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Pro-lifers unite

National | Evangelicals defend the Vatican's UN status as international pro-abortion groups go on the offensive

Issue: "Court in the balance," April 1, 2000

What happens when a coalition of aggressively pro-abortion groups tries to silence an international pro-life voice? Religious conservatives, who disagree with one another on points of theology, form a coalition to try to stop them. Evangelical groups have joined with Roman Catholic activists in fighting to preserve the Vatican's unique status at the United Nations.

As a non-member state with permanent observer status, the Vatican enjoys many of the same rights and privileges as the 188 countries that are full-fledged UN members. While it has no vote, the Vatican can take active part in UN debates and conferences, and its contrarian pro-life presence clearly annoys the dominant ethos at these celebrations of feminism and radical environmentalism.

The abortion advocacy group Catholics for a Free Choice is leading a campaign to prod the UN to review the permanent observer status of the Holy See, the Vatican's governing body. "In a time when religious fundamentalism threatens pluralism, tolerance, and women's human rights, the UN must maintain a clear separation between religious beliefs and international public policy," declares the CFC website. They complain the Holy See uses its influence "to limit access to family planning, safe abortion-even in countries where abortion is legal, and emergency contraception-even for women who have been raped as an act of war. Successfully challenging the Holy See's status will save women's lives." CFC leader Frances Kissling said her campaign, known as "See Change," had over 400 signatures from organizations that want to review the Vatican's sovereign-state claim.

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The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute declared that its efforts to preserve the Vatican's status have garnered signatures from 1,015 organizations from more than 50 countries, including the groups Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council. "The Catholic Church has been the No. 1 defender of the unborn child's human rights around the world and that's why

pro-abortion forces are trying to shut the Holy See out of UN conferences," explained Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy at Focus on the Family. "We Christians from all denominations will stand with our Catholic allies to see that the abortion industry is not successful at silencing the Holy See at the UN."

The dispute has spilled over into the presidential campaign, where Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson is demanding that the Democratic standard-bearer make his views known. "As a Catholic, I am appalled that Al Gore has courted the support of two groups trying to throw the Vatican out of the United Nations," Mr. Nicholson said, citing the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, which endorsed Mr. Gore in February, and a group called Women Leaders Online, whose advisory board includes several pro-Gore Congresswomen. Mr. Nicholson asked, "Does Al Gore agree with these anti-Catholic goals? If not, why does he refuse to stand up and repudiate them? Why doesn't Gore reject the endorsements of these anti-Catholic groups?"

Nearly identical resolutions have been introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate, warning that any degradation of the Holy See's UN status would damage UN relations with the United States. Ms. Kissling denounced the resolutions as an easy way for Republicans "to show that they are indeed not anti-Catholic. We think the 60-some million Catholic people of the U.S. will let them know that support for the Holy See is not synonymous with support for Catholicism."

So far, the national media's sudden passion for the Roman Catholic Church after the Bush visit to Bob Jones University hasn't been matched by any attention to the long-time hostility of feminists and environmentalists to the Vatican's pro-life commitment. Religious conservatives and Republican leaders may be waiting a long time before anyone forces Al Gore or Hillary Clinton to address the anti-Christian overtones of the hard-left base of the Democratic Party.

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