Bush Administration Would Use Civil Rights Division to Endorse Ban
by Steven Ertelt
November 14, 2003
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In a decision pro-life groups say underscores the denial of life to unborn children, the Bush administration has planned to use the civil rights division of the Justice Department to enforce the ban on partial-birth abortion if the law is not overturned in the courts.
The move has upset pro-abortion lawmakers who claim the division should only be used to assist minorities who are victims of racism.
In the past, the division has been used to investigate minority voting disenfranchisement, to help with equal access laws and to address hate crimes.
However, the department has been used before on abortion-related cases. The Clinton administration used it to prosecute violators of the FACE law, used against protesters outside of abortion facilities.
In 1994, Janet Reno decided the division should be used for abortion-related enforcement matters. While a pro-life administration today is using the division to highlight the civil rights of unborn children, Reno used the division to symbolize the so-called right to abortion.
Attorney General John Ashcroft received a letter this week from seven Democratic members of the House of Representatives judiciary committee accusing him of abusing the government’s traditional role in protecting civil rights. They say he should use the criminal division instead.
"Your decision is a slap in the face of the civil rights community, and does a grave disservice to the many Americans who gave their lives for the cause of civil rights laws in this country," the letter says.
Ashcroft has not replied to the letter according to Justice Department officials.
Meanwhile, pro-life groups say using the civil rights division makes sense.
Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director, said the partial-birth abortion ban is "indeed a civil rights measure" that protects "those who are only inches from birth."
"Because the right to life is the paramount civil right," Johnson told LifeNews.com, "it is therefore appropriate for enforcement to be coordinated by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department."
Abortion advocates also oppose Ashcroft’s decision.
Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, one of the abortion businesses that filed suit against the law, said she opposed using the civil rights division because it is responsible for punishing those who engage in abortion-related violence.
She claimed, as did the Democratic lawmakers, that it would be a conflict of interest for the division to enfoce both.
"It is absurd to say that it is a conflict of interest for the Civil Rights Division to enforce both laws," Johnson told LifeNews.com.
"The FACE law also forbids attacks on houses of religious worship, but that does not mean that any act that occurs inside a church automatically becomes immune from every other law," Johnson explained. "These lawmakers clearly think that the premature infants who are being delivered to within inches of live birth before being killed have no civil rights — and they also seem to think that partial-birth abortionists are above the law."
Despite the three lawsuits filed against the pro-life law, which have resulted in temporary injunctions, Ashcroft has said he will fight to keep the ban in place and enforce it if given the opportunity.
He vowed "to strongly defend the law prohibiting partial-birth abortions using every resource necessary," in a recent statement.
The pro-abortion lawmakers who signed the letter to Ashcroft include: Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
Related web sites:
Letter to Ashcroft – https://www.house.gov/judiciary_democrats/agpbaenforceltr11603.pdf