Pro-Life Blogosphere Aflutter on Rodriguez

With Rhode Island still in the depths of an economic crisis, social issues got little attention during the gubernatorial contest. But the pro-life blogosphere is aflutter about governor-elect Lincoln Chafee's decision to name Dr. Pablo Rodriguez to his Transition Advisory Committee - a group, as the name suggests, that advises the transition team.

At issue: an essay Rodriguez, the former medical director for Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island, wrote for the Providence Journal in September 2000. The piece described his reproductive health work in an unnamed Latin American country. And in the essay, he talks of "performing an abortion in a room with a picture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary" and of the "cholitas," or native women he was working with, "spreading the gospel of reproductive rights."

These provocative lines feature prominently in the pro-life posts. But Rodriguez, writing before the 2000 elections, also offered a critique of Congress's international family planning policy:

It is also a fact that, for women in the Andes and in much of the developing world, the vote taken by the House to restrict funding for international family planning represented a death sentence for thousands who found themselves without contraceptives and facing the uncertainties of unsafe abortion practices. Our Congress voted to eliminate funding to international agencies providing vital reproductive health services if those agencies were involved in or advocated the legalization of abortion in their own countries, even if the funds used for that advocacy came from other sources.

As a result, many clinics ran out of supplies and the Angel of Death fell upon the small villages and towns dependent on the American money. Anyone characterizing this vote as "pro-life" needs a serious dose of reality. Even if you try to soften the edges and say that the vote was against abortion, then you ignore the painful irony of such a vote forcing women to have more abortions and to die trying to obtain them.

Abortion will not be a central issue for the Chafee administration. But the rhetoric around the Rodriguez appointment hints at the heat - and national attention - that will surround Rhode Island if the state, as expected, moves forward on another hot-button social issue under the new governor: gay marriage.

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