"Our operating budget was not reduced" – Director of teen center

I just received this from Deirdre Cronin, Executive Director of Covenant House Alaska. This debunks the Washington Post’s story I addressed yesterday. I had asked her for a statement regarding the Post story and she provided this information.

Covenant House
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 4, 2008
Contact: Deirdre A. Cronin
Executive Director
907-339-4203
“Covenant House Alaska is a multi-service agency serving homeless and runaway youth, including teen mothers. The majority of the agency’s annual operating budget is privately raised, with no more than 10 to 15 percent of funds coming from state grants in any given year. We are grateful for the support we have received from Governor Sarah Palin, the Alaska legislature and our Congressional delegation over the years.
Despite some press reports to the contrary, our operating budget was not reduced. Our $3.9 million appropriation is directed toward a multi-year capital project and it is our understanding that the state simply opted to phase in its support for this project over several years, rather than all at once in the current budget year.”
Covenant House Alaska is Alaska’s largest private non-profit adolescent care agency serving homeless, runaway and at–risk youth between the ages of 13 and 21. With particular expertise in helping some of the most hopeless teens grow into independent, successful and productive adults.
-END

More on this story here…

Factcheck.org on Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act

Abortion may be the most troubling issue Barack Obama has faced in his bid to lure Evangelical voters to his campaign. Extremely controversial is Obama’s handling of questions surrounding the federal and IL state versions of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA).
This Newsweek article excerpts Factcheck.org’s examination of the controversy. Here is the thumbnail version:

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committee’s 2003 mark-up session.

It appears that Obama did not believe living, possibly pre-viable infants had legal status as persons. It is unclear to me what he believes now. His campaign’s most recent explanation involves an argument that suggests a vote against BAIPA at the state level was necessary to protect Roe v. Wade but a vote in favor at the federal level would have no bearing on RvW. I do not understand this reasoning.
I suppose another way to frame the issue is to ask when is an abortion complete? If the fetus is delivered and is alive but of questionable viability, how do we regard this life? The Obama doctrine appears to be that an infant born alive but of questionable viability is not a legal person – or at least this was his view while an IL Senator. Here is a speech on the 2001 Senate floor:

Obama, Senate floor, 2001: Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – a child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.

Rick Warren at the Saddleback Civil Forum asked Sen. Obama when a baby is entitled to human rights and Obama said such answers are above his pay grade. From a reading of this material, making these determinations was at his pay grade at one time not long ago. Simply saying he favors the federal bill now really does not address what protection he now believes should be afforded these infants.

Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?

This question continues to dog the Obama campaign and now the National Right to Life organization has amassed documentation regarding the claim and the Obama response.
Rather than reproduce it all here, I am going to post the link and comment more a bit later.
Click here to read the NRTL news release.
The Weekly Standard has some reporting on this issue as well.
Jill Stanek, the Illinois nurse who blew the whistle on infants left to die has ongoing coverage of this controversy.
The New York Sun has an article clarifying the issue even more. It seems Obama is now saying that the Illinois bill might have impacted Illinois law but that he would have voted for the federal version since there was no federal abortion law.

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported “was not the bill that was presented at the state level.”
His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law. Those concerns did not exist for the federal bill, because there is no federal abortion law.

However, he is a prime supporter of the Freedom of Choice Act which would become federal law. Does that mean he would support the repeal of the federal Born Alive Act?

Obama and McCain at Saddleback church

Barack Obama and John McCain answered the same questions from pastor Rick Warren tonight regarding a wide range of issues at the Saddleback Civil Forum.
Televised by CNN and FOXNews, I thought the format was well-conceived and allowed viewers to compare candidates on the same questions.
One controversy which was immediate was Barack Obama’s reply to the question, “when does a baby qualify for human rights?” Obama took an agnostic position saying theologically and scientifically the answer was “above his pay grade.” McCain answered directly that life begins at conception. Obama also said the number of abortions had stayed the same through the Bush presidency, a claim immediately contested by the Americans United for Life via one of the Fox News commentators. I am looking for some documentation on the matter but I do not think Obama is correct on that point.
Here is video where Obama says the number of abortions have stayed the same.

The debate may have helped Obama with Evangelicals in one sense: he made a clear profession of faith in Christ. However, in my opinion, Evangelicals will now have to do a real check of what they consider basic. Is the sanctity of life a core issue or can it be considered a second tier issue in order to vote for a candidate who articulates an orthodox testimony of spiritual salvation?
As for McCain, I think he helped himself enormously with Evangelicals via his performance in this forum. He demonstrated an emotional connection with the audience and had stories which connect with people. McCain’s responses seemed more at home at Saddleback with many more applause pauses from the crowd than received by Obama. I found him much more persuasive in that setting and with that audience than Sen. Obama.
But then I am biased and I suspect Obama supporters will view the evening as a win in that Obama played reasonably well in a ballpark unfamiliar to prior Democratic candidates.
UPDATE: According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group with close ties to Planned Parenthood, abortions declined throughout the Bush administration.

Obama waffling on abortion policy?

If Obama supports the Freedom of Choice Act, how can he say this to Relevant magazine?

I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy . . .”

This post provides more detail on the mental gymnastics about mental distress.

Does abortion cancel a soul? Abortion specialist William Harrison on South Dakota's informed consent abortion law

Last week, the Eight Circuit court of appeals ruled that a South Dakota law which requires doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” should be sent back to federal District Court to decide constitutionality. In the meantime, the state may begin enforcement of the law. According to an AP story, The court ruled on June 27

that Planned Parenthood, which operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, has not provided enough evidence that it is likely to prevail.
“The bottom line is if the state Legislature orders a professional to tell the truth, that’s not a violation of the First Amendment,” said South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, who is defending the law in court.
Mimi Liu, a lawyer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said such rulings generally take about three weeks to take effect. Long said it could take less time.

Predictably, reaction was mixed to the ruling

Harold Cassidy, a lawyer representing two pregnancy counseling centers that support the abortion law, hailed the ruling.
“We think it’s a big victory for the woman obviously to be given accurate information in order to make a decision not only for the child, but also for herself,” Cassidy said.
Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the law would force doctors to read ideological language to women seeking abortions.
“They are imposing compelled speech on doctors. It is not about providing information to women. It is about intruding in the doctor-patient relationship. It is unprecedented and extremely outrageous,” Stoesz said.

According to the AP story, the law also requires women to be told the potential mental health risks of abortion. I have addressed that informed consent issue in prior articles.
Two points are at issue: prescribing professional speech and the accuracy of the prescribed speech. Professional disclosure is sometimes prescribed by law. For instance, many states required licensed psychotherapists to provide a disclosure statement to clients regarding services and means of handling complaints. The South Dakota statement is very specific and no doubt is intended to discourage abortions. The second issue is the accuracy of the information. Pro-life advocates are united that abortion ends a life, hence their opposition to abortion. But what do pro-choice doctors believe? To get this perspective, I consulted noted abortion doctor and friend of Hillary Clinton, Dr. William Harrison. I referred to Dr. Harrison via Dr. Paul Kengor’s book on the faith of Hillary Clinton in a former post, noting that Dr. Harrison was

Hillary’s personal OB-GYN in the early 1970s in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has done about 20,000 abortions. He was interviewed at length for my book. He was quite candid, extremely open, and very generous with his time. He likewise is a Methodist. He says that he prays to God that Hillary will be our next president.

I emailed Dr. Harrison regarding the South Dakota law. While his prayers regarding Hillary have not been answered, he clearly does not support the Republican ticket due to his pro-choice position as will be clear from his responses to me. I asked him if the South Dakota statement was accurate, to which he replied

Life is being terminated when a male wears a condom, or has a wet dream or “spills his seed of life on the ground” or in someone’s mouth or anus. Or when he ejaculates into the vagina of a women who isn’t ovulating or is post menopausal. The sperm are alive until they die. And the egg is alive until it dies. Each is a unique human life, etc.
The only reason the S.Dakota leg passed that law was to either make a girl or woman who was not prepared to have a baby have that baby, or to make her suffer as much emotionally as they could.
It is a piece of shit legislation, designed solely to increase human suffering. A few days ago I wrote a letter to our state and local newspapers. I will send you a copy which describes exactly what I think about this type of legislation.

I wrote back and asked for clarification regarding prevention of conception and ending of life. He then provided the copy of the letter to the editor he mentioned in the first email which makes his views even more clear. He gave permission to use both email replies. The Christian acquaintance referred to in this letter is my GCC colleague and author, Paul Kengor.

Letter to the editor.
A few days ago I got a question from a Christian Pro-Life acquaintance. [What follows is a paraphrase of part of a letter I got from your friend and colleague. I sent him a somewhat longer reply. I also sent him a copy of my book, There is a Bomb In Gilead. Ask him to let you read it.]
“I understand fully that you see your work as saving women from an unwanted pregnancy that might, if illegal, lead them to dangerous “back alley abortions,” doing them great harm or perhaps even killing them. I, as a prolife Christian, don’t want to see them hurt or killed. On the other hand, by doing an abortion, you are taking a life – an innocent one that has no say in the decision. I rarely hear pro-choicers lament that decision, the loss of the unborn.
“Do you ever regret that part of the decision? How do you come to terms with that, or do you not see the fetus as a life or a person? I don’t want to see either one die, and would do my best to save both. But your work on the other hand, seeks the end of one of these lives. How do you justify that decision?”
Here is my answer: Anyone who has delivered as many babies as I have, and has seen hundreds of living and dead embryos and fetuses being spontaneously aborted as have I, knows exactly what we are doing when we provide an elective abortion for our patient. We are ending the life of an embryo or a fetus. Not the life of a person, but certainly a creature that might have become a person under other circumstances. When I am asked this question, I always go back to two of the most insightful and beautiful verses of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam.
Oh, if the world were but to recreate
That we might catch ere closed the Book of Fate
And make the Writer on a fairer leaf
Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate.
Better, oh, better cancel from the Scroll
Of universe one luckless Human Soul,
Than drop by drop enlarge the Flood that roars
Hoarser with Anguish as the ages roll.
When Omar wrote his beautiful and treasured poem over a thousand years ago, mankind had no way of safely canceling “from the scroll of universe one luckless human soul” whose numbers make up that flood of howling anguish; at least, no way of canceling it without risking also the life of the woman carrying it. In this day of medical marvels and, hopefully, ever increasing social justice, we possess such a way.
Embryos and fetuses spontaneously aborted – most, but not all of those “canceled” by “God” – are just such luckless human souls. But a few spontaneous abortions occur in desired pregnancies with no discernable abnormalities. For those girls and women and their families whose circumstances would make their babies “luckless human souls,” I “cancel” them before they become babies.
Physicians who save wanted babies from being spontaneously aborted (and we can save a few now that God once seemed determined to abort), and we who cancel “luckless human souls” are doing God’s work.
Want to increase Omar’s flood of anguish? Just vote to put John McCain in the White House and Pro-Lifers in your legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

Dr. Harrison places his views in the context of the current election. Clearly there is an ideological divide between Barack Obama and John McCain, the religious left and religious right on abortion. While Dr. Harrison does not like the South Dakota legislation, it does appear that if the wording was changed from “terminate a life” to “cancel a soul”, the law requires accurate disclosure. I am still reflecting on his response but I think he and I have different ideas of what preventing a life/soul is. For him, it appears that prevention ranges from preventing conception to preventing a birth, whereas, I see the fetus as a human soul, luckless or not.

More Evangelicals for Obama chatter

I have talked about Kirbyjohn Caldwell here before. He endorsed Obama and then it was learned he has an ex-gay ministry in his church. He promptly threw them under the bus. He is now launching a website called, Jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com to rebut yesterday’s statements from Dr. Dobson.
Obama supporters may believe Dobson is taking on Obama to help McCain but that is the confusing part of this for me. Dobson has said he will not vote for McCain. So a pox on both your houses?
Problem, one house will win and there will be consequences.
One thing is for sure, Obama’s Evangelical supporters are not coy about their support.

Could Obama win over Evangelicals?

As I typed the title, I reflected on several posts here months ago focusing on Hillary Clinton. I wondered who pro-life voters should prefer: Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton. Seems silly now, eh?
Lots of Dems preferred Hillary over Barack but not enough. However, on social issues, Obama is not much different than Hillary. And so, given that Evangelicals are overwhelmingly pro-life, it seems incredible that they could move toward Obama. However, Obama is reaching out to Evangelicals, suggesting a meeting with Focus on the Family. Today, the FOTF daily broadcast devotes some time to criticize Obama’s use of the Bible in his speeches.
Apparently, Dobson and company believe Evangelicals could be persuaded by Obama’s references to the Bible and believes some attention is needed to keep them from jumping on the Obandwagon. While sticking up for a traditional exegesis of the Bible seems reasonable for a Christian radio show, this is moving into political waters — which as the AP article points out is permitted in this case. However, if pro-life, Evangelical leaders want to really impact things, my advice would be build public bridges to McCain. Don’t wait for McCain to do it on your terms, just do it. Having trouble with the idea? Just think about Obama’s support for the Freedom of Choice Act and the Supreme Court appointments a President Obama might select.

Obama, Clinton spar over bitterness in PA

In last night’s Clinton-Obama debate in Philadelphia, moderator Charlie Gibson asked Obama to clarify his remarks regarding Pennsylvanians bitterness with government and their gravitation toward guns and God. The entire transcript is here. I am reproducing the crux of the answers from Obama and Clinton. I don’t think he appreciably changed the basic meaning of his earlier comments.

Obama said:

And so the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington’s not listening to them, when they’re promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn’t, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.

They end up feeling “This is a place where I can find some refuge. This is something that I can count on.” They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation. And those are incredibly important to them.

And yes, what is also true is that wedge issues, hot-button issues, end up taking prominence in our –in our politics. And part of the problem is that when those issues are exploited, we never get to solve the issues that people really have to get some relief on, whether it’s health care or education or jobs.

Is he really saying that people become single issue or ideological voters because they feel government is insensitive to their economic plight? He clearly believes there is some causal relationship – he uses the phrase, “end up” four times in this short narrative to cast interest in religion, guns, social issues as the result of frustration with government. I think this seriously misunderstands those on the other end of the spectrum from him on social issues.

I think Clinton made a pretty accurate statement in response:

I don’t believe that my grandfather or my father, or the many people whom I have had the privilege of knowing and meeting across Pennsylvania over many years, cling to religion when Washington is not listening to them. I think that is a fundamental, sort of, misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are good and times that are bad.

And I similarly don’t think that people cling to their traditions, like hunting and guns, either when they are frustrated with the government. I just don’t believe that’s how people live their lives.

At any rate, perhaps the most troubling thing I heard in the debate was the promise of both Democratic candidates to bring the troops home from Iraq, no matter what military leaders advised. Even if they advise the country will destabilize and our interests will be harmed, they said they would bring the troops home. They also promised no new taxes on people making 250k or less. Shades of George Bush I…