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Bishop Asks Sen. Casey to Rescind Vote on Policy
Affecting Overseas Abortions

Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.
Bishop of Scranton

January 30, 2009 

In a letter to Sen. Robert P. Casey, Bishop Joseph F. Martino condemned the vote taken by Sen. Casey against an amendment to a bill which would have prohibited millions of U.S. tax dollars from going to organizations abroad that provide and promote abortion.

The Martinez Amendment to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would have reinstated the Mexico City Policy rescinded by President Obama on Jan. 23. The amendment was defeated in a vote of 60-37.

In his letter, Bishop Martino condemns Sen. Casey’s vote against the Martinez amendment which would have prevented “over 450 million dollars of American foreign aid . . .[from going] to organizations that are militant in promoting abortion as a method of population control, particularly in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds.”

The Bishop continues, “Your vote against the Mexico City Policy will mean the deaths of thousands of unborn children. This is an offense against life and a denial of our Catholic teaching on the dignity of every human being. This action is worthy of condemnation by all moral men and women.”

The Bishop’s letter urges Sen. Casey to rescind his vote on the Martinez amendment. “Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy,” says the Bishop.

The Mexico City Policy was first implemented under President Reagan. It was rescinded by President Clinton and reinstated by President Bush. The policy required that non-governmental organizations abroad “agree as a condition of their receipt of [U.S.] federal funds” that they would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” The policy exempted abortions done in response to rape, incest, or life-threatening conditions.

“The core of the argument is whether U.S. taxpayers ought to be forced to fund efforts abroad that utilize abortion as a means of family planning,” said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL). “If we want to continue fostering a culture of life, where every life is considered sacred, every child is celebrated, and life at all stages is given the dignity it deserves, then we will reinstate this [Mexico City] policy.”

A release issued by Sen. Casey’s office the day after the vote says that “Restrictions on the federal funding of abortions are in place both domestically and overseas. U.S. funding of abortions overseas is prohibited by the 1973 Helms Amendment. . . . [which reads] “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”

But as Bishop Martino’s letter points out, the Helms Amendment does not restrict organizations from using their own money to provide and promote abortions. It does not deny money to organizations that are militant about pressuring foreign governments to reverse anti-abortion legislation. The Mexico City Policy does both.

The full text of Bishop Martino’s letter to Sen. Casey follows: 

January 30, 2009 

Dear Senator Casey: 

I wish to thank you for voting in favor of the Hatch Amendment to the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reorganization Act of 2009 which would have made unborn children eligible for child health assistance had it passed. I am grateful for what you have done on behalf of children in America who are without health care.

It is with deep regret, however, that I learned of your vote against the amendment offered by Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) to the same Children’s Health Insurance Act. Senator Martinez’s amendment would have reinstated the Mexico City Policy. That policy, instituted in 1984, required foreign non-governmental organizations “to agree as a condition of their receipt of [U.S.] federal funds” that they would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning . . . .” It also prohibited them from lobbying governments to make abortion legal. In effect, the reversal of the Mexico City policy will mean that over 450 million dollars of American foreign aid will go to organizations that are militant in promoting abortion as a method of population control, particularly in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds. Senator, is not this vote a contradiction of your repeated claim that you support the protection of unborn life?

Contrary to a release issued by your office yesterday, the 1973 Helms Amendment does not provide the same restrictions as the Mexico City Policy. The Helms Amendment prohibits only U.S. funds from being used to pay for abortions or to motivate or coerce anyone to practice abortions. It in no way keeps U.S. federal funds from organizations which use their own money to pay for or support abortions. Nor does it place restrictions on organizations that lobby foreign governments to reverse anti-abortion laws. While I understand that the Helms Amendment is still in place, it does not have the same effect in limiting abortions abroad.     

On Respect Life Sunday, October 5, I addressed the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton. In keeping with the obligations of my episcopal office, I called upon my brothers and sisters in faith to be vigilant against the objections to the Church’s teaching on life so prevalent in current political discourse. I vowed to be vigilant in correcting Catholics who are in error with regard to the sanctity of life. Your vote against the Mexico City Policy will mean the deaths of thousands of unborn children. This is an offense against life and a denial of our Catholic teaching on the dignity of every human being. This action is worthy of condemnation by all moral men and women.

Your release also says that you support “family planning . . . specifically because reducing unintended pregnancies reduces the number of abortions.” I remind you that it is never permissible to use immoral means (e.g., artificial contraception) to achieve a good end.

As I have done on several occasions, Senator, I urge you to consider that Church documents speak clearly and compellingly on the special responsibility that falls to you as a lawmaker to oppose abortion and other clear evils, including contraception, infanticide, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research. To that end, I refer you to two documents: 

1. Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life. It says, “Catholics . . . have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard. John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose’ any law that attacks human life.” 

2.  Christifideles Laici. It states, “If, indeed everyone has the mission and responsibility of acknowledging the personal dignity of every human being and of defending the right to life, some lay faithful are given a particular title to this task: such as parents, teachers, health workers and those who hold economic and political power.” 

I remind you further that when he was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger sent a memo to the bishops of the United States advising them that advocacy of, or participation in, abortion and euthanasia can never be justified by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits or requires it. He said there can be no diversity of opinion among Catholics regarding abortion and euthanasia.

It is my deepest wish, Senator, to convince you of the necessity of rescinding your vote on the Martinez Amendment. It is the height of irony that this amendment was defeated while the Senate passed legislation to provide health insurance for children who would otherwise be without it. What hypocrisy offers health insurance to children in one part of the world when children in another part will be deprived, by the stroke of the same pen, of their first breath?

I recognize and respect the burdens that you bear as a United States Senator; however, I remind you that your responsibilities as a Catholic bound by the faith of the Church exceed even those of your office. Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy. 

As I have done several times before, I offer to make myself available to you to discuss the grave concerns that I raise here.  

Sincerely yours in Christ,  

Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.

Bishop of Scranton

 

 

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