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ELECTION 2008 | Catholic House Republicans Demand Apology From Pelosi Over Comments on Abortion, When Life Begins

ELECTION 2008 | Catholic House Republicans Demand Apology From Pelosi Over Comments on Abortion, When Life Begins
[Aug. 29, 2008]

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a group of House Republicans has demanded that she apologize for her recent comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the Catholic Church's position on abortion rights and when life begins, The Hill reports. According to the letter written by 19 Catholic representatives, Pelosi's "erroneous claim about the history of the church's opposition to abortion is false and denigrates our common faith." The letter concludes that to "reduce the scandal and consternation caused amongst the faithful by your remarks, we necessarily write to you to correct the public record and affirm the church's actual and historical teaching that defends the sanctity of human life. We hope that you will rectify your errant claims and apologize for misrepresenting the church's doctrine and misleading fellow Catholics" (Cusack, The Hill, 8/27).

Pelosi, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights, during the appearance said that "doctors of the church" have not been able to define when life begins and that "over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy." Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl in a release issued Monday night said Pelosi's comments were "incorrect." The release added, "We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record" (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/27).

Pelosi spokesperson Brendan Daly issued a statement Tuesday that said the Speaker stands by her comments. Daly said that not all Catholics believe that life begins at conception and cited St. Augustine, who said, "The law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation." Wuerl "blasted" Pelosi's statement, The Hill reports, saying the "philosophical discussion of St. Augustine's time is not relevant today" (The Hill, 8/27).