W. H. Marshner
(Special to The Wanderer)
Our Second Century of Lay Apostolate
AUGUST 29, 1974
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Right to Life Committee, Inc. (NRLC), which began a campaign against Nelson Rockefeller’s selection as Vice President as soon as President Nixon resigned, has pledged to continue the campaign by lobbying Congress throughout the confirmation process.
“We hereby encourage all pro- life people everywhere to address themselves to their Senators and Representatives who now must consider whether or not Nelson Rockefeller is qualified to justify their vote of confirmation,” the NRLC said in a statement released by Executive Director Ray L. White on Aug. 21st.
Suggesting that President Ford was playing “politics as usual,” and may have been “unaware” of Rockefeller’s anti-life record, the NRLC statement charges that “Ford has therefore missed an opportunity to bring the Nation together.”
‘‘Undeniably,” the statement goes on, “the protection and preservation of all human life is relegated to a very low priority in spite of Mr. Rockefeller’s highest platitude of willingness to serve ‘all’ the people of this great Country — undoubtedly all except those he is willing to sacrifice by aborting their life.”
The statement calls Rockefeller “perhaps the single most influential abortion advocate in public life” and declares: “the right-to-life movement is not going to equivocate or give a single inch on this issue. Nelson Rockefeller, because of his anti-life stand, is unacceptable. We will, therefore, do everything in our power, to make certain that his record on this issue is made public. From now on, everywhere Nelson Rockefeller goes, there will be adequate reminders of his tragic actions in New York when, as Governor, he deliberately ignored the will of the majority of the people of that State by vetoing the 1972 New York Abortion Repeal Law passed by the State Legislature. …”
In addition to the threat of demonstrations and the call for letter-writing campaigns against Rockefeller’s confirmation, the NRLC warns of other GOP politicians, especially those running for Congress or State office in this Fall’s elections, not to invite Nelson Rockefeller to campaign for them or endorse them, lest his “tremendous anti-life liabilities” should rub off.
The NRLC statement was issued after several major right-to-life organizations had taken steps to dissuade President Ford from the Rockefeller choice. According to one presidential aide, the White House was “inundated” with anti- Rockefeller mail from pro-life groups across the Country. Another aide confided that the President was disturbed by this massive “Catholic” reaction but evidently not dissuaded.
There is no evidence to suggest, however, that the Hierarchy or officials of the Catholic Church took a direct role in producing this reaction. Rather, much of it was generated by the NRLC. Executive Director Ray White had sent a letter to all member organizations on Aug. 8th, mentioning that Rockefeller, Brooke, and Percy, all of whom have publicly been pro-abortion, were among those being considered for Vice President. The letter urged local organizations to: (1) Wire President Ford urging him to select a pro-life man; (2) contact local, pro-life Republican National Committee members to do the same; (3) contact local pro-life Republican State legislators and other politicians to do the same. On Monday, Aug. 12th, White alerted presidential aides to the fact that these telegrams were pouring into the White House.
Another pro-life organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA), the official anti- abortion lobbying agency for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, followed a more ‘selective’ approach.
According to Executive Director Robert Lynch, the NCHLA contacted a number of State Catholic Conference directors to urge them to contact those State Republican politicians (selected governors, senators, congressmen, as well as Ford intimates in Grand Rapids) who have the most influence with Ford. “We are unalterably opposed to the selection of Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President,” Lynch said.
Other national lobbies such as Richard Gallagher’s Human Life Amendment Group undertook similar action, including picketing the White House with signs saying, “Abort Rocky.” The only reaction was a jaunty wave by Rockefeller himself as he left one of the buildings on Capitol Hill.
Now that the vice presidential selection has been made, however, it is not clear whether other pro-life groups beside the NRLC will continue to fight. The NCHLA, Lynch says, “is discussing its options. No decision has been made yet.”
A new pro-life national organization, which surfaced on Aug. 21st, is the American Citizens Concerned for Life, Inc. (ACCL), a Marjory Mecklenburg splinter from the NRLC. This group’s Washington office will be run by the Rev. Warren Schaller, who formerly managed the NRLC’s Washington office until this past Spring. Attempts to contact the ACCL to discover their policy on the Rockefeller question proved fruitless, however, when the phone number listed for Mr. Schaller’s office turned out to be a non-working number.