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2008 Campaign: Abortion, Palin and Religion

DEBORAH POTTER, guest anchor: The U.S. Catholic bishops have raised concerns about what they called “recent misleading remarks” by prominent Catholic politicians about Church teachings on abortion. The bishops took Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden to task for his comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press”:

SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate, during appearance on “Meet the Press”): I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.

POTTER: The bishops said protecting all unborn children is a demand of justice, not an imposition of personal religious conviction. They also bly disputed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s recent claim that “doctors of the church” have disagreed on when life begins.

Joining me now to discuss all of this is our managing editor, Kim Lawton, and it seems that social issues and abortion, in particular, have become sort of front and center again in the presidential campaign.

Kim Lawton

KIM LAWTON (Managing Editor, RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY): Well, it’s really interesting. Thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is still a really volatile political issue for both parties. We see the Democrats struggling with how to maintain their very b position on pro-choice and also to try to encourage and appeal to people who are against abortion – especially some Catholics and maybe even some evangelicals. So that’s been a struggle for them. And we see with Joe Biden they’re not exactly sure how to do that, to keep everybody happy. On the flipside, the Republicans are also making this a big deal, and they have a lot of voters who base their vote on abortion. And certainly the selection of Sarah Palin, who’s against abortion even in cases of rape and incest, was something that made those voters very happy.

Deborah Potter

POTTER: Well, it has energized the evangelical voting population, apparently, but is there a potential downside to this from the McCain campaign’s perspective?

LAWTON: Well, we’ve been reporting that evangelicals and conservative Catholics who were very lukewarm about John McCain have been thrilled with the selection of Sarah Palin, and so they’re working harder, and they are energized. But that in turn seems to be energizing people in the more liberal and moderate community who don’t want to see an energized religious right, and so you see this sort of contentious situation building, and I think religious moderates and liberals are a lot better organized than they were even four years ago.

POTTER: Do you see this energy among evangelicals continuing if the McCain campaign essentially steps back and says, “Well, we’ve done what you asked. We’ve picked the right person. We’re obviously on your side. Now we don’t have to do more”?

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LAWTON: Well, that’s one of the concerns I’m hearing a lot from the social conservatives, that they want McCain himself, as well as Sarah Palin herself, to speak out about some of their issues – not just assume that everybody knows where they’re going to stand. They want to see them coming to some of their events, their rallies, personally and really rallying the troops, and they don’t want to be taken for granted.

POTTER: Kim, I’m sure you’ll be watching this for us. Thank you so much, and we have more campaign coverage and analysis on the One Nation page of our Web site.