When did Senator Kennedy abandon his commitment to the unborn?

As has been pointed out, Senator Kennedy was pro-life at least until late 1971. Like Jesse Jackson, Al Gore and other prominent figures on the left, his stance changed as “abortion rights” became a major plank on the Democrat Party platform.

What happened? Anne Hendershott chronicles the change in her article, “How Support for Abortion Became Kennedy Dogma” Wall Street Journal January 2, 2009. (Tip of the hat to: The Reverend Albert Mohler):

… all changed in the early ’70s, when Democratic politicians first figured out that the powerful abortion lobby could fill their campaign coffers (and attract new liberal voters). Politicians also began to realize that, despite the Catholic Church’s teachings to the contrary, its bishops and priests had ended their public role of responding negatively to those who promoted a pro-choice agenda.

In some cases, church leaders actually started providing “cover” for Catholic pro-choice politicians who wanted to vote in favor of abortion rights. At a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964, the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies were coached by leading theologians and Catholic college professors on how to accept and promote abortion with a “clear conscience.”

The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book “The Birth of Bioethics” (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.

Read the rest.

3 Responses to When did Senator Kennedy abandon his commitment to the unborn?

  • I think it may be appropriate to compare Sen. Kennedy to the Senators and Congressmen of the 19th century who supported slavery, such as Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas.

    These men were significant figures in U.S. history, known for their political and oratorical skills, and were considered “lions of the Senate” in their own time. They considered themselves good Christians, did a lot of good things in their careers, and were admired by many people of all political persuasions. As far as I know they were personally nice, intelligent, well-mannered and trustworthy people. (Douglas, in fact, courted Mary Todd before she married Abraham Lincoln.)

    Yet, all the good they did cannot obscure the fact that on the number one moral issue of their era (slavery), they were wrong, and few if any people would even think of voting for someone with the same convictions today. Douglas, especially, is a prime example of someone who was “pro-choice” on slavery the same way many politicians are pro-choice on abortion today.

    Perhaps, by the grace of God and much prayer and sacrifice, the pro-abortion point of view will be just as unthinkable in the next century as the pro-slavery point of view is now.

    Here’s another analogy to consider. Suppose there had lived in the mid-19th century a famous politician who was a Quaker and came from a well-known Quaker family. Suppose this person claimed to be an observant Quaker, attended services regularly or attempted to, and made public statements about the value of his Quaker convictions and how they affected his votes on issues like war — but at the same time, he constantly defended the right of Southerners to own slaves, voted for the Fugitive Slave and Kansas Nebraska Acts, praised the Dred Scott decision, had a 100 percent favorable rating from pro-slavery lobbying groups, and repeatedly claimed there was no conflict between his Quaker convictions and embracing slavery.

    Now, how many Quakers do you think would have voted for such a man, and how would the press of the time have regarded him — as a sterling example of “progressive” Quaker thinking, or as a despicable hypocrite?

  • Those of that kind, not singling out Ted Kennedy, seem to serve special interest groups, Planned Parenthood, Unions.

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