U.S. bishops warn Obama on abortion issues

Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:31pm EST
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By Michael Conlon, Religion Writer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. Catholic bishops told President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday his election was not a referendum on abortion, even though a majority of Catholics helped elect him despite an abortion rights stand the bishops oppose.

In particular, the bishops said, they were alarmed that his election might provide support for federal legislation which could overturn all state-level restrictions on abortion.

"The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world," Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement issued on their behalf.

"If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve," he added.

"Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion," George said.

The bishops, ending their semi-annual meeting in Baltimore, had directed George to issue the statement after discussions indicating their frustration and fears about the abortion issue.

Some bishops actively opposed Obama because he believes women have the right to choose whether to have an abortion. The bishops' group in a general pre-election statement urged Catholic voters to make their choices as a matter of conscience considering all life issues.

Obama won 52 percent of the Catholic vote to 47 percent for Sen. John McCain, according to exit polls.   Continued...