Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Duquesne University Honors Pro-Abort CDF Founder

by Randy Engel


A dossier on Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund prepared to protest Duquesne University's awarding of an honorary doctorate to Ms. Edelman.

Publisher & Date

U.S. Coalition for Life, May 3, 2000

The following dossier on Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund was prepared by USCL Director Randy Engel and sent to Duquesne University's Professor John E. Murray, Jr. on April 17th in opposition to awarding of an honorary doctorate to Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) — one of the most anti-life, anti-family lobbies on Capitol Hill. It clearly demonstrates that both Edelman and the CDF stand in direct contradiction to everything the Catholic Church holds and teaches on major family life issues including fornication, contraception, abortion, and family life policies.

Edelman Dossier : Introduction

The name Children's Defense Fund is obviously a misnomer. Established by Mrs. Edelman in 1973 as an 'agent of social change', the CDF is in fact not a friend of children. This is why the CDF receives the lion's share of its operating funds for litigation, research, and "public education" from major anti-life foundations including the proverbial Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations — long-time agents of "social(ist) change" — and new corporate anti-life entities such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which was instrumental in the establishment of so-called "school-based" clinics promoted by the CDF and its nation-wide affiliates. It also explains why two of the nation's foremost abortion movers and shakers — First Lady Hillary R. Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Donna Shalala — have had a long-term and intimate relationship with both Mrs. Edelman and the CDF.

Fornication and School-based clinics — On November 18, 1987 and again on March 23, 1988 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops [NCCB] and the Administrative Committee of the NCCB respectively issued a detailed condemnation of so-called "school-based clinics," which act as contraceptive and abortifacient dispensaries and conduits for abortion referrals shrouded from parental knowledge and consent by "confidentiality" regulations. They correctly noted that access to birth control and abortifacient chemicals and devices confirms unmarried teens in their sinful sexual behavior, puts their immortal souls in danger, violates parental rights and weakens the parent-child relationships, results in more and not less out-of-wedlock pregnancies and abortions and exposes young people to a host of venereal diseases and deadly AIDS.

In direct contradiction to Catholic teachings on sexual morality Mrs. Edelman and the CDF have espoused and supported birth-control clinics for unmarried minors in schools. In Families in Peril Mrs. Edelman calls for "comprehensive adolescent health services..." "both in and out of school settings..." including access to contraceptives (abortifacients) for "all sexually active teens — and, increasingly, preteens." Yes, that is "preteens." She also advocates universal kindergarten through twelfth grade sex instruction in public schools.

According to Mrs. Edelman, "... we (the United States) refuse to give our teens (and preteens!) the capacity to delay parenthood, while unsuccessfully imploring too many of them, too late, to delay sexual activity," — the latter a swipe at arguments for chastity. She then declares, quite in contradiction to the Catholic Bishops' statement noted above that, "Withholding sex education and family-planning (note euphemism for fornication insurance) has not led to less teenage sexual activity in the United States. Conversely, the provision of this information and service in Europe and Canada has resulted not in increased sexual activity but in heightened sexual responsibility." Clearly, teens who fornicate using birth control are being sexually "responsible." The only sin is getting pregnant.

Whether denouncing the "greedy military weasel " for "gnawing away at the rights of our children and the moral underpinnings of our democratic society," or assailing the "epidemic" of teen pregnancies in the United States (note she puts babies in the same category once reserved for plague and famine), Mrs. Edelman's public discourses and writings are unusually high on rhetoric and low on facts.

In Chapter 3 of Families in Peril titled "Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy," Mrs. Edelman uses the well-worn canard that "Each year, 1.1 million American teen girls — one in ten- become pregnant," to support her charge of a societal problem of "epidemic" proportions requiring drastic solutions such as school-based clinics or off-site government-funded birth control facilities that 'confidentially' service minors including preteens.

A closer examination of these oft-touted figures gives a different perspective to the issue. For example, the definition of "teenager" includes 18 and 19-year old girls where the majority of teen births occur. In most states they are legally adults and can marry without parental consent These are hardly 'children having children' as the propaganda machine grinds out. Neither are 17-year olds who have or about to graduate high school. Furthermore, in this grouping, almost 300,000 were married before conception and another 100,000 were born to young women who married before the birth. So teen pregnancy is not synonymous with out-of-wedlock or illegitimate births.

The remaining out-of-wedlock births to younger teens (and the high numbers of teen abortions) do indeed reflect a serious personal, familial and social problem — but the 'solutions' offered by the CDF would aggravate not solve the problem.

Interestingly, some very practical means of preventing and reducing illicit sexual activity by unmarried minors — excluding the given of a firm religious and moral background and a loving, stable family life — are conspicuously absent from the CDF's adolescent pregnancy agenda. These include the elimination of sexually stimulating media presentations in all forms which, like cigarette ads, deliberately target preteens and young teens and which glorify all forms of promiscuous and unnatural sex acts; a drastic alteration of the current national dating patterns of school-age youth which encourage youthful sexual experimentation; increased parental supervision and involvement in recreational youth activities at home and school; and dare I suggest, a change in clothing fashion from the current "hooker" look for teens and preteen boys and girls to more modest feminine and masculine attire.

A Long History of Anti-Life Connections — Neither Mrs. Edelman nor the Children's Defense Fund is or ever has been a friend of the unborn child. Their very claim to be 'neutral' on the question of induced abortion which violently claims the lives of thousands upon thousands of unborn (and children born live from abortion procedures) every year, is clear evidence of this fact. However, even this aberrant claim of 'neutrality' with regard to child killing is a lie — a public relations scam to deceive the gullible and naive. The Children's Defense Fund is anti-life and pro-abort — in spirit and in deed.

Mrs. Edelman's biography reveals an early and intimate relationship with a number of anti-life groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Center for Law and Education of Harvard University.

The Children's Defense Fund, was modeled after the NAACP/LDEF which has been a long-time proponent of "reproductive rights" [abortion] for women and has filed amicus curiae briefs in favor of unrestricted abortion rights and against parental consent laws on at least two important U.S. Supreme Court cases — Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA. V. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). Currently, the NAACP Health Division web page provides links to major abortion-anti-family national organizations including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Black Women's Health Project, and Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). Its general web links include additional well known abortion advocates including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and its Legal Defense Fund, the National Women's Political Caucus and People for the America Way which is known for its anti-Catholic and pro-abortion diatribes..

In the 1970s Mrs. Edelman was employed at the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University, Cambridge. The Center is part of the federal government's Office of Economic Opportunity Legal Services Program which during this time period was so rabidly pro-baby-killing that Congressional legislation was introduced to forbid Legal Service activities in this area.

Periodically, the CDF issues its "Non-partisan" Voting Index with the highest grade of 100% going to Capitol Hill's notorious Democratic pro-abortion Senators and Congressmen. Among those praised by the CDF for a perfect record of supporting "issues critical to the lives and well-being of children and families" are prime abortion movers Senator Ted Kennedy, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey — with her "flawless pro-choice" record, Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder — who in addition to her "flawless pro-choice" record filed an amici curiae brief the U.S. Supreme Court case Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991), and Congressman Tom Lantos who also received a top rating of 100% from Planned Parenthood, Zero Population Growth, and the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

In sharp comparison, anti-abortion Congressmen such as John T. Doolittle received a "0" rating — that is a zero rating as in nada, zilch — from Edelman's CDF which, not surprisingly, corresponds to the "0" rating Doolittle received from other pro-abort and population control groups including NARAL and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Whatever else their politics, should not Congressmen and Senators who strive to defend the rights of the unborn be awarded some points from an agency claiming to defend children? But, as the CDF Voting Index clearly demonstrates the fate of unborn children counts for nothing in the CDF's political eye.

Among the direct links of the CDF to the Anti-Life Establishment is its tie to the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR). CDF representative Deborah Weinstein graces the IWPR's Program Advisory Committee with her presence. In 1993, the IWPR published Resources for Reproductive Rights Research by Stephanie Aaronson, a directory of prominent players involved in the areas of "abortion rights, access to family planning, involuntary sterilization, and perinatal care. Among the bevy of well-known anti-life figures highlighted in the IWPR directory are Warren Hern owner and operator of the infamous Boulder Abortion Clinic; R. Alta Charo an advocate of using human embryos for lethal experimentation and Jacqueline Darroch Forrest of Planned Parenthood's Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Among the many Abortion Establishment web links to the CDF is that of NARAL, the largest "pro-choice" (abortion) organization in the United States. In its Fall 1999 Newsletter titled "Sound Your Voices for Choice!" NARAL recommended to its members the phone service Working Assets that donates a portion of its revenues to "progressive," non-profits that in NARAL's words "work to promote effective social change." Topping off this list of non-profits which NARAL says shares its vision is Edelman's Children's Defense Fund.

National Black Women's Health Project (NBWHP) On page 17 of Families in Peril Mrs. Edelman praises Bylly Avery's Atlanta-based organization "which has developed a national forum and supportive atmosphere for poor black women to come together to define and respond to their own health needs." NBWHP's current web site states that it is "particularly proud of the role it has played in the reproductive health and rights [abortion] arena."

As part of its publicly stated agenda, the CDF states that it opposes harmful medical experimentation and research on children. At the same time it has made no effort to use its considerable lobbying power to oppose lethal human embryo and fetal research carried out by governmental, commercial, private and university research entities.

Mrs. Edelman and the Issue of Violence — Mrs. Edelman and the CDF correctly condemn the increasing violent nature of American society and most especially the role of handguns and other weapons in the commission of crimes. Unfortunately, however, neither acknowledges abortion as an act of violence which not only kills the unborn child but also places a dagger into the very heart of the family. What child can ever be totally secure in the family constellation knowing that his mother (and father) deliberately conspired to murder his or her sibling? What mother can ever look at her born children without recalling that child which she aborted? What father can look at his children without recalling the child he permitted to be aborted? Indeed abortion is the ultimate violence.

The CDF is Anti-Child and Anti-Family — The so-called Children's Defense Fund is intimately connected to a social anomaly which took root in the hey-days of the radical left in the 1960s — THE CHILDREN'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT. Both Mrs. Edelman and her husband Peter were contributors to the movement's most influential handbook, The Children's Rights Movement — Overcoming the Oppression of Young People edited by Beatrice and Ronald Gross (1977).

In his brief essay, "The Children's Rights Movement," Peter Edelman, then Director of the New York State Division for Youth, states that the goal of the movement is remove the historic 'chattel' status of children, to extend to them some, but not all, adult rights, and improve government programs involving children. He states that until recently "the children protected up till now are the unusual ones — exceptional children, minorities, or nonconformists." As for the movement's future he states it is still "unclear what rights one applies from the adult sphere and what modifications are necessary. The full dimensions of protection the child needs from his own parents are also unclear, as is the balance between parents, professionals, and children in a variety of institutions." (emphasis added) Mrs. Edelman's essay "We Are Failing Our Children," is simply a self-tribute to the Children's Defense Fund and its alleged goal of speeding up the "achievement of rights and services for children."

While the Edelmans treat "children's rights" in a somewhat generic fashion, other contributors spell out those "rights" in a more forthright and honest fashion.

Among the "Birthrights" listed by psychologist Richard Farson, president of the Esalen Institute are the "right to self-determination," "the right to alternative home environments," ("Parents are not always good for their children... 4 million are abused annually..."), and the "right to sexual freedom," ("Children should have the right to conduct their sexual lives with no more restriction than adults.")

The Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor essay demands the power to determine their own destiny, full access to all civil and human rights, and the right of "sexual self determination," including the right to be "heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual , or transexual."

Among the handbook resource listings provided by Dean Calabrese is a pedophile group called the Childhood Sensuality Circle based in El Cajon, California which says it's interested in "children's liberation, particularly in the area of sexual freedom."

Although not all of the essays in the Gross and Gross text are as gross as the above recommended resource, there is an underlying theme that pervades the majority of opinions as to the primary source of "the oppression of young people" — and that primary source of "oppression" is the parent — and indirectly — the family.

This anti-parent, anti-family attitude should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the history of the Child Welfare Services in the United States that focus almost exclusively on the care of children away from their parents through a system of substitute parental care. Unlike the traditional European child welfare system which gives aid in the form of money directly to the family, the U.S. system supports a huge federal, state and local child care bureaucracy which in turn provides its services to the child or family. The latter arrangement promotes a state of "Parentectomy" in which the so-called "child advocate," becomes the advocate against the parent, and interferes with the longitudinal transmission of family patters and cultural heritage. In short, rather than aiding the family, the so-called child advocate poses a threat to the family. [See attached Testimony of Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D., "The Child and Family Services Bill — A Federal Prescription for Parentectomy?" June 20, 1975.]

The fact that Marian Wright Edelman proclaims the Children's Defense Fund to be a leader in the Children's Rights Movement provides a valuable lens through which to view the philosophy, agenda, and services which make up the CDF.

Like most child welfare agencies, the CDF staff is composed primarily of a large contingent of lawyers, federal policy monitors and governmental liaison personnel — part of the ever-expanding childhood industry on Capitol Hill with a vested interest in its own survival and growth. Much of its lobbying effort is directed at drafting and supporting legislation to provide and expand "quality" day care programs for working parents. The term "quality" has come to mean care away from the home and professional, expensive, usually unavailable, and impossible to evaluate.

In 1997, the CDF convened a multi-organizational meeting to discuss how a new child care initiative should be designed. The group highlighted four critical components of a new child care federal policy that, according to the Washington Education Report for December 23, 1997, included:

  • Recognize the importance of the first three years of life to brain development.
  • Ensure that children enter school ready to succeed.
  • Provide safe and supportive settings for school-age children during out-of-school time.
  • Help parents work.

Is this just another "Federal Prescription for Parentectomy"? Where does the family fit in? Where are the provisions which would enable mothers to stay home, nurse their infants (thereby improving brain development) and care for her own children with the assistance of extended family members, most especially during the first three critical years of life? Indeed where is there any acknowledgement of the role of parents as the primary caregiver and educator of their children? How about dumping the multi-billion dollar child care industry including the CDF in favor of expanding parental options by direct financial aid to families in need and financially rewarding stay-at-home moms?

Duquesne University as a Catholic Institution — Mrs. Edelman and her creature — the Children's Defense Fund — represent the antithesis of all the Catholic Church teaches in the realm of sexual morality, parental rights, the law of subsidiarity as espoused by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, and defense of the unborn child and family life.

Mrs. Edelman should be disinvited from Duquesne University's commencement ceremonies and her honorary degree from Duquesne rescinded. Such action would clearly demonstrate Duquesne University's commitment to Catholic doctrine and principals governing sexual morality and family life. To do otherwise would be unthinkable for a Catholic University.

Randy Engel National Director, U.S. Coalition for Life

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