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Higher learning?

Roe v. Wade | Catholic colleges have become a training ground for pro-abortion politicians; evangelical colleges are doing better

Issue: "Pro-baby," Jan. 30, 2010

The most prominent pro-abortion leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is a disappointment to faithful Catholics. A graduate of Trinity Washington University, a Catholic school, Pelosi often claims to being guided by her Catholic faith when making policy decisions, yet NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) gives her a 100 percent rating, the strongest pro-abortion voting record possible.

What about other graduates of religious colleges? As a pro-life Roman Catholic who taught for years in a Catholic college, I have been concerned about the role that Catholic college graduates play in defeating pro-life initiatives in Congress. I wondered whether the graduates of evangelical colleges and universities showed similar voting behaviors, so I compared the voting records of the 10 graduates of evangelical colleges and universities with the voting records of the 60 graduates of Roman Catholic colleges and universities. The results: Eight of the 10 evangelical college grads not only vote pro-life but are among the strongest anti-abortion voices in Congress. In contrast, 40 of the 60 Catholic college grads in the 111th Congress voted last year to expand abortion rights.

One of the evangelical leaders, Biola graduate Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., led a Senate fight against President Obama's decision to allow taxpayer money to fund organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas. Another leader, Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., is a graduate of Asbury College and has a 0 percent NARAL rating: That's because he has voted to declare the pre-born child a person under the 14th Amendment, to make it a crime to harm him while committing a crime, and to ban partial-birth abortion and human cloning for reproductive and medical research. Pitts also led the charge in the House against taxpayer funding for abortion within the healthcare reform bill.

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Last July, when the House voted to provide taxpayer-funded abortion for poor women living in the District of Columbia, all but two evangelical college graduates serving in the House joined Pitts in voting against it: Evangelical University grad Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.; Calvin College grad Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich.; Abilene Christian grad Ted Poe, R-Texas; Mississippi College grad Gregg Harper, R-Miss.; Southern Nazarene grad Kenny Marchant, R-Texas; and Oral Roberts grad Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Covenant Seminary grad Todd Akin, R-Mo., joined the evangelical college graduates in voting against the abortion funding. The only two of the 10 evangelical college graduates in Congress to vote in favor of D.C. abortion funding were Democrats: Indiana Wesleyan grad André Carson of Indiana, a pro-choice Muslim; and pro-choice Episcopalian and Wheaton grad Jim McDermott of Washington. Both have 100 percent NARAL ratings.

On the other side of the religious aisle sits Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the assistant majority leader, a Roman Catholic who received both an undergraduate and a law degree from Georgetown University. Durbin frequently posts a 0 percent pro-life voting record on key abortion issues, according to the National Right to Life Committee's measurement. He voted against banning partial-birth abortion in 1999 and again in 2003. He voted against maintaining the ban on military base abortions, and in 2006 opposed notifying parents of minors who travel out of state for abortions. Last year, Durbin voted against prohibiting minors from crossing state lines for abortions, voted against making an unborn child eligible for SCHIP (the children's health insurance policy), and rejected a pro-life amendment to reinsert the District of Columbia ban on funding abortion with local taxpayer money.

Faithful Catholics were dismayed when nine of the other 12 Catholic college graduates in the Senate joined Durbin in voting to have the United States fund abortions overseas. Those favoring such funding: Georgetown grads Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Jim Webb, D-Va.; Loyola College Maryland grad Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Boston College grad John Kerry, D-Mass.; St. Peter's College grad Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Providence College grad Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Catholic University of America grad Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; and to the surprise of some, Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.

Three Catholic college grads, though, did vote to ban funding for overseas abortions: Georgetown grad John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Xavier graduate Jim Bunning, R-Ky.; and Creighton University graduate Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Similar voting patterns for Catholic college and university graduates are evident in the House, where 30 Catholic college graduates were instrumental in making it more likely that children of poor women living in the District of Columbia will be aborted. Still, 18 of the 48 Catholic college graduates in the House voted against D.C. abortion funding. (See sidebar below)

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