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LIFE DIGEST: Pro-life candidate stirs up race for DNC chair; China says ‘yes’ to girls; new Senate good news for pro-lifers

WASHINGTON (BP)–A pro-life, former congressman’s candidacy for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee has drawn the expected opposition of abortion rights advocates.

Rep. Tim Roemer, who compiled a strongly pro-life voting record as an Indiana congressman from 1991 to 2003, announced Jan. 9 he would seek the DNC’s top post. Roemer enters a race that includes former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, the Associated Press reported. With the exception of Roemer all of the candidates are pro-choice.

“I’m not asking to rewrite the platform,” Roemer said on ABC’s “This Week,” according to AP. “We have a majority of our party, an overwhelming majority of our party, that is pro-choice, and I respect that. But I think we should not only be more inclusive on this issue, especially in the Midwest and the South if a candidate has those views, we should have them in our party.”

Kate Michelman, president emeritus of NARAL Pro-Choice American (formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League), said Roemer’s election “would signal that the Democratic Party is retreating from one of its core principles,” AP reported.

Even before Roemer announced his candidacy, another abortion rights advocate wrote the DNC in mid-December to register her opposition to such a chairman. “The Democratic Party and its leadership should champion pro-choice values and uphold the platform’s stated commitment to women’s rights and health,” said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The party’s support of abortion rights has prevented any candidate who is even moderately pro-life from being nominated to a national office for at least two decades and has reduced the number of pro-life Democrats in Congress markedly while pushing abortion opponents into the Republican Party.

Since the Democrats’ convincing loss in November, however, some within the party are calling for a new perspective on the issue. Even Sen. John Kerry, who lost to President Bush as a supporter of abortion rights, told Democratic activists the party needs to welcome pro-life candidates, according to Newsweek. Dean also has said Democrats need to be more inclusive on the abortion issue.

The Democrats’ congressional leaders have even promoted Roemer’s candidacy. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi strongly support Roemer as the next chairman, CNN reported.

Roemer’s candidacy is “very encouraging for the future of our party, especially because Nancy Pelosi, who is not pro-life, was one of the ones who encouraged him to run,” Democrats for Life of America Executive Director Kristen Day told Baptist Press. “I think if our party is smart, we will look at him very carefully.”

While abortion rights advocates contend the DNC should not elect Roemer because of the party’s stance on the issue, Day said, “Our party stands for so much more than the abortion issue.”

“For too long, the abortion issue has been a stranglehold” on the party, she said.

The abortion rights organizations’ opposition to Roemer is “short-sighted,” Day said, “and I think it shows they truly only care about abortion and they don’t care about the party.”

Pro-life Democrats might gain even if Roemer is not elected, Day said. “I think as long as we have someone as the chairman who supports inclusiveness, we are moving in a better direction,” she said.

The DNC’s election of a new chairman is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Washington, D.C.

CHINA: YES TO GIRLS -– The Chinese government has announced it will act to eliminate sex-selection abortion and end the imbalance between male and female babies.

China Daily reported Jan. 7 the world’s most populous country, which reached 1.3 billion in population the day before, has established the year 2010 as a target for reversing an imbalance that has resulted in 119 boys being born for every 100 girls.

“The government takes it as an urgent task to correct the gender imbalance of newborns,” said Zhang Weiqing, minister over the National Population and Family Planning Commission, according to the official Xinhua news agency, China Daily reported. “As a new measure, the commission will start drafting revisions to the criminal law in order to effectively ban fetus gender detection and selective abortion other than legitimate medical purposes.”

Sex-selection abortion is prohibited in the communist country, but that has not prevented ultrasound technology from being used to detect female babies and abort them. The Chinese typically favor sons, since they are able to support their parents, especially in their old age, and to continue the family name, according to China Daily.

China has maintained a one-child, population control policy for more than two decades. The policy limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Other exceptions have been made in some provinces, and the enforcement of the policy has varied among provinces. Not only has the program resulted in coercive abortion and sterilization, but infanticide, especially of baby girls, also has been reported.

One Chinese city already has initiated a program to end sex-selection abortion. Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province, instituted a policy Jan. 1 that bans abortions after 14 weeks of pregnancy, hopefully preventing ultrasound detection of the sex of the unborn child, the British newspaper The Guardian reported. Exceptions to the prohibition will be permitted in cases where the husband has died, the parents have divorced or the child is shown to have genetic impairment or disease, according to the newspaper.

NEW POSTS FOR PRO-LIFERS –- Pro-life advocates have gained some important posts in Congress and the White House since the November election.

Republicans named Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to the Judiciary Committee in December. In early January, it was revealed Claude Allen, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, had been selected as the Bush administration’s new domestic policy advisor.

No committee is as important to the pro-life cause as the Judiciary panel. Not only does it consider most pro-life measures, it also handles nominations to the federal judiciary.

Brownback, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, has been a pro-life leader not only on abortion but especially on the cloning and stem cell issues. Coburn, who was a pro-life defender during six years in the House, was elected in November to the Senate after returning to his medical practice in Muskogee.

Bush had nominated Allen to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals during his first term, but Senate Democrats blocked his confirmation.

HELP FOR PREGNANT COEDS –- Michigan has become the first state to enact legislation supporting colleges that establish offices to assist pregnant and parenting students.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, signed into law Dec. 29 the bill, which creates a two-year pilot program at two universities and two community colleges. Private donations will be used to fund the offices, which will provide information to students on prenatal care, adoption and other services. The program will be evaluated after two years. If successful, it will be expanded to other schools, and the state may fund the initiative.

“Approximately 20 percent of all abortions are performed on college-aged women,” said Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing in a written statement. “This program will help these young women know that they don’t need to choose between their education and their unborn child. They can have both.”

Support for the measure was overwhelming in the Michigan legislature. The House approved it 99-0, while the Senate passed it 26-8.