Denver, Colo., Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - Michelle Obama, wife of proposed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, joined other Democratic leaders at the Women’s Caucus of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, pledging to support female candidates, advocate policies in women’s interest, and preserve the legal status quo of permissive abortion laws. The speakers all backed Barack Obama, whom one called a “steadfast supporter of women’s right to choose.”
Speaking of her husband, Michelle Obama said: “He’ll protect a woman’s freedom of choice, because government should have no say in whether or when a woman embraces the sacred responsibility of parenthood.”
When her speech began, Democratic protesters who support Sen. Hillary Clinton disrupted the event, standing before the Colorado Convention Center ballroom’s stage and carrying signs which called Clinton a “Smart Choice.”
Feigning unawareness of the protesters, who were belatedly escorted from the room, Michelle Obama said Hillary’s candidacy had made her husband a stronger candidate. Towards the end of the speech, she pledged that the Democrats would not “take women’s votes for granted” and could not “assume that women know where Barack stands.”
About half an hour before Michelle Obama’s speech, other protestors made an appearance following the speech of another Women’s Caucus speaker. The group consisted of a half-dozen women of various ages hurrying to the stage and displaying their shirts, which read “I regret my abortion.” As the displeased audience shouted “Obama, Obama,” security personnel quickly escorted the protesters out of the room.
They had disrupted the caucus just before California Sen. Barbara Boxer was scheduled to speak.
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Boxer, who was introduced as the “leading defender of the right to choose,” responded to the removed protesters by saying they have a right to an opinion, but “all we want is our right to choose.”
“They can choose what they want to choose, and we can choose what we want to choose... That’s America! That’s what Democracy means, that’s what freedom means, that’s what individual rights mean,” Boxer asserted to audience applause.
“We believe in the right to choose for our personal health, and we know the right choice to protect that right to choose: it is President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden,” she said.
Attacking presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Boxer said that McCain has a rating of zero percent from NARAL and zero from Planned Parenthood.
“Now you have to be pretty radical to have a zero rating,” she claimed.
Boxer, like other caucus speakers, noted McCain’s vote against requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptives. This lack of coverage was presented as an inequality and compared to insurance provided impotence medicine.
The California Senator then attacked McCain’s pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices similar to Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who are considered hostile to Roe v. Wade.
“They want to, essentially, make it illegal for us to have a right to choose, and to make us criminals, and to make doctors criminals!” she exclaimed.
Noting Barack Obama’s 100 percent rating from pro-abortion groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood, Boxer emphasized the slogan “He’s a hero, John McCain’s a zero!”
She received a standing ovation for the remark.
Boxer also claimed that McCain had voted against a program to help children who witness domestic violence.
Later in the caucus meeting, New York U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter warned the audience “we are in as much danger today… as we were almost when we first started here. There is so much at stake for women on this one issue, and it’s critical that we elect Barack Obama.”
Calling Obama a “steadfast supporter of women’s right to choose,” she noted Obama’s vote to repeal the Mexico City Policy and his co-sponsorship of the Prevention First Act. She characterized his other votes as being against policies that would “restrict women’s health care.”
Gov. Madeline Kunan
Vermont Governor Madeline Kunan also attacked new Bush administration regulations that would protect the consciences of pro-life medical professionals and healthcare workers from being forced to cooperate in unethical practices. She said “we probably can’t stop it, but we can change it next year.”
Though the regulation is based on providing protection of conscience, Kunan charged, it doesn’t protect the women health care professionals and doctors are “supposed to serve.”
Rep. Slaughter apparently alleged the regulation does not honor long-standing medical ethics, noting the “intent” of the Hippocratic Oath “where the doctor swears to ‘do no harm.’”
She then implied that legal abortion and contraception was necessary for women’s progress in society.
“It was the right to control our reproductive systems that made it possible for almost all of us to achieve our own dreams which our parents had paid for,” Rep. Slaughter said.
Other policy discussions at the Women’s Caucus included children’s health insurance, gas prices, and workplace and pay equality. Caucus speakers also emphasized what they saw as the need to promote female candidates to achieve parity in the ratio of women to men in the U.S. House and Senate.
At one point in the caucus, former Vermont Governor Madeline Kunan told how she investigated why Rwanda led all nations in its proportion of top female legislators.
Calling a Rwandan legislator, Gov. Kunan said she learned that the Rwandan constitution demanded a quota. She was then told that Rwandans vote for so many women because “we do what we have to do for the survival of our children.”
“I suggest to you,” Gov. Kunan concluded, “We in the United States of America have to do this, be politically engaged, for the survival of our children and of children all over the world.”
London, England, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical service, has released a report indicating that by the year 2015, deaths in the region will outnumber births, and that by the year 2060, for every person above the age of 65 there will only be two people of working age.
According to the BBC, this severe demographic winter, the result of the drop in the birth rate and the increase in abortions in many countries of the European Union, will lead to a continual decrease in Europe’s population starting in the year 2035.
Eurostat also said that the current population of Europe is 495 million. In 2035 it will reach its apex of 521 million, from which it will fall until 2060, when the population will be 506 million.
The report also said that the index of retirees versus working-age people will increase from 25 percent currently to 53 percent by the year 2060. That is, for every retiree above the age of 65, there will be only two people working.
This index could reach as high as 60 percent in some states of the EU, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
Rome, Italy, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - The undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, said in an address this week that human rights are based on natural law and that denying this truth opens the door to relativism.
During a ceremony in which he was awarded an honorary Doctorate by the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Carriquiry said, “What they are trying to do is turn into individual rights that which attacks fundamental human rights of the person.”
During his extensive discourse, he pointed out that 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a “relativist derivative” exists in which “new rights are imposed” that stem from the “arbitrary desires” of certain groups or individuals.
“Are we not the witnesses of opinion campaigns and pressure from international powers to foster national legislation to introduce forms of liberalizing abortion and unrestricted bioethical manipulations, of making same-sex unions the equivalent of marriage, of promoting eugenic and euthanasia practices,” Carriquiry said.
Quoting Jacques Maritain, he recalled that “human rights cannot be arbitrary, they must be universally applied and be well-founded upon reason.” Rights, he said, “are not oblivious or evident by themselves.”
“If human rights are not established, they are left baseless,” he added. “They remain at the mercy of whoever is in power” and only reflect a government that is merely democratic in name.
Denver, Colo., Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) -
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., a pro-life Democrat, spoke to a town hall meeting sponsored by Democrats for Life in Denver on Wednesday. Praising Sen. Barack Obama for reaching out to those in disagreement with aspects of the Democratic Party platform, Casey outlined his own plan to support pregnant women “in crisis,” a plan he believes would reduce the number of abortions.
In his short Tuesday speech on the floor of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), a speech much anticipated by pro-life Democrats, Casey dedicated two sentences to abortion.
“Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion,” he said. “But the fact that I’m speaking here tonight is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him.”
On Wednesday at the Hotel Monaco in Denver, Casey described his speech as “a demonstration of what Sen. Obama is trying to do in his campaign: to reach out to people who might disagree on one issue, or on more than one issue.”
Arguing that Obama had shown “leadership,” he claimed the Obama-Biden ticket would “try to bring people together even on the difficult issue of abortion” and work toward common ground.
Casey said all legislators could come together on a central priority which is “very hard for both the left and the right to just push aside and say ‘You know what, I’m not really interested.’”
That priority, he said, is pregnant women.
Many pregnant women who face pregnancy, regardless of income and circumstances, for whatever reason are “in crisis,” Casey said. He argued that government and society should show solidarity with such women through government assistance.
“We’re not doing that now,” he said. “In my judgment, neither party is doing enough on this issue.”
Mentioning the Pregnant Women Support Act, of which he is a sponsor, Casey said bills that support pregnant women must be written to appeal to the left, the right, and the center of the political spectrum.
“We have to do everything we can, as a society and as a government, to reach out and help pregnant women,” he thought every side could agree.
Since current law grants the right of women to have abortions, Casey argued, “We ought to make sure that she also has the option to carry that child to term.”
“We’ve got to help her, okay? This isn’t her problem, it’s our problem.”
Listing policies aimed to reduce abortion, Casey proposed more assistance for college women who become pregnant; counseling for parents facing an unborn child’s diagnosis of Down’s syndrome; and increasing money for both childcare and women and children’s nutrition programs.
He also advocated providing more support for pregnant women who are victims of abuse.
“Sometimes they are victims of abuse because they are pregnant,” he emphasized. “We’ve got to help that woman who is the subject of abuse.”
“If you’re not helping her, if you’re not trying to help her, you’re not pro-life,” Casey charged.
He further endorsed nurse home visitation programs to help new parents address their “uncertainty” surrounding the basics of being a parent.
Pregnant women, he explained, should have the option “to have a nurse or healthcare practitioner of some level of expertise assigned to her, someone to give her health care advice, someone who can counsel her, someone who can visit her at home for as long as is possible.”
Governmental programs should be provided to pregnant women so that “if they choose to bear that child, they’re going to get all the help they need. All the help they need.”
Fiscal concerns were surmountable obstacles, Casey asserted.
“If we believe what we say, we can come up with the money.”
If the Bush administration can secure money for a $51 billion tax cut, he argued, “more than enough money” can be found to “help pregnant women face a crisis.”
During a brief question and answer period, CNA asked Casey and other Democrat legislators at the town hall about Senator Obama’s support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove almost all restrictions on abortion. CNA asked whether the speakers had talked to Obama about the bill and whether they personally supported it.
“No, I haven’t spoken with him about it,” Casey answered, “but I don’t agree with it. I don’t support it.”
“But I think that there are ways, even when we disagree on that particular legislation as it pertains to abortion, that we can still come together,” he continued.
E.J. Dionne, a columnist for the Washington Post, asked whether the mood at the 2008 DNC was different from past years.
“I do think the mood is different,” Casey responded.
Concerning the party platform, he said platforms are an “interesting process” but noted “I don’t spend a lot of time, when we’re out there campaigning, saying ‘Well, I say this, it doesn’t agree with the platform.’”
“I would say that the abortion part of the platform wasn’t good enough for me,” he continued. He claimed there was language in the platform which was similar to the goals of the Pregnant Women Support Act, calling the platform language “tremendous progress, and a very good thing to have in there, and a very positive sign.”
However, he said he was hoping “there would be some reference to differences of opinion,” which he said was found in an earlier version.
One questioner brought up Sen. Obama’s pro-abortion remark about not wanting his daughters “punished with a baby,” asking the town hall speakers to comment.
Senator Casey answered that he was present when the remark was made, and said when Obama made his comments “I knew that response would be pulled out and seen over and over.”
“I think it was poorly articulated, I think it didn’t reflect what he was trying to convey,” he stated.
Casey said he thought Obama was trying to say that “sometimes pregnancy is a crisis. And for some women it is a crisis. For some it’s not, but for some women it is a crisis. That’s a real challenge in their life.”
He said it was “unfortunate” the statement was being depicted as a reflection of Obama’s policy or belief, but “that’s what politics is all about.”
“I don’t think it reflects what he thinks about children or what he thinks about the birth of a child,” Casey explained.
“I can say that because I know him. I know this guy pretty well.”
Turin, Italy, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday hooded attackers assaulted Franciscan monks at a monastery in the Alps foothills near Turin, leaving one priest severely injured and the three other victims hospitalized. The Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Severino Poletto, called the attack “beyond comprehension” and only explicable if the attackers had been “either drugged or possessed, or both.”
The 48-year-old Father Sergio Baldin, the guardian of the San Colombano Belmonte monastery and three elderly monks from the Franciscan order of Friars Minor were having their evening meal when they were attacked, the Times Online reports.
Three hooded men gagged and bound the monks before punching, kicking, and beating them with clubs.
Father Baldin suffered severe head injuries and “serious respiratory problems” because he choked on his food during the assault. He has had brain surgery and was in a coma.
Father Salvatore Magliano, 86, Father Emanuele Battagliotti, 81, and Father Martino Gurini, 76, were still treated at a hospital but suffered less serious injuries, according to the Times Online.
Father Battagliotti, speaking from his hospital bed, said the monks had been eating a dish of spinach when they heard noises outside.
“I got up to have a look, but the moment I got to the door I was attacked - suddenly, immediately. I was struck on the head with a blow which made me totter,” he said.
He then explained how Father Baldin came to his aid:
“He put himself in front of me to try and defend me, but he too was knocked down without mercy. They hit him until he stopped crying out. Then they beat Father Salvatore and Father Martin as well. It was terrible."
Cardinal Poletto visited the victims at the hospital.
While the cardinal suggested drugs or demonic possession may be to blame, police said the motive was robbery.
Though the monks reportedly only had small amounts of money, a spokesman said “Presumably the attackers thought they would find riches at the monastery.”
Father Gabriele Trivellin, provincial head of the Friars Minor, said the assault expressed "mindless, savage and gratuitous violence," adding that the attackers had continued beating the monks even though they offered no resistance.
The attackers were the object of a manhunt as of Wednesday, the Times Online reports.
Dayton, Ohio, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - Sen. John McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin won praise from many commentators within the ambit of the Republican Party, but especially among pro-lifers. Praising Palin as “strongly pro-life,” speakers remarked that Palin’s decision to carry her Down’s syndrome child to term was an especially sharp contrast with Sen. Barack Obama’s opposition to legislation that would protect infants who survive abortions.
Sen. McCain announced the choice of Palin at a rally in Dayton, Ohio on Friday. McCain introduced her as someone "who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people who are counting on us."
Palin was born in Idaho on February 11, 1964. According to a biography on Alaska’s official web site, Palin moved to Alaska with her family later that year. Her husband, Todd, is a production operator for BP and a champion snow machine racer. They have five children, with Palin recently having given birth to a son with Down’s syndrome in April.
She has also served as city councilman and mayor of Wasilla, a south-central Alaska town with a population of reportedly more than 6,000 people, and served as chair of the Alaska Conservation Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas resources.
Speaking in a phone press conference, several expert panelists with Republican sympathies praised the pick.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, lauded the decision.
"Sarah Palin is the whole package. There couldn't be a better vice-presidential pick," said Dannenfelser. "Women voters are electrified,” she continued, describing Palin as a “reform-minded woman” who is “truly in sync with the way real women think.” She will “give all Americans, born and unborn, the authentic leadership they deserve," she said.
Father Frank Pavone, President of Priests for Life, called Palin “strongly pro-life.”
Asked how the selection will be received by pro-life Catholics in particular, Father Pavone added, “It will no doubt be received very well.”
He noted that the pro-life community already was somewhat familiar with Palin because she recently gave birth to a baby with Down’s syndrome.
Father Pavone suggested Palin will bring more into play the “pro-life increment.” He explained that for the one-third or more of the electorate who consider the abortion issue in their votes, there is a two to one margin in favor of pro-life candidates.
Jill Stanek, a conservative journalist and blogger, asked the panel to contrast Palin’s decision to deliver her Down’s syndrome baby with Sen. Barack Obama’s opposition to legislation that would protect infants who survive abortion.
Father Pavone replied, “the contrast between those two facts about the candidates is going to come out… we’re going to make sure that it comes out, it’s a very striking contrast.”
Dannenfelser quoted Palin’s own comments when she discovered her unborn baby had Down’s syndrome: “We feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift.”
Dannenfelser remarked: “Contrast that with Sen. Obama’s approach to leaving born-alive babies left sitting there for dead, and also making the comment, if his daughter got pregnant, he would not ‘punish her with a baby.’
“It’s ‘punishment’ versus ‘privilege,’ that’s the contrast,” Dannenfelser asserted.
CNA asked the panel whether the Palin pick was a tacit acknowledgment of McCain’s weakness among pro-lifers.
Dannenfelser said that she believed people think McCain has genuine pro-life convictions, but suggested that anyone skeptical should see the Palin choice as a “perfect complement,” not as the filling of a weakness.
Father Pavone agreed, adding that the selection of Palin eliminates any concern about a possible pro-choice vice-presidential nominee.
“I think this will help us know he really does embrace this issue in political practice as well as in his voting record,” he stated.
Ken Blackwell, Vice-Chairman of the Republican National Committee’s platform committee, added his own comments.
He remarked that, as someone who guided the platform committee to the “most significant pro-life platform in the Republican Party’s history,” he thought John McCain’s “full embrace of the platform” is shown in the ticket. “This team does not reflect one iota of weakness. It is the strongest pro-life team with a pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party.”
When CNA asked how McCain could be described as such a strong supporter of the platform in light of his endorsement of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Blackwell noted that McCain’s campaign has worked with the platform committee on the relevant language. Blackwell said he thought that McCain, if he recognizes that there have been breakthroughs in research that do not involve the destruction of embryos, “that [recognition] will make this argument… a non-starter.”
Leaders of other interest groups in the GOP also praised McCain’s vice-presidential pick.
Sandra Froman, former National Rifle Association (NRA) president and current board member, called Palin, an NRA member, an “outstanding pick” who would “energize the gun rights community.”
“How can you go wrong with a moose burger-eating, fishing governor?” she asked in a delighted tone.
Grover Norquist, a prominent fiscal conservative who is president of Americans for Tax Reform, praised Palin as a “reformer” who improved government transparency by putting government financial records online.
Several panelists suggested that the pick would also appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters disaffected by an Obama candidacy and the prospect of a victorious Obama’s control of the Democratic Party. They also thought the choice courts “Reagan Democrats” who voted against Obama in the primaries.
Panelists argued that the choice of Palin, Alaska’s governor for only two years, would not eliminate Republican charges that Obama is inexperienced.
“When you compare her experience to Barack Obama’s experience, her executive experience, her experience as mayor, her experience as assistant governor, her experience as a reformer, her experience as an environmental activist,” Blackwell argued, “she is more prepared, more experienced to be president than the top of their ticket.”
Elsewhere, social conservatives were enthusiastic about the Palin choice.
“What a remarkable pick,” Austin Ruse of C-FAM told CNA in a statement. “Social conservatives are dancing in the streets. This is smart and dare I say sexy pick. My wife Cathy and I are gushing.”
Tegucigalpa, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Darwin Andino of Tegucigalpa said this week that little attention should be given to the insults spouted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is “a poor man who does not know how to measure his words.”
Speaking to the Honduran daily El Heraldo, Bishop Andino recalled that Chavez “has no power to send anyone to heaven or to hell,” as that power belongs to God. In addition, he said, “the Lord has snatched us out of hell,” which he said “is not a place, it is a state in which a person can be, a nation can be in hell.”
With regards to the insults of Venezuelan president, Andino noted that Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa “ignored these things.” “And I think that there is no need to give credit to the words because of where they are coming from or to the mouth they have come out of. Where do they come from? From a poor man who does not know how to measure his words, and we don’t need to pay attention to the words he says,” Bishop Andino underscored.
Rome, Italy, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bombay and president of the Latin Rite Bishops of India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, said this week that in light of the recent anti-Christian violence in the country, Catholics are devoted with greater earnestness to “prayer and to faith in the Cross of Jesus.” He also added that the roots of the violence need to be discovered and “we need to ask ourselves how to keep this from happening again in the future.”
Speaking on Vatican Radio, the cardinal pointed out that in Orissa, Christians “live with fear because they don’t know what will happen.” He said that at least 25 churches have been destroyed by fundamentalists and hostility has increased. For this reason he has called on the government “to intervene immediately.”
Cardinal Gracias said the Church has sponsored various initiatives to promote dialogue in India, many of which “have reaped many good results. Unfortunately, in Orissa, this has not been the case.”
Likewise, Cardinal Gracias said the persecution against the Church is aimed at stopping Christian promotion of the person. “These fundamentalist forces do not want the Church to work in support of human rights and the poor. They do not want the Church to contribute to improving the standard of living of these people. For this reason there are problems,” he added.
Despite the difficulties, the cardinal said Indian Christians place their hope “in the resurrection of Jesus. And we know that the victory always belongs to Jesus.”
Sunday, September 7 will be a day of prayer and fasting for an end to violence in India.
Alexandria, Va., Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - This morning Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was selected by Sen. John McCain to serve as his vice presidential nominee. Palin brings with her several unique credentials, but one of the most notable is that she is a proud member of Feminists for Life, according to the group’s president Serrin Foster.
In an interview with CNA on Friday, Foster explained that her group normally doesn’t disclose its membership, but since Gov. Palin freely spoke about it to the Anchorage Daily News in August of 2006, she could confirm that Palin joined in 2006.
Sarah Palin also revealed in the same article that she has ‘adamantly supported’ the pro-life cause since ‘I first understood, as a child, the atrocity of abortion.’
Gov. Sarah Palin is not just spouting rhetoric regarding her dedication to protecting life. On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to her fifth child Trig Paxon Van Palin, despite her doctor’s suggestion that she abort him because he has Down’s Syndrome.
Palin’s beliefs mesh well with Feminists for Life’s goal of “systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion” and “doing so through women centered solutions.” The vice presidential nominee explained that she believes “no woman should have to choose between her career, education and her child.”
While Palin, a non-denominational Protestant, is anti-abortion, she is in support of contraception, a position that lies beyond the scope of FFL’s mission, Ms. Foster said.
The selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate led Foster to reflect on what the event means for women and the feminist movement.
“One can only wonder how Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would feel to see this: Hillary speaking on the anniversary of the 88th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. And now, Sarah Palin two days later, becoming the first pro-life feminist to be chosen as a major party’s vice presidential nominee.”
FFL’s president also pointed out that her group has seen unprecedented success in recent weeks because “the platforms of both major U.S. political parties incorporate key pieces of FFL's unique message."
The Democratic Party platform added language this year that states: “The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.”
Ms. Foster was particularly surprised and happy to learn that the proposed platform for the Republican Party will include the phrase she coined—“Women deserve better than abortion," she told CNA.
La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Jesus Juarez, called on both the government of Evo Morales and opposition leaders to seek sincere dialogue rather than confrontation to solve the country’s problems.
“We said we have to always look for ways of understanding and not confrontation, and understanding comes through honest, sincere and responsible dialogue with a desire to solve the problem,” the bishop said.
He stressed that everyone involved should put forth their best effort to bring peace to the country. Entrenched positions prevent agreements from being reached, he added, and each side “must see what good things exist in order to find the solution together.”
Opposition leaders and the government should “sit down with an open heart and attentive ears to listen: what good things does the government bring to this dialogue, what good things does the opposition bring to this dialogue, in order to find a true solution together,” the bishop said.