Roman Catholic bishops are trying to regain the momentum in the long fight over abortion rights, and it is Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua who will lead their charge.
Elected chairman of the Pro Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last November, the 78-year-old prelate says he will expand an anti-abortion advertising campaign that ran last year in his city and bring an aggressive lobbying effort to elected officials.
As part of the campaign, Bevilacqua will be in Washington Tuesday for the annual March for Life, which commemorates the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion.
A group from Southeast Missouri also plans to attend the march. The trip is sponsored by the Voice for Life and SEMO Lifesavers. The group will have a prayer service at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cemetery of the Innocents on Siemers Drive in Cape Girar-deau to mark the anniversary of the court decision. The Rev. John J. Leibrecht, bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Roman Catholic Diocese, will attend.
Cardinal Bevilacqua argues that lawmakers' support for abortion with some restrictions muddles the issue in a way an outright ban would not.
"The current situation is almost a compromise; it removes it as an absolute. Abortion is an absolute evil about which no exceptions are permitted," he said in a recent interview. "People see something wrong with it. We have to make more people aware and take it to the next step."
Asking a question
The advertising campaign, which ran in the Philadelphia area last year, encourages people to reevaluate their thinking.
"Because 'choice' means being able to have an abortion at any time for any reason, today in America one out of every four pregnancies ends in abortion. We simply ask the question, 'Have we gone too far?'" reads the text of one of the radio spots.
The ads, and events such as March for Life, are aimed at political leaders who took little action on the abortion issue last year.
Although President Bush opposes abortion, he has not proposed any legislative initiatives on it during his first year in office, and Congress took no action in 2001.
Aides to leaders of both parties in Congress said there are no plans to take up any abortion-related legislation, at least not in the next few months, and the White House has not announced plans to propose any such measures.
Some religious leaders like the status quo on abortion policy, and would be happy if the bishops are unsuccessful.
"It's not a right of any religion to impose its doctrine on others," said the Rev. Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a Washington-based lobbying group.
Veazey believes the majority of religious people favor abortion rights, and that while the bishops "have an aura of being effective" they have lost most abortion policy disputes.
In Bevilacqua, the bishops have a leader unlikely to be deterred by a tough fight. Bevilacqua said he sympathizes with the difficult situations that cause women to consider having an abortion, but protecting the fetus takes precedence.