0ne hundred pro-life leaders from around the country have signed a joint statement condemning the partial-birth abortion procedure and committing themselves to a nationwide education campaign focusing on it.
The statement and names of the signers were released May 21 by one of the signers, Father Frank A. Pavone, a priest of the archdiocese who is national director of Priests for Life.
"The purpose of the statement," Father Pavone said, "is to demonstrate our united conviction that President Clinton's April 10 veto of the partial-birth abortion ban is a travesty of governance and a threat to all human life everywhere."
The legislation vetoed by Clinton would have banned a late-term procedure in which the unborn child is partially delivered before surgical scissors are stabbed into the base of the child's skull. The brain is then removed by suction, allowing for easier delivery of the rest of the body.
In their statement, the pro-life leaders said the procedure "totally contradicts a civilized society," and the veto "totally contradicts the purpose of such a society's government, which is to care for and protect human life."
"The continuation of partial-birth abortion as a legal act in America ... should be a serious wakeup call to all citizens," they said. "If we cannot reject this as wrong, what will we reject? If this does not disturb us, is there anything that will?
"We commit ourselves to educate every American about partial-birth abortion and to call them to a united response to end all destruction of innocent persons," the statement concluded.
In announcing the joint statement, Father Pavone said, "We will shine the spotlight on this gruesome procedure, and educate people, as never before, about the tragedy of all abortions."
The statement quotes a 1995 Tarrance poll indicating that 71 percent of U.S. citizens support a ban on this procedure. Citing Senate hearing testimony, the statement also called for "an end to the myth that partial-birth abortions can be necessary for a woman's health."
Father Pavone, whose group is based on Staten Island, said signers "represent a variety of ages, types of pro-life organizations, and religious traditions."
Among them are: Father Richard John Neuhaus, a priest of the archdiocese who is president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in Manhattan; Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., superior, and nine other members of the Sisters of Life in the Bronx; Beverly LaHaye, president of Concerned Women for America; Dr. J. C. Willke, president of Life Issues Institute; Joseph M. Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, and Marie Sheahan Brown, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Sacramento, Calif.
Others include: Lawrence Breheny, executive director of Catholic Charities-Des Moines, Iowa; Janet Krocheski, director of Respect Life Programs for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, and Anthony DeStefano...
Groups represented by the 100 signers will formulate methods of educating the public that are specific to their varied ministries, Father Pavone said. Many will focus on the issue in their newsletters.
Priests for Life will urge its 40,000 priest members to preach and teach on the subject, he said. Also, they will be asked to make sure parishes get pro-life materials now being prepared by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities and to participate in a June 29-30 postcard campaign aimed at an override of the Clinton veto.
Project Life Postcard '96 is being sponsored by the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment and the bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat.