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Defenders of life must reorganize and stay positive

Efforts to defend the dignity of the human person took it on the chin on General Election Day 2008. Several states rejected pro-life ballot measures including parental notification before abortion (California), and a ban on abortions with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother (South Dakota). Conversely, two states passed anti-life measures with Washington becoming the second state to legalize assisted suicide and Michigan legalizing embryonic stem cell research.

The toughest blow, however, was the election of a president whose own words and actions promise to expand and further entrench the abortion license in our nation. I will readily acknowledge that the election of our nation's first black president is a notable achievement in the struggle for civil rights. However, it is incredibly sad and ironic that the standard bearer of this achievement, Barack Obama, has a seriously impoverished understanding of human rights.

In a public forum last summer, Obama was asked: "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" Obama said, "Answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade." How genuine can his claims be to defend the human rights of Americans if he doesn't know when they begin?

Equally sad and ironic is the fact that our nation's first black president, whose race was once excluded from full personhood under our Constitution, promises to ensure this same fate for another category of human beings: the unborn. Obama publicly stated his intention as president to only appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will uphold Roe v. Wade's exclusion of the unborn from legal recognition and protection.

Obama's transition team also has confirmed that one of the first acts of his administration will be to overturn current pro-life executive orders. One of those executive orders is the Mexico City Policy that prevents forcing taxpayers to fund groups that perform or promote abortions in other countries. Another is President Bush's policy restricting the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

On the latter policy, it should be noted that Obama was one of a few U.S. senators who opposed a bill that would have provided a modest amount of federal money to find alternatives to embryonic stem cells for research. This kind of extremism prompted Princeton professor Robert George (a member of the President's Council on Bioethics) to conclude in a recent article: "It is as if Obama is opposed to stem cell research unless it involves killing human embryos."

Helen Alvare, former spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops on abortion, pointed out that as a presidential candidate, Obama promised Planned Parenthood in a July 17, 2007, address that the "first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."

"This is overwhelming on its face," Alvare said. "Among all the first statements about the meaning of his historic presidency a President Obama could choose, it would be an expanded abortion license."

The election of a president who has promised a well-documented agenda of abortion extremism has caused many pro-lifers to despair. My response to the numerous calls and e-mails is to remind distraught pro-lifers of the assurance of our faith that our Lord defeated death once and for all. Death cannot win out over life.

Evil does, however, still exist and God expects us to oppose it. We must turn all negative energy into positive prayer for the conversion of Barack Obama and into a fierce and massive resistance of his pro-abortion agenda. All who profess to be pro-life, particularly those who voted for Barack Obama, will carry a serious responsibility to do this.

In the coming weeks, my office will devote much effort to expand and energize our Catholic pro-life grassroots. If you haven't been active in the pro-life cause, there's never been a more critical time to make your voice heard. A simple way to become engaged is to join Nebraska Catholics for Life by calling my office at (402) 477-7517 or by going online to http://www.nebcathcon.org/ncl.htm.

Greg Schleppenbach is state director for the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

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