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The honeymoon is over

My personal "honeymoon" with President Barack Obama is over.

As a "decline to state" voter who voted for John McCain in November, I have been watching President Obama carefully with a mixture of apprehension and hope. I voted for McCain because in conscience I could not vote for someone who appeared by his record to be so extremely anti-life and pro-abortion. Capping this for me was Obama's answer in regard to an abortion question during the campaign where he said that he would not want to "punish his daughters with a baby." My vote was roundly criticized and mocked by some family and many friends. They spoke glowingly of the great hope that Obama would bring to the wilderness of Washington politics.

I must confess that I have been heartened by the Obama straightforward push for advancement on healthcare access, something that I feel is a human right denied to many millions of U.S. citizens. I also am heartened by his offer of friendship to the Arab speaking world by his effort to communicate with them with a sense of reasonable dialogue. I am also in favor of other initiatives regarding pressing social questions that are now, at least, on the table for discussion.

My sense of apprehension and unease, however, has been around the life issues. Being pro-life and considering abortion as the preeminent social justice issue of our day, I have been warily watching President Obama's actions on these issues.

Along with others, I heard during the campaign from pro-Obama Catholics and Catholic organizations established to promote his candidacy that Obama would accomplish more than the previous administration to curtail abortions and promote life using "non-divisive" strategies. I have been eagerly looking for indications that this was indeed the case.

I have not seen anything that would indicate a "pro-life" openness or even a small move in that general direction. On the contrary, I have seen just the opposite.

Besides the appointments of pro-abortion staff to key positions, there have been three policy shifts by Obama that have signaled clearly where he is on the issue of life and where he intends to go.

- The Mexico City Policy
Obama reversed a policy that disallowed federal funds (taxpayer money) for organizations that promoted or performed abortions in the developing world. Now, the funded exportation of that American product - Abortion - will be delivered and paid for using our tax dollars, to people and cultures around the world as one of our solutions to grinding global poverty. The premise is: If abortion is the way to solve difficulties and inconviences here in the United States, it must be eagerly awaited by others to solve their problems even if their culture abhors the thought of killing their precious resource of children.

- Federal Conscience Rights for Health Care Workers
Also being reviewed for revocation is a policy firmly entrenching the rights of medical personnel to refuse to participate in procedures and practices that are against their moral beliefs, e.g. abortion. In attempting to reverse the recently enacted Health and Human Services regulations ensuring conscience protection, Obama has put this policy back on the table for "review" and there is the real possibility that conscience rights will be restricted and even, eventually, eliminated.

- Reversal of the Ban on Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research
If there is anything that clearly delineates President Obama's intent regarding the life issues it is this reversal on embryonic stem cell research. Citing that the "majority of Americans" are in favor of this reversal, he distorts science and ethics by making embryos available for research. This is a classic "crossing the Rubicon" as it demonstrates that, in his mind, these embryos either are not human life or they are human life of such a second-class nature that they are not worthy of respect and protection. Further, at the same time, he also rescinded an executive order that provided resources for innovative forms of adult stem cell research, the type of research that is ethical and very productive in terms of scientific results. This move ominously implies an ideological mindset that is unscientific and predisposed to follow the trail of embryonic research even though there are no cures and serious problems with this kind of approach.

Most distressing, is that there is no reaction from those pro-Obama Catholics and Catholic organizations that were and are apologists for Obama and his policies. These organizations - Catholics United, Alliance of Catholics for the Common Good, Network and others - provided Catholics with a scenario that painted Obama as "pro-life." Some of them openly said that they were pro-life and would work to move policy in a pro-life direction under Obama. Where are they now? Where are there any policy initiatives that would blunt the irrevocable thrust of these Obama actions early in his presidency?

The culture of death is making deeper inroads in our national policies and there is almost no response from Catholics who helped elect President Obama. It is time for them to step up to the plate.

By George Wesolek
George Wesolek is director of Public Policy/ Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

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