Omits 'Pro-Life' Groups' Connections to Democrats

Newsweek's Sarah Kliff, in a January 27, 2009 web-exclusive article entitled “Pro-Lifers In Obamaland,” failed to mention how several organizations and individuals she labeled as “pro-life” have friendly relations with pro-abortion Democrats. She also tried to portray the pro-life movement as being “split” between “those who are preparing for the fight of their lives and those who see an opportunity to redefine what it means to be pro-life,” with the latter being the organizations sympathetic to the Democrats. Kliff wrote sympathetically of these groups, which are actually trying to muddy the waters of pro-life activism

Kliff began by introducing Sister Sharon Dillon, a “50-year-old former director of the Franciscan Federation” who has been “a pro-life activist since high school.” Sister Dillon “doesn't agree with Roe v. Wade,” but she's also “frustrated with the kind of single-minded activism she sees around her.” What does Sister Dillon see as being “single-minded”? Apparently, it's “young girls chanting, 'hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!'” So Kliff started with the premise that wanting to overturn this Supreme Court ruling is “single-minded.”

The Newsweek correspondent mentioned that Sister Dillon went “marching with a group called Catholics United.” Catholics United, founded in 2005, is led by Chris Korzen and James Salt. Both men have liberal credentials. Korzen “previously worked as an organizer with the Service Employees International Union and the Pax Christi Young Adult Forum,” while Salt “oversaw the Kansas Democratic Party's faith outreach efforts, including messaging work for Governor Sebelius and development of faith-based messaging resources,” according to their short bios on Catholics United's website.

After describing Sister Dillon's focus on wanting to reduce the number of abortions, Kliff continued by trying to accentuate how “single-minded” certain pro-lifers apparently are: “What Dillon is promoting may not sound radical. But to legions of pro-life activists, even the use of the word 'reduction' instead of elimination borders on heresy.”

What Kliff didn't mention about Sister Dillon is that she is the Operations Director for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which is another “pro-life” organization mentioned later in her article. Both organizations were singled out by name by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in October 2008 as “Democratic-friendly groups...[which] have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.” One way Catholics United specifically “undermined the progress pro-lifers have made” was to urge its supporters to oppose literature drops by pro-life organizations at churches during the weeks before the election.

Later in the article, Kliff emphasized the apparent “split” happening in the pro-life movement: “The election of a pro-choice administration and a Democratic Congress has divided the pro-life movement, between those who are preparing for the fight of their lives and those who see an opportunity to redefine what it means to be pro-life.” She then expanded on the latter group. First, the Newsweek correspondent described organizations such as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good as “among a handful of groups at the intersection of religion and politics...that spent the election cycle pushing for a new understanding of how to pursue a pro-life agenda.” She also outlined that “while the majority of pro-lifers may be preparing for an escalated battle, there is a small group that sees the change in Washington as an opportunity to reshape some of the movement's core principles.”

Besides Sister Dillon, who is a member of this “small group”? Kliff named Jim Wallis, an Obama apologist described by her as the director of “Sojourners, a progressive evangelical group.” The correspondent also used the “pro-life” label with the evangelical: “Wallis, who is pro-life, and other progressive leaders are trying out a strategy that has so far failed to gain much traction on either side of the debate...” She went on to describe Wallis' apparent involvement in the timing of President Obama's revocation of the Mexico City policy:

Unlike his Democratic predecessor, Obama did not use the anniversary of Roe to reverse the Mexico City Policy. Wallis, the Evangelical leader, was involved in discussions with Obama advisors about how the president would announce that executive order and says the timing—late on a Friday afternoon—was intentional. “Everyone knew it was going to be rescinded,” says Wallis. “He was trying to do it quietly, without fanfare. By issuing a statement first, he sent a clear signal that he's not looking to start a fight with people who are pro-life.”

Come again, Reverend Wallis? Obama is “not looking to start a fight with people who are pro-life” by merely not doing it on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade? Don't be so naive and/or dishonest.

Earlier in the article, Kliff made two other omissions. She described Democratic Senator Bob Casey as being “pro-life,” despite his early support for Obama during the presidential campaign, and his mixed voting record on the issue. On Wednesday, Senator Casey voted against an amendment which would have restored the Mexico City Policy. She also failed to mention how President Obama defended Roe v. Wade in his statement on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, which she described as also offering “an optimistic view of the level of cooperation possible between pro-lifers and pro-choicers.” The President wrote, “On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose.”

—Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.