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 CNS Story:

DEMS-RALLY Aug-27-2008 (570 words) With photos. xxxn

Rally, panel discussion in Denver look at abortion as election issue

By Mike Stone
Catholic News Service

DENVER (CNS) -- Led by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., some 3,000 people rallied in a Denver park Aug. 25 to alert Democratic National Convention delegates that abortion still is an issue in U.S. politics.

Only a few miles away earlier in the day, another group debated whether Democrats could coax Catholics and evangelical Christians to support candidates who want to keep abortion legal. The events provided a stark contrast on the abortion debate during the Aug. 25-28 convention in Denver.

Under threatening skies in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, in a primarily African-American and Hispanic area of northeast Denver, Alveda King joined Archbishop Chaput in a prayer vigil to condemn abortion.

King told the crowd that "abortion violates the civil rights of the youngest and weakest of our people" and that "the battle to outlaw the procedure is the greatest battle of our time."

King, along with the archbishop and the Rev. Willard Johnson, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Denver, led the attendees after the vigil in a half-mile candlelight walk around a new Planned Parenthood Center located a block away.

King said statistics show Planned Parenthood targets minority women as recipients of its services.

Just a few hours earlier, participants in a high-tech panel discussion debated how Democrats could woo away voters from a single-issue approach to the election.

In a 25-minute event, streamed online and held in the "Big Tent," a staging area for new media reporters, bloggers and public-interest groups, Alexia Kelley said Catholics may hold the key in the November elections. Kelley is executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of the Catholic social tradition and its core values of justice, human dignity and the common good to Catholics, the media and Americans of all faiths, according to its charter.

Kelley said Catholics, combined with evangelicals, are the largest voting bloc in the United States. However, since 2004, 41 percent of Catholics don't identify with either major political party, according to Kelley.

"There are more 'swing Catholics,'" she said. The data show that some Catholics are "moderate and leaving (the Republican Party) but not moving over" to the Democratic Party, she said.

Getting the pro-lifers to vote Democratic is key, panelists suggested. Panel moderator Amy Sullivan, a national correspondent for Time magazine, said public opinion polls suggest up to 70 percent of Catholics would support candidates who could reduce the number of abortions through a "holistic approach to society's ills, which would include expanded health care, child care and day care options for families."

Archbishop Chaput, speaking to Catholic News Service after the march, responded to the morning-panel comments.

"I don't want to make judgments. The issue of life is fundamental," he said.

Archbishop Chaput said he hoped a similar prayer vigil would be held during the Sept. 1-4 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The sentiment was echoed by King. "This is a fundamental issue," she said. "It is an issue of civil rights."

Fundamental or not, abortion may not move some voters.

Laureen Tracey, a Denver-area resident and staunch pro-life advocate, said she's voting for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. "I'm tired of the murder," she said. "But there are other issues that are important in this election."

END


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