President Bush’s appointment of Louis Sullivan disappoints prolife supporters.

As George Bush begins his presidency, new questions have arisen within the prolife movement about how the abortion issue will fare under the new administration. While optimism remains high that changes in abortion policy may soon come at the Supreme Court level, Bush’s nomination of Louis Sullivan, president of Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine, as secretary of Health and Human Services has many prolife leaders wondering whether the candidate they supported is friend or foe.

Will Roe V. Wade Go?

New hope was infused into the prolife movement last month when the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in a Missouri case that could lead to modification or perhaps even a reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The Missouri case involves a 1986 law that places several restrictions on abortion and declares that life begins at conception. Lower courts have ruled the law unconstitutional, and Missouri asked the Supreme Court to take up the case.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Justice Department, under Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, asserted that if the Court “is prepared to reconsider Roe v. Wade, this case presents an appropriate opportunity for doing so.” The brief also reminded the Court that the federal government “stated its views on this issue” in an earlier 1985 brief, which urged the justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade, and “on reconsideration, abandon it.”

Tom Glessner, executive director of the Christian Action Council (CAC), is optimistic about the situation.

“From my viewpoint, it’s really the Supreme Court that’s going to settle this issue, … and I still believe Bush will appoint the right justices to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Dampened Enthusiasm

Some of the prolife enthusiasm has been dampened by Bush’s nomination of Sullivan.

Prolifers opposed Sullivan’s nomination and continue to be disappointed with the ambiguity of Sullivan’s abortion position. In December, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution quoted Sullivan as supporting a woman’s right to have an abortion. Yet, at the White House press briefing announcing the appointment, Sullivan said he was opposed to abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. “This position is the same as that of President-elect Bush with whom I agree completely,” he said. Sullivan refused to make further comments on the abortion issue until his Senate confirmation hearings.

At the same briefing, Bush said evangelicals and prolifers—two groups that supported him heavily during the election—“will feel very comfortable” with Sullivan because “our views are very compatible” on abortion. But many evangelical and prolife leaders are expressing diappointment.

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“It was the first chance Mr. Bush had to send a message to his prolife supporters that he is firmly in their camp, and quite frankly, he blew it,” said the CAC’s Glessner. He said that even if Sullivan does share Bush’s views on abortion, the Atlanta doctor has expressed support for fetal-tissue experiments, a position objectionable to many prolifers. “As the secretary of HHS, he will oversee the National Institutes of Health, which is on the verge of making national policy on the issue of fetal tissue use,” he said.

Damage Control

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) also found Sullivan’s nomination “disappointing.” Bob Dugan, director of the NAE Office of Public Affairs, said he believes the desire to appoint a minority member to the Cabinet “overwhelmed the process so that [Sullivan] wasn’t adequately questioned on his prolife views.”

Dugan noted that in a private meeting with Bush just after the election, a small group of evangelical leaders made “the strongest possible case” that the HHS postion be filled with “somebody strongly committed to the sanctity of human life.”

Apparently taken by surprise at the fervor of evangelical and prolife oppostion to Sullivan, the Bush transition team has promised that key positions under Sullivan will be filled with prolifers. “They’ve attempted to do some damage control or repair and show sensitivity by appointing other people with strong prolife commitments,” Dugan said. He called the promise “the redeeming factor” in the situation.

The CAC’s Glessner also conceded the Sullivan nomination may be a “blessing in disguise.” “We may be better off with a man who needs to be educated, but has people under him to educate him as opposed to a strong prolifer at the top with people under him undermining him,” Glessner said.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life, said his organization, along with millions of prolife Americans, will be watching the situation carefully. “The jury is still out, but we’re willing to be convinced,” he said.

By Kim A. Lawton.



A Long Way to Go

More children in India died of vaccine-preventable diseases on the day of the much-publicized Bhopal disaster a few years ago than there were people killed by gas leakage from the Union Carbide plant. With this illustration, James P. Grant, director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, spoke recently of the continuing need for basic medical care in poor countries.

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In commenting on the UNICEF report, “The State of the World’s Children 1989,” Grant said that in the last decade the percentage of children in poor countries who were immunized from major diseases rose from 5 to 50 percent. He added that the practice of oral rehydration therapy has had a major impact in limiting deaths from diarrhea.

But the report’s theme is that Third World families, after four decades of progress, are falling back into severe poverty. Grant said that economic conditions, including poor borrowings and high interest rates, contribute to the deaths of 1,000 children in Africa every day. He called for a resolution of the international debt crisis, though stating it is too simplistic to blame the crisis on the International Monetary Fund.

Grant indicated that the emphasis in poor countries on higher Gross National Product during the 1960s and 1970s tended to hide maldistribution of income. In the 1980s, he said, it is mostly the “bottom half” that is suffering.


Church Restrictions

According to the Hong Kong-based China News and Church Report (CNCR), Bishop Ding Guangxun, the head of China’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), has in effect acknowledged that some local governments in China are restricting Christian activities.

The news report summarizes an interview of Ding by Ewing Carroll, director of the United Methodist Church’s China Program. Ding discussed the advances brought about by TSPM in publishing Christian literature, and in opening churches and seminaries. But he was also quoted as saying, “We still find persons here and there, mostly lower government cadres, who lack respect for the principle [of religious freedom]. There is much work yet to be done.”

According to the report, Ding also said that some local governments have rules that designate places of worship, pastors, and regions for visitors from outside China to visit, though he added this is not a national TSPM policy. Ding was quoted further as saying, “[The government] does not assume the position of God and tell Christians what to believe and how to run the church.” The report, published by the Chinese Church Research Centre, included a brief comment that Ding’s statement that the church is free to pursue its goals “seems to be belied by his own comments on the bahavior of ‘local governments.’ ”

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Translation Completed

The Peruvian branch of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), the sister organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators, has completed work on the translation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights into 34 of the country’s indigenous languages. Native speakers did the translating, in cooperation with SIL and Peru’s Ministry of Education

According to a Wycliffe Bible Translators news release, the purpose of the translation is “to allow the indigenous peoples of Peru to be aware of their rights which the UN has declared to be basic and universal and which are guaranteed to them in the Peruvian Constitution of 1979.” The release stated that translators also hope the document’s publication will raise the esteem of the country’s minority languages and the cultures they represent.


Missionary Boom

According to research conducted by Partnership OC Ministries, the number of missionaries is growing at a faster pace in Asia, Africa, and Latin America than in Europe and North America. Said the organization’s president, Larry Keyes, “With languages other than English and financial resources other than the dollar, these believers are establishing new missionary training schools in countries such as India, Singapore, Nigeria, and Guatemala.”

Keyes added that missionaries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have been active in promoting missions conferences and in forming national missionary associations, including those in countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia, and Japan. He added, however, that the task of world evangelization is inhibited by a lack of cooperation between Western and non-Western missionary agencies.


Freedom Affirmed

Fifteen Christians—12 Turks, two Britons, and an American—have been released after being briefly detained for questioning by Ankara police, who recently conducted a series of surprise raids. Six of those detained were acquitted last summer when a Turkish court ruled that their activities and propaganda were purely religious as opposed to political in nature, and that their meetings were being held within the legal framework of religious freedom.

According to Turkish law, Turks are guaranteed freedom to choose their religion, to form religious congregations, to learn about and teach their religious tenets, and to spread their faith.

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