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Land urges President-elect Bush to tackle pro-life, other issues

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life and pro-family leaders are encouraging President-elect George W. Bush to advance a number of initiatives after he is inaugurated Jan. 20, including some that would reverse the policies of the last eight years under President Bill Clinton.

Southern Baptist ethics agency head Richard Land offered the following as policy initiatives he would like Bush to promote in his first year in the White House:

— Ask Congress to send him a bill for his approval banning partial-birth abortion, a measure Clinton twice vetoed.

— Begin preparation for the establishment of a federal panel to regulate bioethics research.

— Work with Congress to assist states in reforming election procedures.

— Propose a plan to reform and improve education.

— Promote changes in the tax code to provide relief for families.

— Restore the American military.

Family Research Council President Ken Connor listed the following among policies he desires to be adopted in a Bush administration: 1) Restore the Family Impact Statement executive order, which was revoked by Clinton and required the administration to assess the probable impact on families of all federal rules; 2) urge aggressive enforcement of obscenity laws by the Justice Department; (3) restore a National Center of Health Statistics responsibility of compiling data on marriage and divorce, an activity rescinded by the Clinton administration; and 4) renew another policy terminated by Clinton, that of withholding funds to organizations that perform or promote abortion overseas.

Bush already has used the “bully pulpit” of the presidency during the weeks leading to his inauguration to name pro-lifers to important cabinet positions, and he should continue using his position to “exhort America to be a nation that affirms human life,” Land said. Possibly “the most dramatic way to do that would be to strongly encourage the Congress to send him another bill banning partial-birth abortion so that he could, as he has promised, sign it and end this horrific and barbaric procedure,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The new president also should lay the groundwork for a federal bioethics regulatory commission, modeled after the Atomic Energy Commission, Land said. The panel would have oversight and licensing power. It is a proposal Land has backed for more than two years.

“The reason that the United States never had a Chernobyl-type tragedy is that the Atomic Energy Commission never granted a license to build such a dangerous facility,” Land said. “With every passing day we are closer to the biomedical equivalent of a Chernobyl meltdown. Such a biomedical ethics commission would provide an important safeguard to keep this from happening.”

The Chernobyl power plant in the Ukraine was the site of a serious nuclear accident in 1986.

Bush could receive bipartisan support not only for a partial-birth abortion ban but election reform, Land said.

“I think most Americans were shocked, as I was, to discover what an approximate rather than a precise process the counting of ballots is” in parts of the country, Land said. “This is an injustice that tramples on the rights of all Americans — Republicans, Democrats and independents. I don’t believe that the federal government should dictate in detail how all those votes in a particular state should be counted, but I believe the Constitution requires the federal government to mandate in federal elections that all the votes in a particular state be counted and evaluated in the same way. A good place to start in accomplishing that goal would be to assist states to purchase the most up-to-date and accurate equipment available to record and tabulate all the votes cast in a particular state. I can think of few better uses for some of our government surplus than to give grants to the states to help them do this by the time we again cast our ballots in a federal election.”

Land suggested Bush propose “a legislative program that fleshes out his campaign promise, perhaps modeled after his efforts in Texas as governor, to hold the nation’s education establishment accountable at every level to assure that our nation’s children are making substantial progress educationally, beginning with the ability to read and read well. I believe this should include measures to further empower parents in making what they perceive to be the best educational choices for their children.”

He also “would strongly encourage the president to move quickly to make the tax code far friendlier to families by eliminating the marriage tax penalty, significantly increasing the child-dependent tax credit and eliminating the estate or death tax, which so negatively and unfairly decimates small family businesses and family farms at the time of the passage of the farm or business to the next generation,” Land said.

“Last, at least for this year, would be to immediately begin a thorough evaluation, reform and reconfiguration of our armed forces to repair the scandalous damage inflicted upon them in terms of morale, equipment and numbers over the last eight years.” Land said.