“Life” Issues Position Paper
“The candidate (Schriner) calls for an end to abortion, while at the same time developing a much more comprehensive safety net for those in crisis pregnancy.” –The Community Common newspaper, Portsmouth, Ohio.
Schriner, a Catholic, said that as president, he “would be protesting in front of an abortion clinic – and praying.” –Lewistown (MT) News-Argus.
It is my belief, and the belief of my faith (Catholic), that Life begins at conception. Conception is when Life begins because the genetic code is totally in place at that moment. And conception is when an immortal soul is infused.
“(With abortion) we are living in a modern Holocaust unparalleled in the history of mankind,” I told The Courier newspaper in Savannah, Tennessee – and have told hundreds of other news sources around the country during our campaigning.
A vignette: Several years ago in Las Cruces, New Mexico, our family stood in solidarity with some Franciscan nuns (including one who had been involved with Project Rescue and had several times been arrested for Pro-Life civil disobedience) protesting in front of an abortion doctor’s office. A TV News crew from the University of New Mexico arrived and interviewed me at length. The camera then turned to our Sarah, who was six-years-old at the time. In her doll Katie’s hand was small sign Sarah had spent most of the afternoon carefully making. The crayoned words simply said: “No Abortion.” And, by far, the scene spoke more eloquently, and was more impacting, than anything I’d said.
Some four years later, on a campaign swing through the South, we stood in solidarity with a group protesting in front of an abortion clinic in Ocala, Florida. John O’Brien, who has been protesting here every week for the past 21 years, told me he’d heard every reason imaginable for abortion: poverty, family dysfunction, deformity, rape… and he said he was sympathetic to many. Yet he added: “But the solution can never be killing a tiny, innocent, defenseless human being.”
And while we would work stridently to change many conditions leading to abortion, we agree with Mr. O’Brien.
Feminists for Life (FFL) would agree with Mr. O’Brien too. On a campaign stop in Kayenta, Arizona, Fr. Jerome Herff (who is a supporter of the group), told us FFL has chapters around the country and uses strategies like going into ultra-liberal universities – Brown in the Ivy League, as an example – to carry their message.
On a stop in Fostoria, Ohio, I interviewed Jon Opperman. He is a professor at Bowling Green State University working with the Alternative Vehicle Department there and has a somewhat strong, liberal political bent in general. Professor Opperman said he is quite bemused that saving the unborn baby isn’t “the ultimate liberal cause.” That is, he said many liberals rigorously fight (and rightly so, he believes – as do we) to save defenseless trees, dolphins, pandas… but not an unborn baby.
In Marshall, Texas, we helped a Pro-Life group put up small white crosses in front of a cemetery there – a silent witness to the 4,400 aborted unborn babies a day in the U.S. And in Tennessee, I told the Wayne County News that with the legalization of abortion “our society has become its own worst terrorist.”
In Fargo, North Dakota we prayed with a group in front of that state’s last remaining abortion clinic, my wife Liz and daughter, Sarah, passionately trying to dissuade women from going in this day. Afterward, I spoke with Allie Keller, 19, who was at the protest and is involved with Collegians for Life. She said she was coordinating events for Life Week at nearby Morehead State University and the thrust of the group is to get college age students to believe it’s “cool” to support Life.
Pro-Life activist Paul Mayeaux fights vigorously for Life. We walked with Mr. Mayeaux, his wife, and some of their seven children at a Pro-Life March in Beaumont, Texas. Afterward, he told me he believed that none of his children were a “burden,” but rather they were all: “gifts from God.”
And Hibbings, Minnesota’s Patty Jacobson wants to help pregnant moms, and dads, see that gift from God long before he/she is born. On a campaign stop in Hibbings, Ms. Jacobson told me the Pregnancy Life Care Center here is raising funds for a sonogram machine because statistics show that once a parent actually sees the unborn baby in the womb the chance they will abort the baby drops dramatically.
The Pregnancy Life Care Center in Hibbings is part of a statewide network of centers under the Pregnancy Life Care Program in Minneapolis, an ecumenical outreach. These centers provide: education, legal advocacy, medical help, counseling help (for both mom and dad), post abortion counseling, chastity training…
Portland, Indiana’s Patty Johnston believes in teaching chastity as well. Johnston, who is the Executive Director of the Pregnancy Care Center there, also believes that a lot of abortions could be headed off by getting an impacting message of abstinence to youth. On a stop in Portland, Ms. Johnston told us she got a grant to teach the course “Creating Positive Relationships” to some 1,200 students at the local Middle School. She said the focus is for youth to learn about the multiple dynamics of relationships (body, mind, social…) as a way of helping enhance relationship, while at the same time helping head off premarital sex.
After giving a talk to a class of high school students in Ridgeville Corners, Ohio, I talked with students Arminda Whitlock and Rebecca Font, who are both on the same page as Indiana’s Ms. Johnston when it comes to abstinence. These two high school juniors have remained abstinent personally and take their message with them to inspire other peers in junior highs and high schools all over the area. They euphemistically call themselves: “The Abstinators.”
2) The Plan
I would use a multi-level approach.
For one, as president I would work exhaustively to try to help reverse societal trends that often lead to abortion. Among the most prominent, in my opinion, are: increasing poverty, the wide scale breakdown of the nuclear family, declining social mores leading to rampant promiscuity; a growing cultural perception children are a “burden” in respect to lifestyle choices; and, an ever increasing devaluation of Life (with the unborn, the handicapped, and the elderly) in this country. (*All of these are addressed, at length, in other position papers on the site.)
Secondly, as “First Family” we would continue to regularly stand in solidarity with groups in front of abortion clinics around the country, with protest signs. And as president I would, for instance, talk about abortion during the State of the Union address, including showing graphic slides, excerpts from movies (like “Silent Scream”), on the horror of what truly happens to the unborn baby in an abortion procedure.
As president, I would also lend my voice in rallying behind groups like Project Rescue, Feminists for Life, Collegians for Life, and Priests for Life with the hope of galvanizing more support for them. In addition, I would work in an ad hoc fashion to try to help unite these groups more, because as a more united front they would be that much more affective in changing the climate.
As president, I would appoint judges (across the board) who, among other things, have demonstrated they are sympathetic to Pro-Life issues. There’s no way to get around it, judging from the bench is a subjective process. A judge brings a set of personal beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, to the job. And these beliefs influence his/her decision-making.
In addition on the Pro-Life front, I would stridently work toward helping build more of a safety net for women in crisis pregnancy – from community to community. And how I would do this, primarily, would be to go – as president, with a big press entourage following, to many of programs we’ve researched across the country to help women in crisis pregnancy and hold them up as models that would work in any community.
3) Crisis Pregnancy Safety Nets
And one of our first stops would be Newport, Rhode Island. In Newport we interviewed Manny Rodriguez, who is the president of Women-to-Women, an ecumenical outreach that provides free food, clothing, diapers, and places to stay for women in crisis pregnancy.
The Maria Goretti House in Ocala, Florida provides a place to stay for women in crisis pregnancy as well. On a stop in Ocala, Maria Goretti House coordinator Teresa Pinkos told me members of Queen of Peace Church in Ocala started a non-profit organization, purchased a two-story house and volunteers fixed it up. And volunteers continue to help with fundraising, volunteering to supervise in the home, doing grounds work outside the home, taking women on errands.... In the Maria Goretti House if a mom wants to get her GED or continue a college education, networking is arranged.
And at Mom’s House, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, some scholarship money is raised for pregnant women wanting to continue college education there. Mom’s House also provides free day care for pregnant moms wanting to finish their schooling, with community senior citizens volunteering to watch the children. On a stop in Johnstown, Mom’s House spokesperson Bonnie Rick told us that there are Mom’s Houses all over the country, with a new one, uncannily enough, starting up about “every nine months.”
In Ohio, I interviewed Fran Clark who is the past president of the board for Womankind in Garfield Heights. Mrs. Clark said Womankind, a Maternal and Prenatal Care Center, is rather unique in its scope. First, of its some 100 volunteers, a good number are doctors, nurses and midwives. Prenatal care is provided during the first 28 weeks for women in crisis pregnancy, couples who have no health insurance, and so on. In addition, Womankind offers such supplemental services as: counseling (there’s a licensed social worker on staff); childbirth classes; breast feeding information; support services for fathers, parents and others; nutrition counseling; parenting classes; legal assistance; adoption referrals services…
Another safety net we would strongly back is adoption. While we realize there must be thorough background checks, and so on, our administration would recommend shorter waiting periods and reduced fees for non-private adoptions. In Freehold, New Jersey, we interviewed Mary and Jim Barden who were working with Catholic Charities and the Division of Youth and Family Services to adopt a child. The young couple already had two biological children. When asked why adopt, Mary replied: “We have a big house and want to fill it up.”
Sometimes in the short term, before adoption, good foster homes may be needed. In Key Largo, we interviewed Robert and Christie Cunningham, 55 and 47 respectively. They had been fostering the past two years, and said their church community, St. Justin Martyr, had formed a secondary tier of support around them. That is, these church members would provide extra financial assistance, clothes, toys, and so on, for the children. And because of the Cunningham’s example, a number of other couples at the church are now fostering as well.
Note: While we couldn’t legislate all these models, we could use the presidency as a bully pulpit to get the message out about them, with the hopes that a tremendous safety net, featuring similar programs, would spread throughout every community in America.
“We think it’s not enough to just say no to abortion. You have to provide more help,” [said Schriner]. – Valley Courier newspaper, Alamosa, Colorado
4) Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Our administration would be opposed to Federal funds for embryonic stem cell research – even to existing lines. We would not be opposed, however, to adult stem cell research.
According to Gerard Magill, Ph.D., who is the Executive Director for the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University: “Embryonic stem cell research that involves the creation and destruction of human embryos is unacceptable in a nation with a social conscience.”
Magill also said no intended harm to a human being can be justified as therapy for another.
Once again, we agree.
Magill adds that the technology of creating embryos to destroy them represents “a colossal regression in society’s commitment to uphold the dignity of human embryonic life.”
During a talk to a senior assembly at Lords Town High School in Ohio, I told the students our stance on embryonic stem cell research. Pronounced mumblings of disapproval started up.
“Okay,” I said. “Let me see a show of hands. How many of you have been… embryos?”
The mumbling stopped.
The Obama administration has approved Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. What’s more, the U.S. regulators have just approved using embryonic stem cells in clinical tests on human patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave final approval for a clinical trial of embryonic stem cells on patients with spinal cord injuries.
This is merely the beginning of a tremendously “slippery slope” that could ratchet up embryonic stem cell research exponentially in the coming years. Huge mistake.
It is important to note that adult stem cell research has been somewhat successful, so far, treating spinal cord injury, corneal damage, immune deficiency, etc. And this is expanding.
5) Death Penalty
Abolish the death penalty.
While we were campaigning in Arizona several years ago, Anthony Lee Chaney was executed. According to an Arizona Daily Sun article, a death penalty protester outside the prison had asked: "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing is wrong?" Good question.
I interviewed author Antoinette Bosco, a nationally known anti-death penalty advocate from Brookfield, Connecticut. Her son and daughter in law were murdered, yet she wrote passionately to the Montana judge not to execute the confessed killer. Some 12 years later, Ms. Bosco got a letter from the murderer. He asked forgiveness.
Ms. Bosco, who wrote the book Choosing Mercy, said she wondered what the killer’s eternal consequences would be, if he’d been executed before the change of heart.
“Only God has a right to take a life,” said Ms. Bosco. “I don’t believe we should rob thieves, rape rapists, burn an arsonist, or kill a killer.”
I don’t either.
Ms. Bosco said she also believes in “Restorative Justice,” as would our administration. That is, providing much more rehabilitative help to prisoners, and in turn, allowing them to more fully atone for past crimes, including murder.
For instance, Ms. Bosco said she observed a murderer who was now working in a prison hospice in Connecticut, attending to the dying. “He couldn’t bring back the life that was taken in the robbery, but he could help others now,” she said.
Ms. Bosco also noted that since the death penalty was reinstated in America in 1976, 119 people on death row – have been proven innocent. (Not to mention the horrible probability some have gone to their execution, being innocent the whole time.)
And even when people are guilty of murder, there is often a tremendously complex set of issues to discern.
Take the case of Sam McDonald.
During an interview, Dayton University Professor Bill Trollinger told me about Sam. (Professor Trollinger said he and Sam had become friends through a death row correspondence program.)
Trollinger said he and Sam conversed about family, about football – and about Sam’s past.
Sam had grown up black and poor in the inner city of St. Louis. He later joined the Service and was trained, quite thoroughly: to kill.
Sam was then sent to Vietnam to fight for his country.
In Vietnam he received a number of medals for courage. He also developed post traumatic stress disorder from the fighting. And to cope, he turned to drugs.
Drug addiction followed him back to the states.
And while he was on heroine one night, Sam killed an off duty police officer during a store robbery.
Sam was executed at midnight Sept. 24, 1997 in Missouri.
“Emmit Jones” wasn’t executed in Florida.
“Emmit” (not his real name) had killed his wife.
In Ocala, Florida, I interviewed Ray Geisal, who did prison ministry outreach, including to Emmit.
Geisal told me Emmit grew up in Miami’s inner city surrounded by drugs, gangs and poverty. He grew up angry, dropped out of school, became addicted to drugs, and shot his wife one night when he caught her cheating.
In prison, Emmit found God, found the 12-Step Recovery Movement, went back to school in jail, and got a degree in Forestry.
After 17 years, Emmit was paroled, got married, got a job in forestry, and now volunteers to help other recovering addicts and alcoholics.
Coincidentally, 17 years is the longest prison sentence anyone gets in the country of Denmark – no matter what they’ve done. I heard this while sitting in on a Criminal Justice Class at Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio recently. (I had gone there to learn more about criminal justice issues for the platform.)
Bluffton College Professor Jeff Gingerich also said that once someone is incarcerated in Denmark, an exhaustive series of assessments are given to determine whether the prisoner needs things like: mental health counseling, more school, job training, parenting classes, relationship building skills…
And then all these things are provided as comprehensively as possible, with the sincere hope that, not only will the inmate not repeat their criminal behavior pattern; but more importantly, that they have a much better chance at a more fulfilling life.
This, we believe, is a very socially responsible (and spiritually-centered) criminal justice approach.
Note: I once wrote a column saying maybe it was time we started getting tougher on the: “non-criminals.” That is, maybe it was time to start getting much more focused on mobilizing those who are currently doing little (but could do much more) to help all the “Emmits and Sams” growing up in these inner city war zones.
This would lessen the crime rate in America, exponentially.
Not to mention, it would give these kids a much better shot at a “fulfilling life” – the first time around.
Life Issues short position
*For full paper, see further below…
Consistent Life Ethic
I hold to a “Consistent Life Ethic.” That means there is a respect for life “from the womb to the tomb,” so to speak. This means standing against abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, poverty, pollution, nuclear proliferation… and anything else that can end life prematurely. While giving a talk in D.C. at the 25th Anniversary of the national Consistent Life group, I echoed the late Pope John Paul II’s remarks that America has become a “culture of death.” And as president, I’d change that – dramatically!
I am against abortion, period. Life begins at conception.
As president I would attempt to spark a massive protest, similar to what was created in the South in order to end Segregation. [I, too, as president would be regularly protesting on the streets – as I do now.]
Those prolific, and courageous, protests drove the legislation to stop Segregation. And it would be the same with abortion.
We would also robustly tackle societal precipitating factors that lead to abortion: poverty, relaxed sexual mores; dysfunctional family dynamics…
I would appoint judges (across the board) who, among other things, are pro-life.
Would stridently work to develop way more safety nets for those in crisis pregnancy. [We have researched a good number of excellent models for these. See below.
I would also work to outlaw “the morning after pill.”
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Stop federal funding (which Obama approved) for embryonic stem cell research – even to existing lines. [Creation and destruction of human embryos is wrong, period.]
Approve funding for “adult stem cell research,” which shows promise.
Work to abolish the death penalty.
“I don’t believe we should rob thieves, rape rapists, burn arsonists, or kill killers.” -- Annette Bosco, author and anti-death penalty advocate.
Late Pope John Paul II said in the modern world, with maximum security prisons, the death penalty should be abolished. We agree.
What’s more, there should be comprehensive “restorative justice” measures for murderers as well. (See below.)
Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide
Opposed to any type of euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Opposed to “Death with Dignity” legislation that allows people in, say, Oregon, to end their lives.
Mobilize more “Community Coalitions for End of Life Care” public education groups, like the one they have in Portage County, Wisconsin.
Taut programs like “little Brother – Friends of the Elderly” for aged people without family close by.
More hospice care for the indigent elderly.
Stop incremental moves toward systematic killing of children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. [We have already moved into this slippery slope arena by offering abortions for, say, Down Syndrome babies.)
*It is essential we establish a culture that reinstates the elderly in America as extremely valued, and listened to, members of our society – similar to how the elderly are valued in, say, the Native American culture.
Note: I say at the top that besides these “life issues,” our administration would also train its focus on a variety of other societal factors that can lead to premature death. For more on that, click on the following links: poverty, pollution, nuclear proliferation, unsafe modes of transportation…
This was just before Sarah's first abortion protest. The picture was taken in Las Cruses, New Mexico.
In Texas, we met with a group who clandestinely put up small white crosses in front of a cemetery, to signal to local people that abortion, indeed, causes "death" as well.
As we've traveled, we stood in solidarity with people protesting abortion all over the country. Pictured here is our Sarah, then age 10 (middle), with my wife Liz on the far left with baby Jonathan, in front of an abortion clinic in Ocala, Florida.
Photos by Joe
Note: Until a dramatic protest climate is created, like what happened in the South to end Segregation, abortion will continue on, and on, and... [see below].