January 30, 1997
Dear Member of Congress:
I write to you as chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, and I assure you of the bishops' hopes and prayers for this new Congress. It is our fervent prayer that our nation's elected representatives will do all in their power to advance the common good and enhance respect for the dignity of each and every human being, from the first moment of natural death.
In the specific area of pro-life legislation, we will urge Congress to retain or strengthen existing restrictions on government funding or support for abortion or for destructive experiments on developing human beings. At the outset of this session, however, I want to emphasize three issues which in our view deserve priority attention.
1. Exporting abortion to developing nations. In February Congress must vote on an Administration proposal to spend an additional $123 million during the current fiscal year for organizations that perform and promote abortion in develooping nations. This will not be a vote on family planning -- indeed, congressional leaders have demonstrated repeatedly that they would devote even more funds to family planning than the Administration has requested, so long as the funds are not diverted to groups which perform and promote abortion as just another method of family planning. The Administration insists that foreign aid must fund organizations that promote abortion. Those who disagree are painted as enemies of "family planning," and even enemies of "making abortion rare." Congress will have an opportunity in February to expose this ploy, by defeating the Administration's proposal and insisting that integrity be restored to the foreign aid program. A program ostensibly designed to make abortions "rare" has no business subsidizing organizations that perform and promote abortions. We support a strong foreign aid program focused on development assistance for the poor. We oppose exporting abortion to developing nations.
2. Partial-birth abortion. This brutal procedure, in which children are killed in the very process of birth, must be stopped. Hundreds of medical experts, including former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, as well as those who generally support or even perform abortions, have come forward to state emphatically that partial-birth abortion has no justification in medicine, no role in protecting women's health or fertility, and no place in a civilized society. Sadly, the Administration's proposal -- that such infanticide be banned only in the third trimester of pregnancy, and only when an abortionist is unwilling to claim that the procedure would serve "health" -- is, at best, disingenuous. Either of these provisos would leave the vast majority of partial-birth abortions untouched; in combination they produce a meaningless standard. We urge Congress to enact a real ban on partial-birth abortion, so our nation will not condone infanticide in law.
3. Assisted suicide. Looming as a threat to some of the most vulnerable persons in our society is the claim for a new fundamental "right" to be killed by one's physician. Even before the Supreme Court's decision on this issue is expected, Congress will face the urgent issue of federal funding. Oregon's new law allowing physician-assisted suicide will likely take effect oon, and the state Medicaid director has said Oregon will provide Medicaid funding for assisted suicide (even as its Medicaid rationing program denies funding for life-sustaining treatments for the same indigent patients). The Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act, introduced last year with bipartisan support, must be enacted this year if our federal government is not to become an active participant in assisted suicide. I urge all members of Congress to co-sponsor this bill and to help expedite its approval.
Please contact our Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities if you would like additional information or you or your staff would like to discuss these issues.
Bernard Cardinal Law