September 11, 1997
House Debates Mother Teresa Honor
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation to honor Mother Teresa is sparking controversy in the House, where Republicans are pushing for a measure that takes note of the nun's implacable opposition to abortion.
Congressional sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Democrats objected Wednesday when GOP officials sought an immediate vote on a measure noting that Mother Teresa ``acknowledged the sanctity of life'' and admonished abortion as `the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today.'''
Republican officials said Thursday they intend to bring a version of the same legislation to the floor next week and insisted it would include a reference to Mother Teresa's views on abortion.
One Democratic official said a hurry-up effort at bipartisan compromise was under way for legislation that would refer to Mother Teresa's ``respect for all stages of life.''
The Senate voted earlier this week to designate the day of Mother Teresa's funeral as a national day of recognition. The vote was 98-0 for passage of that measure, which included references to her lifetime of work on behalf of the poor and afflicted worldwide but included no reference to abortion.
``You can hardly ignore her crusade for the unborn,'' said Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., one of Congress' strongest foes of abortion.
``She spoke about it to the president and Mrs. Clinton at the prayer breakfast, she mentioned it at her Nobel Prize award, and to talk about her as a glorified social worker without the spiritual component in this major cause of hers really would be like trying to eulogize Martin Luther King and never mentioning civil rights.''
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will lead the U.S. delegation to Mother Teresa's funeral, said in her weekly newspaper column that she discussed abortion with Mother Teresa in their first meeting at a Washington prayer breakfast in February 1994.
``Though we disagreed respectfully about birth control and whether abortion should be legal, we agreed that adoption should be promoted,'' Mrs. Clinton wrote.
Mother Teresa ``took my hand in both of hers and told me she had been praying for me and my husband and for the work we were trying to do,'' Mrs. Clinton said. The nun sought Mrs. Clinton's help in opening a shelter for infants and children awaiting adoption or placement in foster care. The shelter opened in Washington in June 1995.
``Before we went outside to cut the ribbon, she said to me, `This is a gift of love, but I've been told I cannot give the gift of peace because I don't give peace to anyone,''' Mrs. Clinton wrote.