Senator Barack Obama's campaign announced in a conference call Friday afternoon the formation of a Catholic Advisory Council, composed of prominent Catholics from around the United States. Recognizing that Catholics represent a substantial swing vote in the upcoming election, the Campaign expressed its determination to make the case that the Democrats are best able to represent Catholic priorities when it comes to confronting the myriad domestic and international challenges facing the next President.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and former Indiana Representative Tim Roemer announced they would serve as co-chairs of the effort. These prominent Catholics sought to begin leveling an electoral playing field that has been dominated the last eight years by the Republicans in their efforts to tar Democrats as being "bad Catholics." A story released by LifeNews.com responded, "The participation and leadership of the two pro-life politicians is an obvious clue that Obama wants to siphon some of the pro-life Catholic vote away from eventual Republican nominee John McCain." Like many conservative outlets, the story began by labeling Sen Obama as "pro-abortion."
The tortured logic of this kind of name-calling belies efforts by both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama to express publicly their determination to decrease the number of abortions nationally. "Is Senator McCain 'pro-divorce' because he has not called for making divorce illegal across the United States?" commented Catholic Democrats Exec Director Patrick Whelan. "It is ridiculous to label any politician as 'pro-abortion' because they refuse to follow the Republican playbook for criminalization, and opt instead for a more Christian approach advocating positive measures to decrease unintended pregnancies in the US."
It is notable that conservatives rarely acknowledge that the national abortion rate has fallen half as fast under President Bush as it did under President Clinton, and that Mr Bush vetoed Democratic abortion reduction legislation last October under the pretense of fiscal responsibility.
As Senators Clinton and Obama work overtime to court Catholics in Pennsylvania, the role that religiously-minded voters are playing nationally as a newly prominent Democratic constituency is standing in stark contrast to the presidential race of only four years ago.