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Abortion, birth control becoming major campaign issues

GOP presidential hopefuls are attacking President Obama's order on contraception and Catholic institutions. But Mitt Romney also faces questions about his past support for abortion rights.

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The Boston Globe reported Friday that as governor, “Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, even though some Catholics view the morning-after pill as a form of abortion.”

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“The initial injury to Catholic religious freedom came not from the Obama administration but from the Romney administration,’’ C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe. “President Obama’s plan certainly constitutes an assault on the constitutional rights of Catholics, but I’m not sure Governor Romney is in a position to assert that, given his own very mixed record on this.’’

The connection between forms of birth control and abortion was sharply seen in the controversy involving the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood.

Earlier this week, the breast-cancer charity announced that it was ending grants to Planned Parenthood for breast-health services on grounds that Planned Parenthood is under investigation by a congressional subcommittee for improperly using federal money to fund abortions.

Planned Parenthood denies that taxpayer money has been used for abortions; overall, abortions account for only 3 percent of the organization’s activity.

The Komen Foundation took a lot of heat from critics who said its decision was politically-motivated. By the end of the week, Komen had reversed course and said it would continue funding breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood.

Obama is taking heat too – from many Republicans and conservative commentators, as well as from the Catholic Church, for his move on birth control and religious institutions, even though most employees at many of the church’s hospitals and universities are not Roman Catholic.

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan says flatly, “President Obama just may have lost the election” because of this issue.

“The church is split on many things,” Noonan writes. “But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don't want that. They will unite against that.”

She notes that Obama won 54 percent of the Catholic vote in 2008. “They helped him win. They won't this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states.”

Anthony Picarello, general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Los Angeles Times his organization would "pursue every legal mandate available to them to bring an end to this mandate.”

”That means legislation, litigation and public advocacy,” he said. “All options are on the table.”

The Monitor's Weekly News Quiz for Jan. 27-Feb. 3, 2012


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