Gore Makes Veiled Attack on Catholic Church

Author: William Donohue

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights 1011 First Avenue New York, New York 10022 Phone: (212)371-3191 Fax (212)371-3394

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 1997 ATTN: News Editor CONTACT: William A. Donohue, Ph.D., President, Catholic League


On January 22, the 24th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Vice President Al Gore spoke before the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) delivering a decidedly pro-choice speech. Labeling the pro-life side "anti-choice," Gore insinuated that the Catholic Church was responsible for the large volume of abortions in the U.S.

Gore claimed that those who believe that "family planning, in the form of birth control and even the giving of information about birth control, is morally wrong" were culpable for driving up the abortion rate. Referring to this group, Gore said, "If they were willing to abandon that aspect of their common front then there would be much that we could all do together to make abortions rare." He left little doubt that it was those Catholics who followed the teachings of the Church on family planning that were responsible for the high abortion rate.

Catholic League president William Donohue issued the following remarks today:

"Vice President Gore should have the integrity to simply finger the Catholic Church as the reason why abortions are not rare. Instead, he prefers to assign culpability in an oblique manner. This is regrettable because it eschews a much needed national debate: is it the teachings of the Catholic Church that accounts for the high abortion rate or is it the edicts of the Clinton Administration? Given the fact that Gore, like President Clinton, supports partial-birth abortions, it is difficult to understand what abortions he might oppose.

"There is another problem with Gore's speech. Both he and Hillary Clinton addressed an organization that was founded on anti-Catholicism. In its early days, NARAL, as one of its founders Dr. Bernard Nathanson has said, attacked [the Roman Catholic Church] at every opportunity. Our favorite tack was to blame the church for the death of every woman from a botched abortion.' As such, it is outrageous that the Vice President and the First Lady would dignify such an audience with their presence."

The Catholic League is the nation's largest Catholic Civil Rights organization. It defends individual Catholics and the institutional Church from defamation and discrimination.

Subject: remarks of First Lady at Abortion Rights luncheon 1/22

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary _________________________________________________________________ Internal Transcript January 22, 1997


MRS. CLINTON: I am pleased to be here with all of you. And I know that it took a little longer to get into the room than usual, but let me reassure you about the events of this morning. We do not know what the facts are, but law enforcement, as the President said this morning, is working hard to get the bottom of it, and it does not, at least so far as we know at this time, appear to be anything serious that should concern us.

I am very pleased to be here for a number of reasons. One is to join all of you in honoring Robin Chandler Duke. We will hear more about her as the program goes on. But I wanted to thank her publicly for her tireless work on behalf of family planning here at home and particularly internationally, on her advocacy of safe motherhood and other issues critical to women, children and families. She has always understood that these are not marginal concerns. They relate to political and economic progress, human rights, and peace and prosperity here in our country and around the world.

So I wanted to raise my voice with all of yours in commending her for all of her work in raising awareness about family planning and her many other contributions that she has already made and that I know she will continue to make into the future. (Applause.)

I also wanted to come and recognize and thank my friend, Nancy Rubin, for her energy, her wisdom and all of her efforts on behalf of causes relating to women and families. She is a clear and articulate voice for women's rights around the world and has worked to strengthen education, economic opportunities, legal protections and political rights, and has helped from one corner of the world to the next to bring women's issues to the forefront of international and national concerns. (Applause.)

And I know that I speak for all of us and for many others who are not here in thanking Kate Michelman for over a decade of service leading this organization and doing so much to promote and protect a women's right to choose. It has not been an easy mission. And she has continued to speak up and speak out even in difficult times. And, Kate, we want to thank you for that. (Applause).

I'm delighted that the Vice President and Tipper Gore will be here shortly, representing the administration, and that both of them will address you. I literally am dropping in, wanting to be here today, but I have a previous engagement and have to be New York this evening, I think--I lose track of where I am and where I'm going and where I'll be. (Laughter.)

But I wanted to lend my voice to the Vice President's and Tipper's and to all of yours in thanking you for your work. And particularly, I wanted to thank the members of Congress who are here and other elected officials for remaining steadfast in their support of a woman's right to choose.

This is never an easy issue, and anyone who thinks they have the ultimate truth on it is always going to be wrong. This is a very hard issue. And in the next years, I hope that we will be able to find ways of increasing dialogue, in working together with people of good faith who do not share extremism as their rallying cry, to try to understand how we can continue the progress that has been made in the last four years in decreasing the number of abortions, decreasing teen pregnancy, in working to give women opportunities to make the choices that are best for them and their families.

And I have no illusions about the difficulty of that. But I also have no illusions that there is any other route to take. This is an issue that will be with us because of the strong feelings. And I think that my husband's formulation of it years ago is still the right one, that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. We have worked hard in the last--(applause)--in the last four years to maintain legality and safety and to begin to put into place attitudes and values and policies that are beginning to work to make abortion rare.

But that will mean we also must speak out on behalf of family planning here and around the world--(applause)--on behalf of educational opportunities for young women and young men so they know they have better choices and that they should postpone childbearing or even confronting the issue of abortion. It means that we have to have good, comprehensive health care services available to all people in our country so that they have access to the same information that those of us who are fortunate do. (Applause.)

I was reminded on my way over here of several of the experiences that I have had in the last four years traveling on behalf of our country. I was in Brazil, a maternal hospital--I wrote about it in my book and I talked about it. It stays in my mind because half the admissions were for the joy of giving birth, and half the admissions were for complications resulting from self-induced or back-alley abortions. And the Minister of Health in a public meeting with me said, we want to give poor women the same information and access to family planning that well-to-do women have always had in our country. (Applause.) That should be our goal not only here but also in our foreign policy.

I also had th rather unique experience within a year of traveling to China and speaking out against policies of forced abortion and sterilization where the government made the choice for women, and traveling to Romania that under the previous communist regime had a policy of enforcing birth--five children per woman. And I spoke with women who told me of every month being taken as part of their work units to local hospitals where they were forcefully examined to determine whether or not they were pregnant so they could then be monitored by the secret police to be sure they had the child.

Two extremes--government, on the one hand, saying you cannot have children; government, on the other hand, saying you must have children. What we have tried to do in promoting choice is to say that this most difficult of all intimate choices for women and men must be made by the individual in the privacy of her consultation with her conscience, her God, her family, her physician-- (applause.)

Thank you for continuing to try to get that message across. Please join in helping us make these difficult decisions rarer. Help us support women in all their needs. Help us support families.

And I appreciate greatly the devotion and dedication that so many of you have given to this over the years, and look forward to working with you into the future. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Vice President __________________________________________________________________ For immediate release January 22, 1997

Transcript of the Vice President's Remarks Before NARAL January 21, 1997

Thank you. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Tipper an I are delighted to be here. She whispered to me just now to remind you that the reason we were five minutes late for the Inaugural ceremony is that we stayed longer than we were supposed to in church that morning. (Laughter and applause). Thank you very much.

It is great to be here. And Kate thank you as others have thanked you for your extraordinary leadership and your untiring advocacy of the rights of women. I also want to thank Nancy Rubin, a longtime effective leader and advocate of the rights of women and for her leadership in setting up this event. To Barbara Silve (phonetic) and the other members of the NARAL Board. And especially today to Robin Chandler Duke. Tipper spoke today for me and for all of us with her words straight from the heart about how strongly we feel about your lifetime achievement Robin. Thank you for your personal friendship to Tipper and me for so many years and may I add my words to those that have already been well spoken here.

Let me also acknowledge, even though I understand that they have been mentioned, I want to also acknowledge the members of the House and Senate who are here because it takes great courage in many cases for these individuals to take the stands that they have taken. And I want to single out Senator Bob Kerrey, Senator Chuck Robb, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Barbara Boxer and other Senators who are not here. And in the House of Representatives, Rep. Ken Bentsen, Rep. Lloyd Doggett -- both from Texas, Rep. Bob Filner, Rep. Elizabeth Furse, Rep. Jane Harmon, Rep Tom Lantos, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Smith and again other members of the House who are not here.

And of course I want to acknowledge a great friend to Tipper and me who was here earlier in your luncheon and acknowledge the First Lady's leadership on this issue all around the world. I think especially the way she represented the United States of America and those who believe in the values for which our nation stands when she traveled to Beijing and spoke truth to power in that conference. I thought it was an extraordinary achievement, one which she has replicated in many places around the world and in this country.

She spoke about the events of earlier today. I will not comment on them. I do not want to say that on Thursday we witnessed the horror of two bombs being detonated at a family planning clinic in Atlanta--the second bomb maliciously planted for the specific purpose of harming the brave Americans who were attending to the victims of the first explosion. Counter- terrorists experts point out that this is a pattern that first emerged in some other places in the world known for endemic terror and hatred. It could not have been an accident in their view. On Sunday a clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma was struck by two bombs. The same clinic had been firebombed not three weeks earlier.

To those who committed the horrible deeds of Tulsa and Atlanta I say this on behalf of President Clinton and the American people: The American people will not tolerate your cowardly crusade. We Americans resolve our differences with civilized discussion and spirited debate and elections and constitutional processes not with pipe bombs, hand grenades and instruments of hate. You will not prevail. (Applause)

These emotions we feel are fresh and strong in the immediate aftermath of the majestic and peaceful transition from one four year presidential term to the next. A peaceful transfer of power that has taken place over and over again without violence ever for more than 200 years.

The reason we are able to feel this way as Americans on Inauguration Day--regardless of which party wins, regardless of who we voted for, regardless of our feelings about the individual who is up there taking the oath of office--the reason we feel an enormous swell of pride is because we know that we have the capacity of a free self-governing people to deal with differences peacefully. By talking with one another, arguing with one another, but arguing peacefully.

Let there be know doubt we will find the terrorists who committed these horrible acts of the past week and we will punish you to the full extent of the law. We will not let you terrorize America's women or their doctors. (Applause) We will not let you deface out constitution. (Applause) We will not let you destroy the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that is America. (Applause) We will find you. (Applause)

The anti-choice cause did not win in the nation's courts. They did not win in the court of public opinion. They did not win in the nation's elections. And its advocates will not prevail by trampling our traditions or trafficking in terror. These appalling attacks are assaults not merely against a single building or a single gender but against America's deepest principles.

In nation's with different traditions, they believe that power comes out of the barrel of a gun. But in this nation we know that true power comes out of disparate voices of a free people.

I want to say one other word to those who have committed these deeds. If you claim religious convictions compelled your attempts to scare, your attempts to kill, you have committed an appalling act of hypocrisy. No interpretation of God in any religious tradition condones--let alone calls for--terror. (Applause) Speaking from the perspective of my own religious tradition, I say that the Bible offers no ballast. I quote from 1 John, Chapter two, verse 9: "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness."

We can disagree on some things, but women and men of goodwill must agree that violence has no place in our dialogue of democracy. Christian, Jew or Muslim or follower of some other tradition, all Americans must work to ensure that light triumphs over darkness. Billy Graham said it well earlier this week on the steps of the U.S. Capitol when he asked God, and I quote, "help us to learn our courtesy to our fellow countrymen, that comes from the one who taught us that whatever you want me to do to you, do also to them.'"

And Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we honored on the same day as Inauguration Day, offered similar counsel. Listen to his words: "Violence...is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood (and sisterhood) impossible."

The pro-choice movement, I'm proud to say, has never resorted to violence. You have relied on reason. You have worked within the system. And for that, I thank you and the American people thank you. NARAL has built a tradition of tolerance, and every one of you has made our country stronger. I thank you for standing up for American's women and for their right to choose.

Those who support women's rights and the right to choose should also take care to avoid the language of violence. In condemning those who have now resorted to violence on the other side of this argument, let us acknowledge respectfully and gratefully all of those who while disagreeing on this issue also abhor the resort to violence. Yes, there are those who silently welcome it though not participating in it themselves. But let us not pretend that that is the majority. It is not. The majority within this group that holds a minority opinion also deplore the violence.

Coming out of the events of this week, I mentioned that these emotions are fresh and strong because of what we have experienced as a nation this week. And the desire for renewed attempts to reach out for common ground is also strong and fresh. Cardinal Bernardin was a leader among those who passionately disagree on this issue but nevertheless attempted to construct a dialogue aimed at mutual understanding.

I remember Cairo so well, primarily because it was an occasion in which the entire world came together in search of mutual understanding. I remember, I remember my case and the crutches and going over there the week after my operation. Some of you may recall it was my Achilles tendon and you probably heard me explain that it was injured doing a helicopter dunk on the basketball court. (Laughter) I caught my elbow on the rim (laughter) coming down.

(Laughter) I still have to wear the full body case (laughter and applause). But as I started to remember those meetings it all came back to me. But I remember meeting with individuals of from different religious traditions, from different political cultures, from different ways of life, and talking in-depth about what is involved for all of us as human beings as we confront this issue.

For me the basic truth is this. When a woman faces a situation that is so impossible complicated--for her, her family, her relationship to God, her deepest beliefs, and feels that she understands what's going on her life in a way that no one else does--how can we as Americans, schooled in the deepest respect for a proper relationship between the individual and the awesome power of the state, how can we say that the government of the United States of America with all of its power, with all of its resources, with all of its distance and insensitivity to these fragile and complex circumstances pressing in upon that individual woman, how can we say that the government must come in and order her to do what it has decided is the right thing and hot her? It is wrong. It is wrong. (Applause)

I respect deeply those on the other side of this debate. And the truth is, of course, that the vast majority who agree with NARAL and the vast majority who agree with Cardinal Bernardin and others who hold the opposite--who have held and hold the opposite view--appreciates some, some aspects of each others positions.

Four years ago, exactly four years ago, when these emotions in the immediate aftermath of the Inauguration that I've referred to twice were fresh then, I personally reached out to individuals. I will not call their names because the conversations were and shall remain private. But I reached out to individuals who are leaders on the other side of this issue and asked, is there a way to make common cause in the effort to reduce the number of times women find themselves in a situation where they go through this process of choosing?

The private response was, "you're right. There are a lot of things we can do together." Upon reflection, the response some weeks later was, "we just can't do it." Why?

Here's my interpretation. I know I'm on thin ice here. There's no way to discuss these issues without venturing out on this ice. The truth is that a minority within the minority also believes that family planning, in the form of birth control and even the giving of information about birth control, is morally wrong. Of course I don't agree with that. I disagree strongly as everyone here--I assume everyone here--does. But the way coalitions are built and maintained is that sometimes deference is inappropriately given to a mistaken view, clearly understood as mistaken, for the purposes of cohesion. And so the vast majority of those who are opposed to choice, and yet believe in their hearts that of course giving birth control options is sensible, refrain from ever saying that. And quietly support a unified opposition to birth control as well.

If they were willing to abandon that aspect of their common front then there would be much that we could all do together to make abortions rare. We believe they should be safe, legal and rare. Those who disagree on the first two believe that they should be rare. There is a way, and we saw some of the outlines in Cairo, to fashion such a common approach here in the United States.

I would like to renew the comments I made privately almost exactly four years ago to my friends who are in the opposite camp. To in the spirit of Cardinal Bernardin, to reach out with understanding as Americans, to heal our land, to say to all of our people, in the aftermath of these bombings, regardless of our views on the issue, we will not let this issue tear us apart as a country. We must not. We will not.

In any event, we will not allow a women's right to choose to be taken away. I say that firmly, plainly, so it is clearly understood that it is not going to happen. But we do believe that there is much we can do together.

In closing let me say, especially today, thank you, NARAL, for pushing through the important legislation that must be a bulwark against this violence--legislation like the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act--and thank you for being such staunch defenders of a women's right to choose, for standing so tall even at a time when an anti-choice Congress has threatened some important freedoms.

And on this anniversary of Rove v. Wade when some will try and tug us backward to a time before that historic moment, we must commit ourselves to moving forward beyond a debate about just abortion. We are not and we never have been pro-abortion obviously. We are pro-choice, pro-reproductive health, pro- education, pro-strong families, pro-women, pro-Constitutional rights, pro the spirit of the United States of American which will forever stand.

Thank you and may God bless you all.

The following was posted on a Marian News list, it is from the Catholic News Service ... ------------------------------------------------ GORE LEADS POLITICAL ATTACK ON CATHOLICISM

Opinion/Analysis by Philip F. Lawler

Last Wednesday, in an address delivered to an abortion-rights lobbying group on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Al Gore launched a political campaign against the Catholic Church. It is difficult to say which is more chilling: the Vice President's blatant attack on Catholicism, or the silence that greeted it.

Evidently, the Vice President of the United States believes that he can attack the Catholic faith with impunity, now that the election is safely behind him. And just as evidently, the nation's most prominent Catholic leaders are willing to accept public insult rather than risk a public dispute. The weak (indeed, nearly non-existent) public response to Gore's anti-Catholic remarks virtually guarantees that the public campaign against Catholicism will continue.

In his speech to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), the Vice President did his best to portray the pro-life stance as an "extreme" position, held by only a minority of American citizens. That claim in itself is dishonest, since the overwhelming majority of Americans, in poll after poll, indicate their support for restrictions on-- if not outright prohibition of-- abortion. But Gore did not stop there.

Instead, the Vice President went on to peddle the familiar argument that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is by promoting contraception. There is no evidence for that claim, and indeed the original "sexologist," Dr. Kinsey, observed years ago that contraception and abortion seem to flourish side by side. But then, Gore was speaking to an audience of people who make their money by performing abortions; was he really likely to introduce any serious proposals that might cut down on their business?

No, Gore's real goal in this speech was to disenfranchise the pro-life movement-- or, to be more precise, the most dedicated pro-life activists, who recognize that, as Pope John Paul II put it, "abortion and contraception are fruits of the same tree." Thus after scoffing at the pro-life "minority," the Vice President continued: "The truth is that the minority within the minority also believes that family planning, in the form of birth control and even the giving of information about birth control, is morally wrong."

Now of course it is true that Catholics are not the only Americans who recognize the immorality of contraception. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is the only major institution in our society which has steadfastly upheld the prohibition on artificial birth control. So as a matter of political fact, when Al Gore trained his sights on the opponents of contraception, reasonable listeners could safely infer that he was planning an attack on the Catholic Church.

Just moments later, that attack was underway. Scolding other pro- lifers for keeping company with those who oppose contraception, he said: "If they were willing to abandon that aspect of their common font, there would be much that we could all do together to make abortions rare." So here was the Vice President's message to American pro-lifers: the Clinton Administration is ready to strike a political deal with them-- if, and only if, they stop associating with Catholics.

Under any ordinary circumstances, no rational politician would dare to advance such a blatant insult (let alone such an implicit political threat) against the nation's largest single religious body. But these are not ordinary times, and Gore has calculated his advantage carefully. After years of observing the decay within the Church in America, he knows that most Catholics are too timid to defend the Catholic teaching that contraception is immoral. More damaging still, he knows that if he is accused of harboring an anti-Catolic bias, scores of prominent Americans who call themselves Catholic will rally to his defense.

In fact, the Vice President showed a keen understanding of the tensions among Catholic Americans. Three times in the course of his speech to NARAL, Gore invoked the memory of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, whom he praised for his effort to "construct a dialogue aimed at mutual understanding." No other individual-- not even President Clinton-- was named more than once in his speech. Clearly Gore reasoned that by invoking the authority of the deceased Chicago prelate, he could ward off criticism from other Catholic leaders. On the same day, both Bill and Hillary Clinton also paid homage to Bernardin in their respective addresses to pro-abortion groups. The late cardinal has become the Catholic leader most favorably regarded by the abortion lobby.

In 1983 Al Gore, then a young Congressman from Tennessee, wrote to a pro-life constituent: "Let me assure you that I share your belief that innocent human life must be protected." Now the same Al Gore seeks not only to eliminate all protection for unborn human life, but also to disenfranchise those who still hold the position which he has now, conveniently, abandoned.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson--once a leading abortionist, now a dedicated pro-lifer and recent convert to Catholicism--has revealed that in its early years, NARAL concocted a deliberate public strategy based on anti-Catholicism, hoping to make it difficult for Catholics to engage in the public debate on abortion. At the time NARAL was a small, radical organization, routinely engaged in efforts to subvert and violate the law. Now NARAL is a large national lobby, and the Vice President of the United States has adopted the same tactics.

Is the victory of the abortion culture in America so complete that a politician who once acknowledged the horror of abortion can now shamelessly promote the practice, without being chastised for his hypocrisy? Is the decline of public Catholicism so advanced that the nation's second most powerful official can adopt the strategy of anti-Catholic extremists? In the wake of Gore's contemptible speech to NARAL, the public silence is speaking volumes.