promoting needless war and unconcerned about the poor. Many young people view being pro-life is a joke because the GOP is so anti-life in just about every area except abortion.

Sure, Carter signing the Hyde Amendment was 31 years ago to be exact but the pro-life movement gave up on the Democratic Party 3 years later in 1980. The pro-life movement has put all of its eggs in one basket with almost nothing to show in the way of results.

Little effort has been made to mobilize the African American and Hispanic communities into active participation in the pro-life struggle. These constituencies vote Democratic and tend to live in Democratic-controlled districts. It would make sense for pro-lifers to open a second front in the Democratic Party concentrating on electing pro-life candidates from these minority-dominated districts.

Social and economic supports can most certainly influence the abortion rate. Many women decide to have abortions for financial reasons. Improving the safety net is likely to result in fewer abortions. http://www.catholicsinalliance.org/files/CACG_Final.pdf

Rather than criticizing Democrats for Life, DSCONI should be praising this outstanding organization for their efforts to broaden the pro-movement’s base.

By Harold Fickett AT 12.01.08 03:42AM Not Rated

Harold Fickett

JMEDAILLE, I visited your website and found your posts/articles well-informed and helpful.  I’d encourage all who have joined this discussion to do the same.  Your current post on the proper function of govenment is a fine presentation of first principles from a Catholic perspective.  Those principles need to be stated and restated here constantly and then their implications vis-a-vis current conditions discussed. That’s a primary ambition of GodSpy.

You rightly state that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children and favor a pluralistic framework with public and private schools, as well as home schooling. 

But how do we, simultaneously, produce a society that shares enough of a common value system to maintain solidarity while its diverse educational institutions inculcate values more and more at odds with one another? 

We can say what we like about DISCONI’s rights of free speech and free religious expression as a public school teacher, but his silencing is an unhappy sign of the times. 

Worldviews compete and the ascendancy of secularism in the public square and the public schools has meant that we are becoming a nation with deep ideological divides. 

Advocating a thoroughly pro-life agenda, as you suggest, is one recourse, but what happens when, as in recent cases in California, the secularist majority takes steps to eradicate home schooling?  We can only appeal to the Constitution as long as the Constitution has interpreters more faithful than California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals. 

No doubt the answer for the present lies in an even more vigorous advocacy, but at the same time I understand DSCONI’s frustration, and fear that we are closer than we know to things utterly falling apart.

Again, I’d urge those who haven’t done so to follow the link JMEDAILLE provided in his first post to his website.

By jmedaille AT 12.01.08 03:23PM Not Rated


Harold, thank you for your kind comments.

Homeschooling depends on having somebody at home to do the schooling, which depends on a Catholic and Marian feminism which frees women from the job market to be mothers, which depends on a just wage, which depends on a better distribution of economic power, etc. In other words, these things are all of a piece and not severable. This is similar to the “seamless garment” argument, but that historically had the wrong elements. We just need to re-write it.

We haven’t made the case because our case was self-contradictory. We often supported the anti-family and anti-life policies of neoclassical and Austrian economics side-by-side with an anti-abortion campaign. That such a self-contradictory policy attracted few supporters is hardly surprising.

But in fact, we have more to offer the public than any other view. We transcend the “left-right,” “liberal-conservative” dichotomy with a moral and economic realism based on the Social Teachings. And despite it being Catholic, it is also catholic, that is, universal, and having real appeal across the political spectrum. In other words, to be more effective, we need to be more Catholic, and not just on the abortion or marriage issues.

The current economic disorder actually represents an opportunity for us. Will we take it? I don’t know. I do know that what we have done up until now doesn’t work.

By chassup AT 12.01.08 07:44PM Not Rated


I’ve read recent posts here with great frustration.  I believe several false conventional wisdoms are at the root of a lot of useless arguments on this topic.

#1 Culture of Life movement has opportunity to influence the DNC—False, to be nominated in that party you must pass the pro-death litmus test, after all, the party platform clearly promotes the culture of death, not just on the abortion issue, but on “social justice issues” as well.  The only “pro-life” candidates in the DNC are “allowed” as a way to displace GOP pro-lifers where true Dem policy can’t win at the polls.  The litmus test also includes collectivist solutions to the human condition, which do not work because they reject the dignity of human persons.  This is a philosophical distinction that can not be overcome unless the Dems adopt an entirely different world view.  The culture of Life requires an acceptance of God as we know Him, they reject such a notion in order to defend abortion, and this infuses all their policies—including fiscal and social.

#2 DNC is “better on social justice issues” making them pro-life. (conversely, GOP worse on social justice issues.)—False, the liberal progressive social policies are in fact often anti-human, are consistent with secular humanist philosophies and in the end often enslave individuals in grinding poverty, violence and continued failure.  Catholic social justice does not prescribe socialism.

#3 GOP has done nothing to end abortion—False, GOP candidates have won many victories against abortion, with little or no help from Democrat candidates.  There has been a 25% drop in abortions since 1992, data suggest that state regulations on abortion have produced the drop, not welfare programs or sex-ed.  Abortion is understood by a majority of voters in both parties to be the taking of human life, this is up in the last 20 years, changed hearts and minds. Legislative fences have been erected that significantly reduce abortions as listed below, all GOP-lead, all denounced by the Democratic leadership and party.

As a federal statute under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would declare abortion to be a “fundamental right” at every stage of pregnancy and would, thereby, specifically invalidate any “statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action” of any federal, state, or local government that would “deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose” abortion, or that would “discriminate against the exercise of the right [...] in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.” The language of FOCA is clear and absolute.

Everything below will be obliterated with a single promised stroke of Obama’s pen:

—Approximately 40 states have physician-only laws (limiting abortion practice to physicians);

—32 states follow the funding limitations of the federal Hyde Amendment, while 17 states provide broader funding for abortion;

—36 states have passed informed consent laws;

—36 states have passed parental involvement laws;

—47 states have passed laws to protect rights of conscience;

—22 states have passed abortion clinic regulations;

—16 states have passed ultrasound laws.

In 2008, 45 states considered nearly 450 measures related to abortion alone. Among 2008 pro-life victories are:

—An omnibus measure in Oklahoma, requiring that a woman undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion, regulating the provision of RU-486, and prohibiting coerced abortions;

—New laws in Oh