.- Republican Bob Schaffer is hoping to capture a senate seat in Colorado, but his campaign has been dogged by accusations that he ignored forced abortions during a Northern Marianas Islands trip in 1999. According to diocesan officials in Chalan Kanoa, they have received no solid evidence that forced abortions had in fact occurred.
The controversy surrounding the 1999 visit first began last month when Colorado Right to Life accused Schaffer of turning a blind eye to reports that textile workers on the islands were being forced to have abortions.
Another pro-life group, American Right to Life Action, an offshoot of Colorado Right to Life, called on Schaffer to admit that he dismissed the allegations.
"The pro-life movement will no longer give a pass to candidates like Bob Schaffer who look the other way when Chinese women are forced to abort their children," Steve Curtis, the head of American Right to Life Action, said in mid-April.
Schaffer, however, was adamant that he looked into the forced abortion claims.
When he returned from the trip 1999 trip to the North Marianas, he told the Denver Post that, âhe found factory working conditions generally satisfactory.â Schaffer later added that âallegations of forced abortions were among the things he looked into on that trip.â
"I absolutely did not look the other way on this issue," Schaffer insisted. In fact, he said that during his trip he interviewed âdozensâ of workers and met with local religious leaders about the topic.
One 1998 report from the U.S. Office of Insular Affairs found squalid living conditions for foreign workers in the Marianas. Investigators also said that at least one woman claimed that her company forced her to abort her child upon discovering her pregnancy.
Schaffer said that he âfound the reports credible" and had ânot seen them refuted."
During the five days that he spent on the islands in 1999, the legislator told the Denver Post that he tried to determine how often abortions occurred and to track down anyone with knowledge of forced abortions occurring.
Yet, according to Schaffer, every religious or public official he talked to could only say that they had heard the rumors that forced abortions were occurring, but that they never discovered any actual evidence or had anyone come forward with a claim.
When contacted by Catholic News Agency, Angie Guerrero, Karidat Social Servicesâ director, confirmed Schafferâs assertion that evidence on forced abortions is lacking.
âWe have heard that (of the claims of forced abortions), but none of the alleged victims have come out and said that they were forced to have abortion. So thatâs all hearsay, because we canât prove it; theyâre only allegations,â she said.
As director of Karidat Social Services, Guerrero is familiar with the abortion situation throughout the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, which includes the islands of Saipan, Rota and Tinian. Her office is currently working on a program to assess the number of abortions occurring in the region, but as of yet does not have exact figures.
The same case regarding the claims of forced abortions was presented by several other sources contacted by CNA. Some people cited the fact that abortions do occur on the islands, but that they the mothers chose to abort their children.
CNA also attempted to contact Chalan Kanoaâs Bishop Tomas Camacho, but he is indefinitely off-island being treated for medical problems.