Letter Reveals Ted Kennedy’s Opposition to Abortion, Belief in Life ‘From the Very Moment of Conception’

Penny Starr | August 31, 2009 | 6:36pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - A letter written by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1971 reveals that he then opposed abortion and supported giving rights to the unborn.
“While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life,” Kennedy wrote on Aug. 3, 1971 in response to a letter sent to him by Thomas E. Dennelly, who asked the senator about his stand on abortion.
“Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which much be recognized--the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old,” wrote Kennedy.
The letter, written two years before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, was given to the Catholic League by Dennelly, a New York resident and a member of the league, a Catholic civil rights organization.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, confirmed to CNSNews.com the authenticity of the letter, which he said offers proof that Kennedy, regularly lauded for his pro-abortion stance by pro-abortion groups liked Planned Parenthood and NARAL, was pro-life in his early days as a Massachusetts senator.

“Senator Kennedy’s letter, which I have right here in front of me, is striking in that he doesn’t see this as a difficult issue,” Donohue told CNSNews.com. “He says, clearly, ‘When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.’”

“That’s an unequivocal condemnation of abortion,” Donohue said.

Donohue said the rise of the feminist movement within the Democratic Party is, in part, responsible for the shift from its leaders’ pro-life stand, including that of President John F. Kennedy, to the kind of pro-abortion views espoused by Sen. Ted Kennedy, including his opposition to a ban on partial-birth abortion, as reported earlier by CNSNews.com.

“I do not believe it is the role of the Senate to interfere with or regulate the kind of medical advice that a doctor can give to a patient,” Kennedy said in a March 12, 2003 Senate floor speech in opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban that was enacted that year.  That year Kennedy also voted for an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa) that said the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade correctly and that abortion is a constitutional right.

In his 1971 letter, however, Kennedy referred to “freedom of choice” as a women’s right to access birth control, but not abortion.

“On the question of the individual’s freedom of choice there are easily available birth control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy,” Kennedy wrote. “But once life has begun, no matter what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire.”

Donohue said that Dennelly gave the letter to the Catholic League so that its content could be shared with the public. He said he believes Dennelly, who is Irish and Catholic, wrote to Kennedy because he saw him as an ally on the abortion issue.

The press office in Kennedy’s Senate office on Capitol Hill did not respond to CNSNew.com’s request for comment on the letter.
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