The anti-abortion drive recently launched by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stirred up a new wave of concern that the Vatican seeks to impose a tenet peculiar to itself upon all Americans. The origin of this concern can be traced to the strong negative reaction of the American Catholic community to the Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-abortion laws three years ago this month.

Catholics do wield considerable political power and have indeed been in the forefront of the fight to overturn the decision through a constitutional amendment. But the question that needs answering is this: is abortion a moral question extending beyond Catholic moral philosophy? If there is no significant reservation about abortion in Protestant, Orthodox, and Jewish thinking, then obviously the government should not attempt to regulate it simply to please Catholics.

Interestingly enough, Mormons also oppose abortion, and in states where they exercise political clout the charge has often been made that abortion is a “Mormon” issue.

The Reverend Bob Holbrook, national coordinator of “Baptists for Life”, argues that the anti-abortion laws struck down by the court had been enacted with a broad base of popular support quite irrespective of sectarian divisions. The test case itself came out of Texas, where Protestants have always predominated in great numbers. North Dakota, said to be more than 75 per cent non-Catholic, voted in a public referendum against liberalized abortion the year before the court decision.

Holbrook points out that before the passage of the first relaxed abortion laws in 1965, forty-six states and the District of Columbia explicitly permitted abortion to save the mother’s life but prohibited ...

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