In a private meeting with Catholic leaders that was accidentally broadcast over a White House audio system, President Bush connected his new faith-based social service initiative with anti-abortion efforts. Unaware that his remarks were heard by reporters gathered in the White House pressroom, Bush said that his faith-based plan may strengthen the argument against abortion, helping to create the “culture of life” he spoke about during his campaign. Suggesting the dangerous and far-reaching possibilities of the new faith-based office, Bush said that a religious charity effort for the needy led to “the logical step” of helping “those babies” [i.e. fetuses]. He talked about the language in the abortion debate, saying, “the language of the issues is never for life, it’s always anti-somebody’s right,” despite the fact that anti-choice forces often manipulate the debate by using misleading language. Bush’s remarks reveal his allegiance to the anti-abortion movement, and put the lie to his promises to be a “uniter.”
Bush’s plan is receiving mixed reactions from Congress and from religious leaders, many of whom are deeply concerned about the separation of Church and state. In addition, critics of Bush’s plan cited problems with his similar efforts in Texas, where church-run charities were exempt from state regulation, leading to abuses. Similar state and federal faith-based initiatives have led to allegations of both financial and physical abuses, as well as concerns about whether those seeking services are being forced to adopt certain religious beliefs in order to receive aid.