Volume > Issue > Briefly: March 2008

March 2008

The Politics of Abortion

By Anne Hendershott

Publisher: Encounter Books

Pages: 179

Price: $25.95

Review Author: Anne Barbeau Gardiner

Anne Hendershott, Professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego, has produced an excellent, informative, easy-to-read book that gives an overview of the politics of abortion in the past 40 years. She shows how the Democratic Party became the party of abortion, how minorities were targeted (indeed, 78 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortuaries are located in or near minority communities), and how the violence of a few crazed individuals led to attempts by abortion supporters to bankrupt organizations like the Pro-Life Action League, which was put through a 20-year court case. She also tells how abortion has been celebrated in certain theological quarters as “holy” and “sacred,” and how ultrasounds have caused a revolution in crisis counseling.

The most interesting, though painful, parts of her book relate to how some American Catholics have betrayed — and continue to betray — the unborn. Hendershott writes about a 1964 meeting with the Kennedys in Hyannisport, in which six Jesuits (Frs. Drinan, McCormick, Curran, Fuchs, Milhaven, and Jonsen) advised the Kennedys that they could, in good conscience, vote in favor of abortion. In the next two decades Democratic leadership would embrace abortion “rights” as a “core value,” without an outcry from the Catholics who filled the party’s ranks. From then on, Catholic Democrats distanced themselves from their Church’s perennial teaching while still calling themselves Catholic — as in John Kerry referring to his years as a Catholic altar boy while running as a fully committed pro-abortion candidate.

In 1984, a New York Times pro-abortion ad paid for by Catholics for a Free Choice — an organization created out of thin air by the Turner, Ford, Packard, Rockefeller, and Playboy Foundations — was “signed by 97 Catholic scholars, religious and social activists, 24 nuns, 4 priests and brothers, and a large number of lay professors teaching at Catholic colleges and universities.” Thus, from the ranks of American Catholics emerged a drove of public nose-thumbers. Besides their overt contempt for Church doctrine, these dissenters set themselves up as a rival magisterium, pontificating on the goodness of abortion. Hendershott calls our attention to Daniel C. Ma­guire, a theologian at Marquette University, “who used the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers to help transform what was once viewed as a shameful act into a God-given right.” (The National Day of Appreciation, she explains, is funded by the Ford, Hewlett, Packard, Buffett, and Turner foundations.) In his book Sacred Choices, Maguire dismissed papal authority, maintained that Catholic teaching on abortion was inconsistent, falsely claimed that St. Antoninus, a 15th-century archbishop, was pro-abortion, and said that to deny abortion rights violates religious freedom.

Hendershott also points to two philosophy professors at the Jesuit-led Seattle University, Daniel Dombrowski and Robert Deltete, who in their Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion blamed “Mariology” for the Church’s anti-abortion stance, and compared abortion to mowing grass. Their book was glowingly reviewed by pro-choice theologian Anthony Padovano, who pretended that the “holy crusade” against abortion had been started by Pope Pius IX. Hendershott also draws attention to James Patrick Shannon, a defrocked former Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul in the 1960s, who helped direct the General Service Foundation, an institution that opposes the Catholic Church and supports the manufacture of abortion machines for use in Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

Doubtless the most painful chapter is the one in which Hender­shott shows that many Catholic colleges no longer foster a prolife culture. Two recent studies have demonstrated that support for abortion on Catholic campuses now increases between the freshman and senior years. Sadly, “abortion is rarely debated on Catholic college campuses, either from a reasoned secular viewpoint or from a theological perspective.” True, the Culture of Life is heartily encouraged at the new, more faithful Catholic colleges, but a larger number of the older Catholic campuses actually promote participation in the Culture of Death, for example, with Planned Parenthood student internships and invitations to notorious pro-abortionists to speak on campus.

Recently, though, there have been a few hopeful signs: some pro-abortion lecturers were dis-invited — Gloria Steinem from Trinity in Vermont, Frances Kissling from Holy Cross, and James Lawson from Christian Brothers University in Memphis. Yet Hendershott finds that the prolife movement in certain elite secular colleges and universities has more vitality today than that found in their Catholic counterparts. This shouldn’t be. Our institutions should be the yeast raising the mass of dough.

It’s excruciating to read about Catholics who have betrayed the littlest American, the unborn child, yet still insist on calling themselves Catholics and on receiving Holy Communion. This ugly reality needs to be faced and acted on: There are Judases today who take their 30 pieces of silver, betray the innocent to a grisly death, yet continue to act as if they have done nothing wrong.

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