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.
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)
Many of the Catholic college grads went to schools under the authority of the Jesuits-the Society of Jesus, long the leading Catholic order oriented toward higher education. Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn recently told the National Catholic Reporter that Jesuit-educated graduates in Congress are "leavens of good for the wider society." In the same article, Georgetown University spokesman Andy Pino claimed that the Jesuit graduates in Congress are "living the Jesuit value of educating leaders to be women and men for others."
To understand how some Catholic campuses may have actually nurtured the pro-abortion politicians, it is helpful to look at the culture and curriculum at Georgetown, which created in 2006 the Robert F. Drinan, S. J. Chair in Human Rights. While Drinan, a Jesuit priest, claimed to be committed to social justice, he did not include the unborn as deserving of protection. As an elected member of the House of Representatives from 1970 until 1980, Fr. Drinan provided a much imitated model for Catholic politicians who wished to support the pro-abortion movement while claiming to be faithful to Catholic moral teaching. Drinan was instrumental in convincing the one-time pro-life Catholic Kennedy family to support legalized abortion. Throughout his tenure in Congress, Drinan could be counted on to provide some of the most extreme pro-abortion votes.
Bringing this Jesuitical tradition to the recent healthcare reform debates in Congress over federal funding for abortion, Brietta Clark and Karl Manheim, law professors at Loyola Law School, a Jesuit-led institution in Los Angeles, recently published an essay in The San Francisco Chronicle claiming that the Stupak Amendment (which bans federal funding of abortion) is an "unconstitutional intrusion into the right to abortion." Clark and Manheim declare that the Stupak Amendment is unconstitutional because it would create a substantial obstacle to the right to abortion by effectively requiring women to purchase health insurance that excludes abortion coverage.
What's the result if we compare votes on abortion not only by graduates of evangelical and Catholic colleges, but by those who go to churches identified as evangelical or Catholic? If we look at the vote in the Senate to restore the prohibition on abortion funding overseas and the vote in the House on using taxpayer money to fund abortion for poor women in the District of Columbia, we find Roman Catholics most likely to take the pro-abortion side.
And, in the debate over healthcare, the majority of Catholic lawmakers pushed for federal funding of abortion-even though Catholic bishops were overwhelmingly opposed-and some made hard-line comments: Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said, "If choice is out, so am I." Most of the pro-life votes came from conservative Protestant senators-some of them evangelicals like Thune and Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
As a Catholic, I'm embarrassed and chagrined.
-Anne Hendershott is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; Nicholas Dunn assisted her with data collection and analysis
All in favor ...
The 30 House members who graduated from Catholic colleges and voted in favor of taxpayer funding for abortions in the District of Columbia:
Holy Cross: Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y.; James Moran, D-Va.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt.
Boston College: Michael Capuano, D-Mass.; William Delahunt, D-Mass.; Paul Hodes, D-N.H.; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; Edward Markey, D-Mass.; and Robert Scott, D-Va.
Georgetown: Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; John Dingell, D-Mich.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; and Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.
Loyola College Maryland: John Hall, D-N.Y.
Santa Clara University: Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
Marquette University: Gwen Moore, D-Wis.
Fordham University: Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.; Adam Smith, D-Wash.; and William Pascrell, D-N.J.
University of Detroit Mercy: Gary Peters, D-Mich.
St. Peter's College: Albio Sires, D-N.J.
Maryknoll College: Gerald Connolly, D-Va.
Marymount College: Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
Providence College: Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.
College of St. Catherine: Betty McCollum, D-Minn.
St. John's University: Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
St. Mary's University: Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas
King's College (Pa.): Patrick Murphy, D-Pa.
All Opposed ...
The 18 Catholic college graduates who opposed D.C. abortion funding:
Marquette University: Steve Austria, R-Ohio, and Donald Manzullo, R-Ill.
Xavier University: John Boehner, R-Ohio
University of Detroit Mercy: Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich.
Fordham University: Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-La.
Georgetown: Michael Castle, R-Del.; Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Glenn Nye, D-Va., and Dan Lungren, R-Calif.
St. Joseph's University: Frank LoBiondo, R-N.Y.
Wheeling Jesuit College: Tim Murphy, R-Pa.
Creighton University: Lee Terry, R-Neb.
St. Bonaventure University: John Boccieri, D-Ohio
Notre Dame Law School: Peter King, R-N.Y.
St. Mary's University: Michael McCaul, R-Texas
College of St. Thomas: James Oberstar, D-Minn.
A pro-baby wave | Optimistic signs point to a changing abortion debate | Marvin Olasky
Learning to wait | Denied federal funds, abstinence educators plan next moves | William McCleery
'Look after orphans' | Twenty ways to become an adoption-friendly church | Paul Golden
Chemical reaction | The drug RU486 gives women the option of abortion in privacy | Alisa Harris
Eyewitnesses | Ultrasound technology is one reason more Americans are becoming pro-life | Alisa Harris
Finding searchers | Pregnancy centers buy Google real estate to reach abortion-minded women | Emily Belz
Life changes | Anti-CPC forces alter their tactics and auditors eye Planned Parenthood | Alisa Harris
Called to a cause | The pro-life movement won over Marjorie Dannenfelser, and now she's working to help it win over Congress | Marvin Olasky
'It all clicked together' | How one Christian volunteer found herself in the right place at the right time at a crisis pregnancy center in Texas | Susan Olasky
The telltale protests | The abortion issue did not die after Roe v. Wade | Andrée Seu