"Jimmy Carter first talked to me about abortion when we lunched alone in Manchester, New Hampshire, in early August 1976. He expressed his unyielding opposition to abortion and his determination to stop federal funding of abortions. He asked me to work with Fritz Mondale to make his views known to the [Roman] Catholic hierarchy and influential lay [Roman] Catholics.
Mondale was using his Minnesota friend Bishop James Rausch, who was then the general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, to get Carter's view across, and Charlie Kirbo would be quietly communicating with Terence Cardinal Cooke in New York, but Carter said he wanted a "good Catholic" to spread the word of his strong opposition to abortion. .............
In talks with Monsignors George Higgins and Francis Lally, and others at the Catholic Conference, I sought to convince them that Carter shared their view. "
From ...... GOVERNING AMERICA- An Insider's Report
from the White House and the Cabinet
By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
pages 15-16 .................... STARTING UP
As Carter questioned me, obviously briefed on my background, he struck me as superficially self-effacing but intensely shrewd.
Carter then turned to the problem of the family. He knew it was a perfect campaign issue for him, and I could sense his contentment in pursuing both good morality and good politics. He expressed his concern about the decline of the American family with the same sincere conviction he exhibited in discussing his concern about the [Roman] Catholic vote.
He urged me, in preparing the report on the family, to consult widely with Catholics and look for an appropriate forum for a campaign speech. Carter talked about the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson and my work in those years, but much of his immediate interest in me was prompted by the fact that I was a [Roman] Catholic. It was the first time in my life I had been singled out (either for favor or discrimination) for that reason, but I was so interested in the outside possibility of the HEW post that I never thought twice about it at the time.
While Carter discussed the anti-family aspects of federal policy, abortion, and the politics of the Catholic vote, never once during that two-hour meeting did he mention-the Democratic Party. As I thought about that on my drive back to my summer home in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, I recalled the first time I had met him, at one of Boston Mayor Kevin White's small political dinners a couple of nights after the 1974 congressional elections. We were discussing the meaning of the election.
''If anything, political party labels are a burden these days. People don't care about political parties today,"
Governor Jimmy Carter commented as we sat in the house on Beacon Hill.
"Yes, they do,"
White said, and brand-new congressman-elect from New Hampshire Norman D'Amours agreed.
Carter turned to D'Amours.
"Norman, when I got off the plane to campaign for you in New Hampshire, you asked me never to mention the Democratic Party."
Carter made the point quietly, but with such force that D'Amours said nothing for the rest of the evening.
After the election, Mondale told me he was urging Carter to name me to a Cabinet post. preferably HEW. In mid-November, House Speaker Tip [Roman Catholic] O'Neill told me that Carter was actively considering me for a major post.
"I spent the whole damn ride from Carter's house to the airport this afternoon talking about you,''
he said when we bumped into each other at Duke Zeibert's Washington restaurant.
''He kept asking me questions about you.
He mentioned two or three jobs. When he mentioned HEW, I told him you'd be a great Secretary of HEW, but I said,
"Mr. President, Joe isn't going to take a job like that. He's served his time with Lyndon Johnson. He makes a fortune as a lawyer in Washington."
pg 49-52 ............ ABORTION
THE ABORTION issue marked my initiation by public controversy as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
It was certainly not the issue I would have chosen to confront first. The abortion dispute was sure to make enemies at the beginning of my tenure when I particularly needed friends: guaranteed to divide supporters of social programs when it was especially important to unite them; and likely to spark latent and perhaps lasting suspicions about my ability to separate my private beliefs as a Roman Catholic from my public duties as the nation's chief health, education, and social service official.
Jimmy Carter first talked to me about abortion when we lunched alone in Manchester, New Hampshire, in early August 1976. He expressed his unyielding opposition to abortion and his determination to stop federal funding of abortions. He asked me to work with Fritz Mondale to make his views known to the Catholic hierarchy and influential lay Catholics.
Mondale was using his Minnesota friend Bishop James Rausch, who was then the general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, to get Carter's view across, and Charlie Kirbo would be quietly communicating with Terence Cardinal Cooke in New York, but Carter said he wanted a "good Catholic" to spread the word of his strong opposition to abortion.
I was impressed by the sincerity and depth of Carter's views on abortion and I found his determination to get credit for those views politically prudent in view of the inevitable opposition his position would incite. It later struck me that Carter never asked my views on the subject and I never expressed them. Our conversation simply assumed complete agreement.
The assumption was well grounded. I consider abortion morally wrong unless the life of the mother would be at stake if the fetus were carried to term. Under such tragic and wrenching circumstances, no human being could be faulted for making either choice, between the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. Those are the only circumstances under which I considered federal financing of abortion appropriate.
During the 1976 presidential campaign, I never had to reconcile my beliefs as a [Roman] Catholic about abortion with any potential duty to obey and execute the law as a public servant. In promulgating Carters view, like any proponent of a presidential candidate, I took as a given his ability to translate that view into law or public policy. Since my conversations were with those who opposed abortion, no one asked me what Carter would do if the Congress enacted a different position into law.
In talks with Monsignors George Higgins and Francis Lally, and others at the Catholic Conference, I sought to convince them that Carter shared their view. Higgins was an old friend from the Johnson years and he helped get Carter's position better known in the Catholic community. But Higgins confided that nothing short of a firm commitment to a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion would satisfy the conservative elements of the [Roman] Catholic hierarchy.
When I reported this to Mondale, he expressed doubt that Carter would - or should - go that far, particularly since in January 1976 he had said he did "not favor a constitutional amendment abolishing abortion." I agreed.
Eventually, in response to the numerous questions on abortion during the campaign and after a meeting with Catholic bishops in Washington on August 31, 1976, Carter said that he had not yet seen any constitutional amendment he would support, but he "would never try to block ...... an amendment" prohibiting abortions. He added pointedly that any citizen had the right to seek an amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion, at least in the first trimester of pregnancy.
In November 1976, after the election, as Mondale, Tip O'Neill, and other friends reported conversations in which Carter or his close advisors such as Jordan and Kirbo were checking on my qualifications, it became clear that I was a leading candidate for the HEW post. Then, for the first time, I had to focus on the depth of my personal religious belief about abortion:
As Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, would I be able, in good conscience, to carry out the law of the land, even if that law provided for federal funding of all abortions?
I asked myself that question many times before others began asking it of me.
Both my parents are devoutly religious [Roman] Catholics. Their influence and my education at St. Gregory's elementary school in Brooklyn, at the Jesuit high school Brooklyn Prep, and at the College of the Holy Cross had provided me not only with some intellectual sextants but with a moral compass as well.
Like many [Roman] Catholic students and young lawyers in the 1950s, I had read the works of John Courtney Murray, a leading Jesuit scholar and philosopher. His writings on the rights and duties of American Catholics in a pluralistic society and the need to accommodate private belief and public policy were guides for liberal Catholics of my generation. But even with this background, it was an exacting task in modern America to get clarity and peace in my private conscience while satisfying the legitimate demands of public service and leadership.
The abortion issue never came up in the Johnson administration. But family planning, even the aggressive promotion of the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy as a government policy, was an issue I had confronted in those years.
President Johnson was an ardent proponent of birth control at home and abroad. He repeatedly rejected the unanimous pleas of his advisors from Secretary of State Dean Rusk to National Security Advisor Walt Rostow to ship wheat to the starving Indians during their 1966 famine. He demanded that the Indian government first agree to mount a massive birth control program. The Indians finally moved and Johnson released the wheat over a sufficiently extended period to make certain the birth control program was off the ground.
Johnson spoke so often and forcefully about birth control that the [Roman] Catholic bishops denounced him publicly. He sent me to try to cool them off. Working discreetly with Monsignor Frank Hurley, then the chief lobbyist for the Catholic Conference in Washington, we reached an uneasy off-the-record truce:
If LBJ would stop using the term "birth control" and refer instead to the "population problem," which allowed increased food production as a possible solution, the bishops would refrain from public attacks on him.
Johnson agreed, and spoke thereafter of the "population problem" - but with equal if not greater vigor.
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GOVERNING AMERICA- An Insider's Report
from the White House and the Cabinet
By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
Pub.by Simon and Schuster 1981
From ............ THE CATHOLIC ANSWER
D'Souza is senior domestic policy analyst at the White House.
Previously he was managing editor of Policy Review.
His articles on politics and religion have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Harper's, and Vanity Fair.
He is author of "The Catholic Classics" [Our Sunday Visitor $6.95], from which this article came.
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