When Pope Benedict XVI attacked Catholic politicians in Mexico who supported abortion rights last month, Rudy Giuliani was asked for his opinion. The presidential candidate replied in the language of the church: “Issues like that are for me and my confessor. I’m a Catholic, and that’s the way I resolve those issues, personally and privately.”
Giuliani has invoked his Catholic heritage on Larry King; he’s been described by The Washington Post as a “devout Catholic”; he’s appeared on Fox News with the label “Catholic” floating on-screen; and he’s handled a CNN debate question about a bishop who denounced him with a declaration unfamiliar to those who covered him as mayor. “I respect the opinion of Catholic and religious leaders of all kinds,” he said. “Religion is very important to me. It’s a very important part of my life.”
The ex-mayor’s newfound piety also includes a mantra about abortion that wasn’t heard while he was in City Hall. “I hate abortion,” he now says across America and, in a proposed 12-point plan, he declares that he’s committed to decreasing the number of abortions. “I would encourage someone to not take that option,” he says, though as a candidate for mayor he said he would pay for an abortion for his daughter. Today, he says it would be “OK to repeal” Roe v. Wade, though he hosted celebrations of its anniversary three times at City Hall. His wholesale reversal on Medicaid funding, late-term abortions, and parental consent are all part of a repackaging designed to soften not just his New York public record, but also the inconvenient details of his personal life.
Married three times, Giuliani simply isn’t the Catholic candidate he claims to be. He can’t have a confessor. He can’t receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, or marriage. While bishops disagree about whether or not a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights can receive the sacraments, there is no disagreement about the consequences of divorcing and remarrying outside the church, as Giuliani did a few years ago.
Young Rudy went through 16 years of Catholic education, flirted with the priesthood, and trekked to East New York to teach catechism lessons. The 803-page catechism—reissued in 1994 under the supervision of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who has since become pope—lays out the ways in which Giuliani’s personal decisions have estranged him from the church. “Divorce brings grave harm to the deserted spouse. . . [and] to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them,” reads the catechism. But it is remarriage, not divorce, that’s a deal-breaker for Catholics. “Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture; the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.”
This may sound harsh in a culture where half of Americans divorce. The question, however, is not whether this church teaching is fair, or whether it’s compatible with American social standards. The question is: Can Giuliani run for president as a Catholic—identifying with the swing vote that has picked the winner in virtually every modern presidential race—when he is so out of step with the church’s code of personal conduct? We’re all familiar with Catholic politicians who defy the church with their positions on issues like abortion or contraception. But Giuliani is the first major national figure to run for high office as a Catholic even though he has defied church law in his personal life.
“Any Catholic who remarries without annulment” assumes an “irregular status” within the church, says Monsignor Joseph Giandurco, who until recently was the canon-law expert at the seminary run by the Archdiocese of New York. Also a judge on the appeals court of the archdiocese’s marriage tribunal and a canon-law adviser to Cardinal Edward Egan, Giandurco declined to answer questions about Giuliani individually, but speaking in general terms about someone with Giuliani’s marital history, Giandurco added: “The marriage is not recognized by the church, and the person cannot receive communion or confession. He’s not supposed to play a public role in the church.” While a baptized Catholic is “Catholic forever,” says Giandurco, a remarriage “breaks the covenant and objectively contradicts what the marriage bond signifies.”
Giuliani’s own history shows how well he understands that. When he divorced Donna Hanover in 2002 and married Judith Nathan a year later, he was at precisely the same crossroads with the church as he was in 1982. It’s his actions then, when he took drastic steps to preserve his Catholic credentials as he navigated the breakup of his first marriage, that belie the Catholic claims of his current campaign.
Twenty-five years ago, Giuliani, 38, the youngest associate attorney general in Justice Department history, was assiduously strategizing with his closest friend, Monsignor Alan Placa, about ways to annul his first marriage. He’d already divorced his wife, Regina Peruggi. But the politically ambitious Giuliani, who almost never went to Mass, was nonetheless determined to get the church to bless the dissolution of his 14-year marriage.
Placa had actually dated Peruggi himself in high school and was a seminarian when he served as best man at Giuliani’s 1968 wedding. Now, in 1982, the well-connected monsignor with a law degree had come up with a way to cancel it. Since Peruggi and Giuliani were second cousins, Placa concluded, they were supposed to have obtained a dispensation from the church before marrying. Their failure to get one was grounds for a retroactive annulment.
This was ironic, because it was Placa himself who had advised the couple before the wedding that they didn’t need a dispensation. At least that was the recollection of Giuliani’s mother Helen in a taped interview. Helen says that Peruggi was offended by the annulment, and adds that her former daughter-in-law “went to diocesan headquarters to fight it.”
Despite Peruggi’s opposition, Placa—whose office was just doors away from the marriage tribunal that heard the case—secured the annulment. He also helped Giuliani by obtaining another annulment for Hanover, the TV newswoman that Rudy intended to make his second wife. Placa married the couple at St. Monica’s on East 79th Street, just blocks away from where the two were living. Giuliani had taken over as U.S. Attorney in Manhattan a few months earlier, and the wedding attracted news items on the gossip pages.
Those who knew Giuliani—including his mother and Peruggi—saw the annulment as more of a political statement than a religious one. Giuliani knew that he would one day run for public office. Obtaining the annulment was as much a calculated move as his simultaneous decision to step down from his exalted (if obscure) Washington job to become the highly visible top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. Giuliani’s college sweetheart, Kathy Livermore, remembers a “big discussion” with Rudy years earlier when he made the case for “political annulment,” calling it “a very smart move.”
Of course, there was no way to annul the Hanover marriage. So, once he ended that 18-year relationship, Giuliani married Nathan at Gracie Mansion in a civil ceremony officiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A defrocked Alan Placa—stripped of his priestly powers because of allegations against him involving the sexual abuse of four minors—was just one of hundreds of high-powered guests. There was nothing Catholic about the marriage, and nothing that could be Catholic. The man who’d gone to such great lengths to retain his ties to the church decades earlier, propelled by early and remote ambitions, was willing to break them at a wedding engulfed by paparazzi and camera crews, even as he readied himself for a White House run.
If Giuliani had publicly acknowledged that he’d had to choose between his love for Nathan and obeisance to church law, he might well have found a receptive audience, especially among the many Catholics who have faced a similar quandary. But he’s taken the opposite tack. No longer constrained by the rules of the game as he saw them in 1982, he apparently believes that, as “America’s mayor,” he can ignore the clash between his marital life and Catholic canon law, running on his Catholicism even as he has separated himself from the church.
So far, church leaders have been silent, with the only attack coming from the bishop of Rhode Island—and limited to a critique of his abortion position. Closer to home, Cardinal Egan isn’t answering questions about Giuliani’s status. Egan’s predecessor, Cardinal John O’Connor, publicly assailed the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, then a congresswoman from Queens, over her pro-choice position, but Egan refers to all of the city’s key politicians, including Giuliani, as his friends. Also unlike O’Connor, who was a registered Republican for nearly 40 years, Egan’s registration card indicates that he’s been unaffiliated with any party since at least 1985. With major events celebrating the 200th anniversary of the archdiocese coming up in April 2008, as well as the annual, nationally watched Al Smith dinner that Egan will host this fall, it may become impossible for him to avoid the elephant in his cathedral—a GOP candidate from his own archdiocese who’s isolated himself from the church.
As quiet as Egan has been, Father Joseph Marabe, who oversees St. Patrick’s, told the
Daily News in May that if Giuliani “comes to my church, he would be refused communion.” Marabe quickly qualified his statement, adding: “If the cardinal declares it, then if Giuliani is invited here, we would advise him before he comes not to take communion, to save him from public embarrassment.” In fact, Giuliani has regularly attended midnight mass on Christmas at the cathedral, even bringing Nathan in 2005, though she was a member of Brick Presbyterian Church prior to their marriage. Regular attendees at St. Pat’s say Giuliani did not go in 2006, though he was in the city, and sources close to Giuliani say his absence may be connected to a message he got from the church. The cardinal’s office declined to say if any message was sent. The Times reported this week that he left Mass in Washington, D.C., before communion.
Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, went to the same Catholic school as Giuliani and “protected him on national television shows.” But he says it’s “certainly correct that a Catholic who doesn’t get his marriage annulled and remarries is not to partake in the sacraments. He’s smart enough not to go to communion.” Donohue thinks it’s “suicide” that Giuliani is projecting himself as a Catholic. “His confessor is his friend Placa,” charges Donohue, noting that Placa is as ineligible to hear a confession as Giuliani is to make one. “Rudy doesn’t even feel sorry about what he’s done,” says Donohue, who first criticized Giuliani about his marital mess in September 2000, after Donna Hanover told the Daily News that she found his increasingly public relationship with Nathan “very hurtful.”
“The News called me up,” Donohue says, “and asked me for my reaction, and at first I said I’d stay away from the personal stuff. But then I just said he ought to exercise greater discretion. I got a phone call from Sunny Mindel, the mayor’s public relations person. She said maybe I should do what Cardinal Egan does, say I don’t have anything to say. She said the mayor doesn’t like it. That was the last time I ever heard from them.” Donohue told the News that “the appearance is something that would make a number of Catholics uncomfortable, without pointing an accusatory finger,” urging that “discretion would argue to take a different route, to make a behavioral change.”
John Kerry, a Catholic whose prior marriage was annulled, was dogged by controversy about his abortion position during his 2004 run for president, with a dozen prelates publicly insisting that he could not receive communion. That led to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops adopting a position paper on “Catholics in Political Life” that left it up to individual bishops to make a determination in their diocese. What went largely unnoticed in the press, however, was an interim task force report written by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., that June. McCarrick cited his exchanges with Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
“Cardinal Ratzinger outlines how a bishop might deal with these matters,” said McCarrick, starting with efforts to inform such persons privately “that if they reject Catholic moral teaching in their public actions, they should not present themselves for Holy Communion until their situation has ended.” Most significantly for Giuliani, Ratzinger used “the precedent of our teaching and practice in the case of a person in an invalid marriage” as his guide as to what should be done with a Catholic politician who is pro-choice. According to McCarrick, Ratzinger specifically characterized an invalid marriage as “circumstances in which Holy Communion may be denied” and likened it to abortion, making Giuliani a two-time target. Ratzinger said that “in these cases, a warning must be provided before the Eucharist can be denied.” If the discreet Egan has sent a warning, he wouldn’t discuss it.
Giuliani has only struck a public Catholic pose when it has suited him politically. The most infamous incident occurred in late 1999, when he was positioning himself for the 2000 Senate race against Hillary Clinton. At the same time that Giuliani was secretly squiring Nathan around town while still living with Donna Hanover at Gracie Mansion, he went ballistic over a painting of the Virgin Mary with an exposed breast made of elephant dung that was on display at the Brooklyn Museum. He cut all city funding to the museum, railing against the portrait as anti-Catholic, and was promptly saluted by Cardinal O’Connor and blocked by the federal courts. While Catholics are only one of several major voting blocs in the city, they constitute almost half of the state’s voters, and Giuliani—running statewide for the first time—made a fairly naked appeal to them with his over-the-top response to pachyderm poop. The city had been connected to other equally abusive “art,” including a public access station depicting a sex act on top of a Bible, without Giuliani making a stink.
Using direct-mail gurus like conservative kingmaker Richard Viguerie, Giuliani spent $5 million on a fundraising appeal to Christian conservatives that went on for two pages about the painting, denouncing Hillary Clinton’s “hypocrisy” for her free-speech objections to his defunding actions. He accused Clinton of “hostility toward America’s religious traditions,” depicting her as a soldier in a “relentless 30-year war” against that “religious heritage.” Not only had Giuliani never mentioned this “war” during the first six years of his mayoralty—or at any other time in a very public career—but for the first time he indicated that he favored posting the Ten Commandments in public schools and supported school prayer. “I think America needs more faith and more respect for religious traditions,” he concluded, “not less”—one more reference to Clinton, and one more personal mission he’d never mentioned to New Yorkers.
Giuliani had taken a similar shot at his Democratic rival in 1997, Ruth Messinger, berating her for skipping the Mass that preceded the Columbus Day Parade. “This is a community she doesn’t care much about,” he said, alluding ostensibly to Italian Catholics (Messinger is Jewish). Ahead of her by 20 to 30 points, he went on to observe: “She wasn’t at the Mass today. She drops out of the parade at 70th Street” —nine blocks short of the 35-block parade’s terminus.
This blunt religious bloodletting was as inauthentic as it was chilling. A year before the Clinton letter, Giuliani was asked if he attended Mass regularly by two conservative journalists writing for The American Enterprise magazine. “You know, I really don’t think you should ask me questions about my religious practices. No, I don’t attend Mass regularly, but I go to Mass occasionally.” When he ran for mayor in 1993, he told one city audience: “I am a Catholic, but I would not consider myself a strict Catholic.” Hanover, meanwhile, adopted the description offered by many lapsed Catholics: “We were raised Catholic.” Jack Tice, a retired NYPD detective and an usher at St. Monica’s, the Giulianis’ home parish, said in late 1999, just as Rudy’s Christian Coalition letter was going out, that he’d only seen Rudy in church twice that year—once at Easter, and once at a June or July Mass.
Tax returns suggest that Tice is correct: The most Giuliani and Hanover ever gave to St. Monica’s in any tax year in the 1980s and 1990s was $200, and that was the most they gave
any church. The couple also gave $100 some years to Alan Placa’s church in Long Island. They claimed no charitable deductions at all for most of the 1980s, when that annulment meant so much to Giuliani.
Alan Placa is not just a major figure in Giuliani’s marital life: He baptized both of Giuliani’s children, and though already stripped of his priestly powers, he was given special dispensation from his bishop in Long Island to preside at Helen Giuliani’s September 2002 funeral. A month earlier—despite still-pending allegations that he’d groped four minors in Long Island’s Diocese of Rockville Center—he was hired as a three-day-a-week consultant at Giuliani Partners, where he remains today. Michael Hess, the managing partner of Giuliani’s firm and the city’s former top lawyer, represents Placa in the ongoing cases. When first reached by a reporter at Giuliani Partners, Placa claimed that he was only visiting—a falsehood quickly reversed by a firm spokeswoman.
Giuliani’s friends cite the awkward hiring as an example of his loyalty, though he has long been known to jettison people close to him. His best-selling memoir, Leadership, included his dog Goalie in the acknowledgement list of the major people in his life, but not the mother of his two children. He forced out Police Commissioner Bill Bratton for appearing on the cover of Time, and also his dear friend and schools chancellor, Rudy Crew, because Crew tried to hold him to his word to never fund a voucher program. And he trashed them on their way out the door, smearing Crew the day he eulogized his ex-wife. On the other hand, in Giuliani’s categorical mind, Placa is forever a good guy, no matter the facts.
Indeed, even if one assumes that America won’t be offended by the contradiction between Giuliani’s marital choices and his professed Catholicism, that will almost certainly change as the country learns more about his best friend, business associate, and lifelong link to the church. New York papers have reported some devastating details, drawn largely from a Suffolk County grand jury report issued in 2003. One of his accusers, Richard Tollner, a mortgage broker who claims he was repeatedly groped by Placa while in high school, says the priest stopped only after Placa approached him at his father’s funeral and Tollner threatened him. Tollner and two others testified against Placa before the grand jury, though the statute of limitations had run out on their decades-old allegations, making prosecution impossible. Placa was described in the report as “cautious but relentless in pursuing his victims,” groping the boys under cover of a newspaper, book, or poster. One victim testified that he was fondled behind a banner made for a march protesting the Roe v. Wade decision.
But the grand jury found Placa’s decade of systemic cover-up far more disturbing than his alleged abuse. Often the first person contacted by a victim because of his role as the bishop’s top attorney and head of a three-member “intervention team,” Placa wrote a memo to other diocesan officials asking them not to identify him as an attorney. “Priests who were civil attorneys,” the report found, clearly referring to Placa, “portrayed themselves as interested in the concerns of victims and pretended to be acting for their benefit while they only acted to protect the diocese. These officials boldly bragged about their success.” Victims were “ignored, belittled, and re-victimized,” with Placa and his colleagues procrastinating “for the purpose of making sure that the civil and criminal statutes of limitation were no longer applicable.”
Robert Fulton, an ex-priest who worked with Placa as the director of the diocese’s priest health services, told the Times: “Placa tried to handle this all to the law of Placa. People didn’t trust him; he’s a snake.” Suffolk DA Tom Spota said at a press conference: “This is a person who was directly involved in the so-called policy of the church to protect children, when in fact he was one of the abusers.”
The darkest account of Placa’s obfuscating machinations appears in a deposition from a priest, Michael Hands, who pled guilty to sexually assaulting 13-year-old Adam Hughes. Instead of going to the church, as most families do, Hughes’s parents went straight to the police, and Hands was arrested. Placa rushed to Hands’s cell and put him in touch with a private attorney, who Hands later came to believe had actually represented Placa in allegations involving his own conduct. Placa “was the man,” Hands testified, “who had the authority to take $50,000—”which he could get from the diocese’s insurance department”—and use that to pay off someone who had claimed that they were victimized.” Hands said he “learned” that Placa arranged “sealed settlements” that “covered himself” at least twice. “The settlement would say that the issue did not involve sexual misconduct but involved a DWI claim, that Alan Placa was influenced by alcohol and hit his car, that’s how it read . . . he very shrewdly covered that up.”
Hands recounted how Placa tried to settle his case: “Normally, Placa would go and speak personally to the family. I was told that, in my case, because they learned about it after it had come to the attention of the authorities, that they couldn’t keep it under wraps. Alan had tried to contact the Hugheses to try to make inroads with them, to see on what level they could resolve things. During that first six months, they had refused any contact with Alan Placa.” Hands was away in a therapy institute for much of that time and talking to Francis Caldwell, the monsignor who worked closest with Placa. Caldwell “felt bad” that they couldn’t “make some kind of settlement” and assured Hands he’d “remain a priest,” though he would probably not be assigned to a parish again. But as the scandal exploded, with Hands pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate, he left the priesthood—one of at least 35 priests who have been accused, many of whom have been drummed out of the diocese. “I told the grand jury about other priests that had been accused, and that Alan Placa had covered things up enough and that the priest had been moved, sometimes from state to state, to kind of lose the trail,” Hands concluded.
David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), calls it “a travesty” that a political leader like Giuliani “would pay Placa.” Politicians often hire cronies who hope to make money from their associations, says Clohessy, “but Placa didn’t connive to get an extra ten grand in his pocket—he connived to keep desperately wounded child sex victims trapped in silence and shame and self-blame. He is the worst of the worst. He’s worse than other child abusers, because he molested and he covered up other investigations.”
But it’s not just the hiring of Placa that indicates Giuliani’s tone-deaf response to sex-abuse issues. In his final year at City Hall, Giuliani momentarily backed a City Council bill, Local Law 933, that would have, among other things, forced public and private schools and affiliated religious institutions to report abuse complaints to law enforcement as soon as they received them. When the archdiocese and others objected, the Giuliani administration quickly reached an agreement with City Council Speaker Peter Vallone to pull the bill and redraft it as an amendment to the charter that would appear on the 2001 ballot with a collection of other last-minute Giuliani proposals. But private schools were suddenly deleted from the charter proposal, which passed. Vallone says he “agreed with Rudy to take the private schools out.” Council education chair Eva Moskowitz, a sponsor of the bill, said that, “given the priest sex-abuse scandals, there was a sense that the bill would further tarnish their image, that there would be public relations scandal.” Placa told one interviewer that he would never refer an abuse complaint to the police, and Giuliani was effectively installing the Placa modus operandi into the City Charter.
The Giuliani-appointed charter commission chair, Randy Mastro, a major adviser in the current presidential campaign and a former deputy mayor, explained only that his commission was “sympathetic” to private-school concerns. “Do we personally believe we should have gone further? Yes,” he said.
But this bow to Catholic concerns by Giuliani was a rare exception to the cold shoulder that the church got on other issues critical to it, starting with abortion.
The Giuliani makeover for 2008 started with the end of the strand-by-strand comb-over that had become such a trademark of his mayoralty. But just as important as Giuliani’s new look are his new views, with none more altered than those on abortion.
Giuliani says he still supports a woman’s right to choose, but the Catholic League’s Donohue reads his promise to appoint “strict constructionist” judges as “a wink and a nod” to conservatives who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Giuliani told Fox News that he supports “limitations on abortions,” envisioning a day in which “we could get to no abortions,” though he always achieved a 100 percent rating on the National Abortion Rights Action League’s questionnaire, agreeing with the group on every nuance of the issue in 1993, 1997, and 2000. If he seems malleable about all of those nuances now—willing to leave access and funding up to the states—that’s at least consistent with how malleable he was when he first adopted the positions that guided his government. He was searching for a point of view on the issue.
I was actually with him one night at Jack Newfield’s house in the Village in 1989 when he was crafting out loud his views on abortion before his first mayoral run. He was an open book. Newfield and I backed off and turned him over to our wives, who gave him an earful. He thought then that abortion was a question of so many separable parts—from choice to Medicaid—that he could sit down with Conservative Party boss Mike Long and tell him some part of what he wanted to hear, and then sit down with Liberal Party brass Ray Harding and Fran Reiter and tell them some part of what they wanted to hear, thus securing the support of two parties that had never endorsed the same candidate for a major office.
Remarkably, a decade later, as Giuliani prepared to run against Hillary Clinton, he again courted Long and Harding with the same impossible dream. If everything is fungible to Giuliani, he assumes that it should also be so to the rest of the world. He expected Long, whose nine children are the best evidence of his rigidly Catholic proclivities, to endorse him, even though NARAL believed that Giuliani might actually be better than Clinton on one element of the abortion issue: the question of parental consent requirements. Long asked only that Rudy drop his support of what the pro-life community calls “partial-birth abortion,” but Giuliani —
who was one of the only elected Republicans anywhere to back the late-term procedure—would not blink. Now he’s blinking, winking, stuttering, and somersaulting.
Reiter, who was his campaign manager, deputy mayor, and prime abortion adviser over the years, was with Giuliani when he made up his mind about the “partial-birth” abortion issue. She says it took him less than 15 minutes. He was scheduled to appear at a NARAL meeting of the organization’s top leaders and donors at the Harvard Club during the 1997 re-election campaign, and Reiter, who was running the campaign, was scheduled to brief him in a side-room with beverages well before the session began. He got there late, so she had to rush the briefing. “You’re going to be asked about ‘partial-birth’ abortions,” she remembers telling him. The longtime chair of the Liberal Party and a committed pro-choice voice, Reiter added that it was “a widely accepted medical procedure used only when the life or health of the woman is in jeopardy.”
Reiter remembers Giuliani quickly agreeing, saying, “I’m fine with that.”
“Then you’ll be fine with NARAL,” Reiter said. He was so fine, in fact, that NARAL’s Kelli Conlin recalls: “He was incredible with us. It was like he was talking to a group of his 30 closest friends. He was fully committed. He was talking about the life and health of the woman. He was a standard-bearer. It was exciting moments like that that sustained us in 2000, when we had to stand up to enormous pressure to endorse Hillary. He came across as such a principled person that we were saying in 2000, ‘Oh, my—is he more pro-choice than she is?'”
Years later, Reiter found Giuliani’s instant embrace of the controversial procedure perplexing, especially when he could have satisfied the group with a promise to study it and get back to them. “NARAL was thrilled with him,” Reiter recalls, “but he was running away with the election anyway. If he had said, ‘Sorry, Fran,’ it wouldn’t have mattered to his re-election. A lot of pro-choice Democrats were drawing the line on ‘partial-birth.’ He didn’t have to go to that extreme.” Reiter thought he did it “because he believed it,” but thinks now that he’s “betrayed” his previous positions, especially when he supported the recent Supreme Court decision barring the procedure except when the life of the woman is threatened. (He previously supported using the late-term procedure when the health of the mother might be affected if she gave birth.)
Giuliani made a similar last-minute pitch for the gay vote in 1997, agreeing to a domestic-partnership bill as far-reaching as San Francisco’s on the eve of an election that he already had in the bag. Ethan Geto, a lobbyist for the Empire State Pride Agenda, recalls almost as quick and fulsome an embrace when this leading gay group flirted with the notion of endorsing Messinger just a couple of weeks before the election. The archdiocese denounced Giuliani’s plan, calling it “contrary to moral natural law,” but the mayor pushed it through the City Council soon after the election. Now Giuliani is also reversing himself on gay issues, rejecting any attempt to welcome gay men into the military until the war on terror endsa peculiar way for a man who was living with gay friends on September 11 to salute their worth as citizens. Though Reiter prefers to believe that Giuliani’s former positions on reproductive rights and gay rights were expressions of the real Rudy, she acknowledges that he was fixated in 1997 on setting an all-time victory-margin record for a Republican in mayoral elections—a goal that Mike Bloomberg achieved, but Rudy Giuliani did not.
Conlin, who was named to Giuliani’s transition committee and served for eight years on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Appointments, says that “the church never, ever came up” in any of their discussions about abortion policies. Reiter has precisely the same memory, though she was with him in the 1989 campaign and helped him frame his multi-faceted position. “He didn’t know what his view on choice was,” she recalls, so she, Donna Hanover and a third adviser, Jennifer Raab, had many “thoughtful conversations” with him. Reiter says she wound up helping him draft a statement on abortion for the state Republican platform committee in 1990, which adopted the first pro-choice plank in the country, a pace-setter that was quickly mimicked by GOP platforms in a few other states. Conlin remembers going to City Hall to join Giuliani at a press conference celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wadeone of at least three times, press releases show, that he commemorated the decision.
Conlin also helped pick the first Giuliani health commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, whose department runs abortion counseling and family-planning centers, and says that Giuliani’s transition team “would never have considered anyone who wasn’t pro-choice.” Hamburg was one of only three commissioners initially appointed by Giuliani’s predecessor, David Dinkins, who was retained in the new administration. She served three years under Giuliani before taking an assistant secretary post in Bill Clinton’s Health and Human Services agency. Hamburg says her pro-choice preferences were a given in the Giuliani administration, and that “the subject of abortion never came up” during or after the selection process. “The only question Giuliani asked me in my interview was whether I believed in the legalization of drugs,” Hamburg says. “He was comfortable with our high-risk pregnancy and pregnancy-prevention programs, though he didn’t engage much. There were no restrictions on abortion counseling. This was not an area where there was any signal of a policy change between Dinkins and Giuliani.”
Shortly after taking office, Giuliani also reappointed Pam Maraldo, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), to the city’s four-member Board of Health. Maraldo got to know Giuliani through her close friend, Maria Mitchell, another pro-choice activist that Giuliani named to chair the Health and Hospitals Corporation, whose 11 hospitals actually perform about 6,500 abortions a year. Maraldo says that Giuliani’s campaign consultant, David Garth, arranged a dinner that included her, Giuliani, Hanover, and Mitchell during the 1993 campaign, and that Mitchell asked her in 1994 to allow Giuliani to speak at the organization’s annual national event in Atlanta.
Gloria Feldt, who subsequently became PPFA president, remembered Giuliani’s appearance: “That was my first encounter with him, and he spoke very eloquently about family planning. It’s hard to be that eloquent if you’re saying something you don’t believe. He was very believable.” Maraldo, who also went to Giuliani’s periodic Roe v. Wade celebrations and supported his re-election in 1997, says that “in whatever way he could, he created the impression, whether it was in speeches or over dinner, that he was authentically pro-choice.” City records indicate that Giuliani’s health and youth agencies awarded more than $2 million in contracts to Planned Parenthood’s New York City branch over the years.
Mitchell wasn’t the only pro-choice activist installed at HHC. The first chief executive officer that Giuliani put there, Dr. Bruce Siegel, was another pro-choicer who, like Hamburg, says it was simply the default position within the Giuliani administration. “All Giuliani ever talked to me about was saving money or privatization,” Siegel says. “I don’t remember abortion ever coming up.” The mayor also appointed Barbara Gimbel, a legendary leader of the leading statewide pro-choice group within the GOP, the Republican Family Committee, to the HHC board of directors. Gimbel had helped organize the Republican contingent from New York that joined a million other women in a 1992 march on Washington that included Donna Hanover. Announcing that Rudy was home baby-sitting the kids, Hanover said that day that the Bush administration needed to focus “on the fact that so many people in their own party, not just the Democrats, feel passionately” about the threat to abortion rights. Gimbel, who served on the board throughout the Giuliani administration, said the tens of thousands of abortions performed by the corporation over those years were “never an issue.” Siegel’s and Mitchell’s successors, Luis Marcos and Rosa Gil, were also strongly pro-choice.
A 2000 NARAL study of abortion services at HHC facilities, coupled with other data acquired by the Voice, flies in the face of Giuliani’s current posturing about hating abortion and doing everything he can to reduce it. Using 1999 data, the study found that HHC’s 11 hospitals provided almost a thousand more abortions than the city’s 35 private hospitals. It chronicled the doubling of the number of abortions at Bellevue, one of the corporation’s flagship facilities, from 400 in 1997 to over 800. It boasted that Kings County Hospital “is possibly the largest hospital abortion provider in the country, performing over 2,000 abortions per year”—the largest number of surgeries the hospital does.
And Giuliani’s 15-minute exchange with Reiter about partial-birth abortion was hardly an academic exchange. The hospitals he ran in 1997 were already performing large numbers of late-term abortions. In fact, the NARAL report attributed many of the hospitals’ second-trimester abortions to the endless delays caused by the HHC bureaucracy, noting that women who sought abortions in the first trimester often had to wait critical weeks to get them. “HHC is often the last resort for women with later abortion needs or complications,” the NARAL report concluded. It pointed to HHC’s Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx and said it was “relied upon by the city’s medical community—by private clinics and every other hospital—for its physician skill in late-term cases.” Doctors at Jacobi train “many current second-trimester providers.”
Cristina Page, the NARAL consultant who did the study, told the Voice that HHC “doesn’t turn anyone away for anything,” adding that, in the Giuliani years, some HHC facilities weren’t “even billing or submitting forms” for reimbursement of abortion services. Her report speaks of “very high self-pay rates,” meaning that the facility ate the cost in most cases. There were 2,928 “self-pay” abortions at HHC in 1999, compared to a mere 542 at the voluntary hospitals. Dr. Van Dunn, HHC’s senior vice president for medical and professional affairs, says that “if someone clearly had insurance,” HHC would seek reimbursement, but abortions went un-reimbursed “50 percent of the time.” Lilliam Paoli, who ran HHC’s Lincoln Hospital under Giuliani, said that it was “abortion on demand,” even for those who could pay and didn’t, and that “Rudy never changed that policy.”
Giuliani even maintained an extraordinary abortion option unavailable in most American cities. Back in the 1980s, Mayor Ed Koch guaranteed that no woman who wanted an abortion would be denied one in New York. Koch decided, without any statutory mandate, that the city would pay for abortions even if they weren’t medically necessarythe requirement under federal Medicaid laws. He also decided that the city would cover abortions, regardless of whether they were performed at HHC or a private facility, for women earning as much as 85 percent over the Medicaid eligibility standard. Paoli, who was also one of Giuliani’s human-resources commissioners, says Giuliani never rescinded Koch’s purely discretionary
decision. “He was so gung ho on abortion,” Paoli says, “we said to one another: ‘Can’t somebody tell him not to go so far?’ ” May Del Rio, the Planned Parenthood spokeswoman at the time, recalls: “Rudy Giuliani continued that very humane policy, and discontinuing it was never even discussed.”
It’s impossible to reconcile that record with Giuliani’s presidential pose on abortion, just as it’s impossible to match his Catholic candidacy with his marital history. One of his prime claims to the presidency, emphasized on the stump, is his slashing of the city’s welfare rolls. But even as he found brutal new ways to cut the poor off the dole, he was using millions in city funds to subsidize abortions for women whose incomes were too high to meet eligibility standards.
His support of abortion rights gave Giuliani a certain liberal cachet in New York, just as his tabloid sex life added to his macho profile. These images are less helpful to him now, and he is counting on the fog of 9/11 to obscure
these personal and policy reversals. It’s a stretch, and even someone as politically flexible as Rudy Giuliani may not be quite that elastic.