By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 20, 2008
People in the pro-life movement are “not to lose heart” following the election of Barack Obama as president, said the head of the archdiocesan Pro-Life Office.
In the wake of the election, Mary Boyert said the movement could either be disheartened or engaged. Quoting a speaker she heard recently, Boyert said this time can be seen as the movement’s “glorious challenge.”
With the election over, the task now is to be realistic and work on matters and issues that people can control, she said.
“We have in front of us serious challenges. We can accept these challenges with hope,” she said.
Boyert said there is great concern among activists in the pro-life movement about abortion-related policies that may be enacted by the president-elect.
Boyert said people are anxious about a campaign promise he made to enact a federal Freedom of Choice Act, which, if passed, would erase nearly 30 years of efforts by the pro-life community to put legislative parameters on unrestricted abortion. Introduced in the Senate in April 2007, the Freedom of Choice Act would establish federal protection of abortion, regardless of what state laws might exist.
Also, she said the election brought to light a need for more education about the role of church leaders because some supporters wanted to see stronger advocacy for pro-life issues.
“The role of the church is to teach moral values. The role of the laity is to act on those moral values,” she said.
Some 54 percent of Catholics voted for President-elect Obama, according to exit polls, with the percentage dropping to 45 percent among weekly Mass-goers.
Catholic groups that backed Obama during the election have said they will push the incoming administration to enact policies that stress the dignity of people.
“As faithful citizens, we will challenge his administration to bring a responsible end to the Iraq war, ensure all Americans have health care, and enact comprehensive solutions to reduce abortions. Catholics in Alliance will continue to challenge all elected officials to put human dignity and the common good before narrow partisan agendas or rigid ideologies,” said a statement from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
Leaders in the pro-life community believe the election was not decided on life issues, but on economic concerns.
A notice from the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pointed out a recent Marist poll found that six out of 10 Americans favor banning all abortions or limiting them to the rare cases of danger to the mother’s life, rape or incest.
In a meeting last week, the U.S. bishops issued a statement that recognized the historic achievement of President-elect Obama, but cautioned him not to divide the country with pro-abortion rights laws.
“The bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
He said that “the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve,” if the administration’s policies increase abortions.
Meanwhile, Boyert said the Georgia Catholic Conference is looking to work on pro-life legislation on the state level.
Within the church, Boyert said it might be good to begin a long-term effort to get a civil dialogue going to reach understanding. Catholics who voted for President-elect Obama should voice why they did and, in the same way, Catholics who voted with the mind that abortion is the paramount issue should talk about their votes.
People in the pro-life community would benefit from reviewing if they did everything in their control to promote the pro-life agenda during the election, said Boyert, who said she has been “very reflective” during the past weeks.