BY NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN IN WASHINGTON DC
THE HEAD of the American bishops' Committee on ProLife Activities has welcomed President George W Bush's promise to "veto any legislation that weakens current federal policies and laws on abortion".
Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia also expressed gratitude in a statement for pledges by 155 members of the House of Representatives and 34 senators to uphold any such vetoes. "These pledges help ensure that through the rest of this administration and this Congress Americans need not fear that the federal government will pursue new ways to force them to be involved in government-funded abortions, coercive population programmes abroad or the destruction of embryonic human beings," he said.
"We should work together to build respect for human life at its most defenceless stages, and to support women and families facing an unintended pregnancy or caring for family members challenged by age, illness or disability," he added.
Mr Bush outlined his stand in identical letters to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats. "As you know, current law prohibits federal funding for abortion, both domestically and internationally, except in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is endangered," the president wrote. "Recent legislative practice has ensured that taxpayer funds do not underwrite organisations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning."
Also protected under American laws or policies are human embryos and the conscience rights of healthcare providers and entities, and taxpayer funds may not be used in "coercive or involuntary family planning programmes", he added.
"I urge that these and other existing, important protections be respected and continued," Mr Bush told the congressional leaders. "I believe it is the most basic duty of government to guard the innocent. With that in mind, I will veto any legislation that weakens current federal policies and laws on abortion, or that encourages the destruction of human life at any stage The 155 House members had urged Mr Bush to make that pledge in March. An earlier letter from 34 senators had a similar message and noted that Mr Bush's father, President George H W Bush, had issued such a letter in June 1991 "to great effect when he was confronted with a Democratcontrolled Congress".
"An examination of the record will show that attacks on pm-life policy in the Democratcontrolled Congress were much more vociferous prior to the June 4 letter than they were after the letter," the senators wrote.