Kathleen Gilbert

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The case against Rick Perry - pro-life and pro-family concerns

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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Note: This article is Part III in a three-part series exploring all aspects of Rick Perry’s record on pro-life and pro-family issues. Read Parts I and II here:

Who is Rick Perry? (Part 1 of special report)
Who is Rick Perry? - Part II: A Texas governor’s pro-life legacy

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Since announcing his candidacy earlier this month, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has displayed formidable staying power near the top of the GOP presidential pack – at least in part thanks to the support of pro-life and pro-family advocates.

But while he has been enthusiastically welcomed by many social conservatives due to his very public stance against abortion and same-sex “marriage,” others have expressed concern about some aspects of Perry’s past that they say call into question Perry’s social conservative credentials, and may even indicate a degree of hypocrisy.

Two haunting endorsements

Perhaps most damaging to Perry’s reputation as a social conservative was his 2008 decision to support GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in a “very strong and proud way,” despite Giuliani’s well-known support for legal abortion, and liberal views on other issues.

“We spent an inordinate amount of time together over the course of the last six weeks talking about issues both on the phone and face to face ... I looked him in the eye and I asked him questions on some issues that we don’t agree on,” Perry said of the former New York mayor on Fox News on October 17, 2007.

“And, but here’s the - I don’t get tied up with the process, what I look for is results,” he continued. “Rudy Giuliani is the individual who will give us the results that will make America safer, that will move our economy forward, will put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court ... that covers a host of issues that are important to me.”

Leading pro-life conservatives at the time took a very different view. Less than three weeks earlier, on September 30, Giuliani’s frontrunning campaign had been shaken after conservative magnates vowed to support a third-party candidate should someone as pro-abortion as Giuliani win the Republican nomination.

“Giuliani is beyond the pale,” said Richard Viguerie, a leading conservative fundraiser who had met with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and former Focus on the Family leader James Dobson. “There’s no way that conservative leaders are going to support a pro-abortion candidate. It was unanimous.”

In an interview with Time magazine August 11 of this year, Perry defended endorsing Giuliani, saying he was effectively supporting a constitutional path to eliminating abortion by backing a believer in conservative jurisprudence.

“He and I were 180 degrees on social issues, but he would put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court, which dealt with those social issues,” he said. “I happen to be comfortable that I was making the right decisions and that as President, when it comes to those social issues, it’s very important to have that strict constructionist view of who you put on the Supreme Court.”

Similar concerns still dog Perry over his ties to Al Gore, for whom Perry served as Texas presidential campaign manager 23 years ago, when Gore was U.S. Senator for Tennessee, at a time when both men were Democrats.

Although much of today’s controversy surrounds Gore’s climate change beliefs, the 1988 campaign was also a sensitive turning point for Gore, who had spent much of the decade transitioning from pro-life to pro-choice talking points, on social issues.

While still opposing federal funding of abortion, by 1987 Gore had stepped away from previous statements - and an 84% pro-life voting record - supporting the unborn’s right to life, and made clear his support for legalized abortion. A New York Times article in 2000 cited critics who pegged the 1988 campaign as the moment Gore “brought his positions in line with the party’s powerful feminist and abortion rights constituent groups.”

Perry, who deserted the Democrat party in 1989, has laughed off the association - at least regarding his erstwhile friend’s flagship position on climate change.

“I certainly got religion. I think he’s gone to hell,” Perry said of Gore in 2009, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Gardasil controversy

Also prominent in the arsenal of conservative Perry skeptics is the controversy over Governor Perry’s decision in February 2007 to issue an executive order that made Texas the first U.S. state (20 currently do so) to mandate an HPV vaccine for middle school-aged girls – an action that drew national attention. Responding to conservative backlash, state legislators overturned the order within months, and Gov. Perry withheld his veto.

At the time, Gardasil, a drug found in more recent years to cause severe side effects and even death, was the only approved vaccine for HPV – a sexually-transmitted disease.

The drug continues to be advertised as a means of preventing cervical cancer, which has been linked to HPV infection. Colleagues say Perry, whose mother and father both suffered from cancer, has often shown passion over the issue, such as in his pivotal role in creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

But over and against the arguments of conservatives, the Texas governor rejected any suggestion that the STD vaccine encouraged sexual activity.

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use,” Perry argued days after issuing the order.

Although some say the executive order violated parents’ rights, the text of the order altered then-current protocol to allow parents to submit a “conscientious objection affidavit” as an opt-out – a provision that opponents denounced as inadequate.

Some also criticized the move as a symptom of political pandering: World Net Daily cites potential ties Perry had to the pharmaceutical giant through two former Perry chiefs of staff who worked for Merck (the pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine), and a current chief of staff whose mother-in-law worked there. Merck’s political action committee also donated $6,000 to Perry’s re-election campaign.

Politico recently reviewed FOIA-obtained emails from Perry’s office regarding the Gardasil decision. They found little defining the governor’s own stance in negotiations, but noted the matter appeared settled before the email chain began, six months before the executive order.

Although he stood firmly beside his “pro-life position” on Gardasil as late as last year, the governor has recanted his position after stepping onto the presidential stage.

“I readily stand up and say I made a mistake on that,” Perry said last Monday on an Iowa radio call-in show. 

Conservatives appear torn over the apology. RedState blogger Streiff has dismissed the HPV hullaballoo as “a nothingburger”; however, National Review’s Michelle Malkin vociferously rejected the backpedaling and accused Perry of “borrowing a tried-and-true Alinskyite page from the progressive left” with “human-shield demagoguery” for his emotional anti-cancer defense of the mandate.

Hate crimes legislation

Another spot on Perry’s record noted by conservatives is his signing of a hate crimes measure, which included special protections based on sexual orientation, shortly after becoming governor in 2001. 

The measure, known as the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, was named after a Texas black man killed by three white men, but also included special protections for sexual orientation, including both homosexuality and heterosexuality. George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor as Texas governor, had refused two years earlier to support the measure based on his objection to any hate crime law, saying that all crimes are hate crimes.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner did not comment on the matter to LifeSiteNews.com.

Gary Glenn, Executive Director of American Family Association of Michigan, wrote in June that he was “disappointed” in Perry over the 2001 law, which he called “arguably the most dangerous element of homosexual activists’ political agenda.”

An unanswered question

In terms of personal pro-life beliefs, perhaps one of the most salient questions is also the most mysterious.

A quick search on Perry’s pro-life beliefs turns up a claim from OnTheIssues.org that the rural Texan native “said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases involving rape or incest or when carrying a pregnancy to term would threaten the woman’s life.” The site references an Associated Press article appearing on FoxNews.com Jun 25, 2002.

Neither the Associated Press nor Fox News have responded to LifeSiteNews.com’s requests for the article in question, and Perry’s spokesman also did not respond to inquiries. Two top pro-life leaders connected to Perry, one national and one state level, both told LifeSiteNews.com they were unaware if the claim was accurate.

However, one leader, Texas Right to Life executive director Elizabeth Graham, told LSN that Perry did not support exceptions for rape and incest.

“Governor Perry has been consistent in his position in that he opposes all abortion and he recognizes that there are very rare instances in which an abortion may be necessary to prevent the death of the mother,” said Graham.

Texas Alliance for Life founding executive director Joe Pojman, Ph.D., said a recent sonogram bill that excluded children conceived in rape or incest, as well as other exceptions, had not been influenced towards including the exceptions by the governor’s office.

Two local pro-life leaders sound off

The two state pro-life leaders LifeSiteNews.com spoke with were enthusiastic about Perry, although they conceded that the governor erred considerably at least once.

“Almost all the time he’s correct, but this time he wasn’t,” said Pojman, referring to the Giuliani endorsement.

Texas Right to Life’s Graham also said that the Giuliani endorsement was a surprise and a “departure from his typically pro-life views.” “It was just surprising because Gov. Perry has never been compromising with life,” said Graham, who says she tried to talk Perry out of what she described as a purely political move.

The leaders’ faith in Perry’s pro-life beliefs, however, appeared unshaken.

Pojman, a former aerospace engineer who has worked with Perry on pro-life issues since 1999, recalled the candidate’s rumored “serious arm twisting” in the state Senate as lieutenant governor to speed passage of a parental notification law, a legacy followed up by a record of hard work against abortion.

“This issue really is dear to his heart, he understands it and he has always made it a priority,” Pojman said. “He’s not necessarily going to put it in every speech because he knows he’s got to get elected, but ... he’s not going to run from it, because it’s just who he is.”

Peter J. Smith contributed to this report.

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Vatican’s doctrine chief: ‘Absolutely anti-Catholic’ to let bishops conferences decide doctrine or discipline

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By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has rejected outright the idea floated by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx that various bishops’ conferences around the world would decide for themselves on points of discipline or doctrine. 

“This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” Cardinal Müller told France’s Famille Chrétienne in an interview published today

The question was raised because Cardinal Marx, the head of the German Catholic bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Nine, told reporters that the German bishops would chart their own course on the question of allowing Communion for those in “irregular” sexual unions.

“We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said in February. “The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”

Vatican Cardinal Müller remarked that while episcopal conferences may have authority over certain issues they are not a parallel magisterium apart from the pope or outside communion with the bishops united to him.

Asked specifically about Cardinal Marx saying that the Church in Germany is “not a subsidiary of Rome,” the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said pointedly “the president of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and as such has no special teaching authority.”  He added moreover, that the dioceses in a particular country “are not subsidiaries of the secretariat of an Episcopal conference or diocese whose Bishop presides over the Episcopal Conference.”

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The CDF head warned that “this attitude makes the risk of waking some polarization between the local churches and the universal Church.” He did not however believe that there was the will for Episcopal conferences to separate from Rome.

The important interview also saw Cardinal Müller contest the notion that the pastoral practice or discipline could change while retaining the same doctrine. “We can not affirm the doctrine and initiate a practice that is contrary to the doctrine,” he said.

He added that not even the papal Magisterium is free to change doctrine. “Every word of God is entrusted to the Church, but it is not superior to the Word,” he said. “The Magisterium is not superior to the word of God. The reverse is true.”

Cardinal Müller rejected the notion that we would have to modify Christ’s unflinching words totally forbidding divorce and remarriage.  We cannot “say that our ministry should be more cautious than Jesus Christ Himself!”  Nor could we, he added, say that Christ’s teaching is out of date or that “we need to correct or refine Jesus Christ because He lived in an idealistic world.” 

Rather, the cardinal said, bishops must be ready for martyrdom.  Quoting Jesus he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and if we speak all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

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‘Groundbreaking’: Kansas may become first state to ban dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson

TOPEKA, KS, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kansas will become the first state in the country to ban a procedure in which unborn children are dismembered in the womb, if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill that recently passed the state legislature.

The state House passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, called dismemberment abortions in common parlance, by 98-26 on Wednesday.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which had already passed the state Senate in February 31-9, now heads to Gov. Brownback's desk.

Brownback, a staunch defender of life, is expected to sign the act into law.

"Because of the Kansas legislature's strong pro-life convictions, unborn children in the state will be protected from brutal dismemberment abortions," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which has made banning dismemberment abortions a national legislative focus.

The procedure, in which an abortionist separates the unborn child's limbs from his body one at a time, accounts for 600 abortions statewide every year.

Nationally, it is “the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions,” according to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook.

“It’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Katie Ostrowski, the legislative director of Kansans for Life, told The Wichita Eagle.

Leading pro-life advocacy groups have made shifting the debate to dismemberment a national priority, with similar legislation being considered in Missouri and Oklahoma. Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., who is NRLC's director of state legislation, called the bill's passage in Topeka “groundbreaking.”

"When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone," she said.

The abortion lobby has made clear that it is uncomfortable engaging in a public relations tussle on this ground.

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues associate of the Guttmacher Institute, said that dismemberment is “not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”

On the state Senate floor, Democrats tried to alter the bill's language on the floor by replacing the term “unborn child” with fetus. “I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” said state Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City.

If the bill becomes law, the abortion industry has vowed to fight on.

Julie Burkhart, a former associate of late-term abortionist George Tiller, said the motion's only intention is “to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors.”

“Policymakers should be ashamed,” she said, adding, “if passed, we will challenge it in court.”

Gov. Brownback has previously signed conscience rights protections and sweeping pro-life protections into law.

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Anne Hendershott

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How NOT to move beyond the abortion wars

Anne Hendershott
By Anne Hendershott

March 26, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- A few years ago, when an undergraduate student research assistant of mine—a recent convert to Catholicism—told me that he was planning to meet with a well-known dissenting Catholic theology professor who was then ensconced in an endowed chair at a major metropolitan Catholic university, I told him: “Be careful, you might end up liking him too much.” I jokingly told my student not to make eye contact with the theologian because he might begin to find himself agreeing with him that Catholic teachings “really allow” for women’s ordination and full reproductive rights—including access to abortion.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I began reading a new book by yet another engaging Catholic theology professor at a major metropolitan university who also claims (pg 6) that the argument he puts forward in his book, Beyond the Abortion Wars, is “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine.” Written by Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, the new book purports to be in line with Catholic teachings and promises “a way forward for a new generation.” But, Camosy delivers yet another argument for a woman’s right to choose abortion when confronted with an unborn child that he has described—in the past—as an “innocent aggressor.”

Indeed, Camosy has spent much of his career trying to convince us that he knows Catholic teachings better than the bishops. Criticizing Bishop Olmsted for his intervention and excommunication of a hospital administrator for her role in the direct abortion at a Phoenix Catholic hospital, Camosy suggested in 2013 that “the infamous Phoenix abortion case set us back in this regard.” Implying that Bishop Olmsted was not smart enough to understand the moral theology involved in the case, Camosy claimed that “The moral theology in the case was complex—which makes the decision to declare publicly that Sr. McBride had excommunicated herself even more inexplicable. The Church can do better.” For Camosy, “Catholics must be ready to help shape our new discussion on abortion. And we must do so in a way that draws people into the conversation—not only with respectful listening, but speaking in a way that is both coherent and sensitive.”

This new book is likely Camosy’s attempt to “draw people into the conversation.” But, there is little in his book that is either coherent or sensitive. Claiming to want to move “beyond” the abortion wars, Camosy creates an argument that seems designed to offend the pro-life side, while giving great respect to those who want to make sure abortion remains legal.

Especially offensive for pro-life readers will be Camosy’s description of the abortifacient, RU-486 as a form of “indirect abortion.” The reality is that RU-486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” effectively ends an early pregnancy (up to 8 weeks) by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Progesterone is necessary to maintain the pregnancy and when it is made inoperative, the fetus is aborted. For Camosy, who claims that his book is “consistent with settled Catholic doctrine,” this is not a “direct” abortion. To illustrate this, Camosy enlists philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson’s 1971 “Defense of Abortion”—the hypothetical story of the young woman who is kidnapped and wakes up in a hospital bed to find that her healthy circulatory system has been hooked up to a famous unconscious violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. The woman’s body is being used to keep the violinist alive until a “cure” for the violinist can be found. Camosy makes the case—as hundreds of thousands of pro-choice proponents have made in the past four decades—that one cannot be guilty of directly killing the violinist if one simply disconnects oneself from him. Likewise, for Camosy, simply taking the drug RU 486 is not “directly” killing the fetus. He writes:

The drugs present in RU 486 do not by their very nature appear to attack the fetus. Instead, the drug cuts off the pregnancy hormone and the fetus is detached from the woman’s body…. Using RU 486 is like removing yourself from [Judith Jarvis Thompson’s] violinist once you are attached. You don’t aim at his death, but instead remove yourself because you don’t think you have the duty to support his life with your body…. Some abortions are indirect and better understood as refusals to aid (pp 82-83).

Perhaps there are some readers who will find Camosy’s argument convincing, but I am not sure that many faithful Catholic readers will agree that it is consistent with settled Catholic doctrine.

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As one who is hardly a bystander in the abortion wars, I wanted to like this book. As an incrementalist who celebrates every small step in creating policy to protect the unborn, I had high hopes that this book would at last begin to bridge the divide. A decade ago, in my own book, The Politics of Abortion, I joined the argument begun by writers like Marvin Olasky in his Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, that it is more effective to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people than to create divisive public policy at the federal level. I share Charles Camosy’s desire to end the abortion wars—but this war cannot end until the real war on the unborn ends. This does not mean that the two sides cannot work together—battling it out at the state level—where there is the opportunity for the greatest success. But, complex philosophical arguments on whether RU 486 is a direct or indirect form of abortion are not helpful to these conversations.

Camosy must know that we can never really “end” the abortion wars as long as unborn children are still viewed as “aggressors” or “invaders” and can still be legally aborted. Faithful Catholics know that there is no middle ground on this—the pro-life side has to prevail in any war on the unborn. It can be done incrementally but ground has to be gained—not ceded—for the pro-life side. Besides, Camosy seems a bit late to the battlefield to begin with. In many ways, he seems to have missed the fact that the pro-life side is already winning many of the battles through waiting periods, ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and restrictions on late term abortion at the state level. More than 300 policies to protect the unborn have been passed at the state level just in the past few years. The number of abortions each year has fallen to pre-Roe era levels—the lowest in more than four decade.   Much of these gains are due to the selfless efforts of the pro-life community and their religious leaders. Yet, just as victory appears possible in many more states, Camosy seems to want to surrender by resurrecting the tired rhetoric—and the unconscious violinists—of forty years ago.

While it is disappointing, it is not unexpected considering Camosy’s last book lauded the contributions of Princeton’s most notorious professor, Peter Singer—the proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Claiming that Singer is “motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals,” Camosy’s 2012 book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, argues that, “Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one, Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”  In a post at New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive organization led by Rev. Richard Cizik (a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was removed from his position because of his public support for same sex unions, and his softening stance on abortion) Camosy wrote that he found Singer to be “friendly and compassionate.”  Camosy currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cizik’s New Evangelical Partnership—where he has posted Peter Singer-like articles including: “Why Christians Should Support Rationing Health Care.”

One cannot know the motivations of another—we can never know what is in another’s heart so it is difficult to know why Charles Camosy wrote this book. It must be difficult to be a pro-life professor at Fordham University—a school known for dissenting theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. But, if one truly wants to advance a culture of life in which all children are welcomed into the world, it would seem that inviting Peter Singer to be an honored speaker to students at Fordham in 2012 is not the way to do it, nor would claiming that RU-486 “may not aim at death by intention.” Perhaps it is unwise to continue to critically review Camosy’s work from a Catholic perspective because it gives such statements credibility—and notoriety. But, as long as Camosy continues to claim that his writings and policy suggestions—including his newly proposed “Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act”—are “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine,” faithful Catholics will have to continue to denounce them.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine. 

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