From .......... National Catholic Reporter

February 7, 1997

page 20

Gore, orating on thin ice, attacks abortion violence

When Vice President Al Gore addressed the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action Legal NARAL Jan. 22, he said, "I know I'm on thin ice here." He was right. "Violence has no place in our dialogue of democracy," he began. He was talking about violence at abortion clinics, and he was correct to say so.

The pro-choice movement, "I'm proud to say, has never resorted to violence," Gore continued. It isn't cynical to remark that a considerable number of people (not just bombers) regard abortion as violence; therefore, those who advocate it are scarcely removed from it.

Gore spoke of his own efforts four years ago to reach out to leaders on "the other" (pro-life) side of the abortion issue, and said, "I will not (mention) their names because the conversations were private."

Nonetheless, twice in the previous five breaths he'd invoked the name of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin:

- "Cardinal Bernardin was a leader among those who passionately disagree on this issue but nevertheless attempted to construct a dialogue aimed at mutual understanding.

- "And the truth is that the vast majority that agree with NARAL, and the vast majority that agree with Cardinal Bernardin, and others that hold the opposite who have held and hold the opposite view appreciate some, some aspects of each other's positions."

Not surprisingly, The New York Times reported the story as if Gore used Bernardin's name for his own purposes. And The Washington Times presumed Gore was referring specifically to Catholics when he spoke of the "minority within the minority that believes that family planning, in the form of birth control, is morally wrong."

Gore contended that within the minority of Americans opposed to abortion a majority supports birth control but refrains from saying so. "If they were willing to abandon that common front, then there would be much that we could all do together to make abortions rare," he said.

The presumption seems to be that a significant percentage of the annual million-plus American women having abortions do so because they refrain from using birth control because the Catholic church (or others) are opposed. So, if the Catholic church dropped its opposition to artificial contraception (which, as far as this newspaper is concerned, it never should have imposed on married couples), somehow a great social shift would occur.

That reasoning is thinner than the ice.

When he says, "I respect deeply those on the other side of this debate," he knows whereof he speaks, for in Congress he consistently voted prolife. Nonetheless, his defection to prochoice, like this speech, appears not so much mid-career conversion as midambition politicking.