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Catholic, pro-life leaders say women shouldn’t be punished for abortions

May 12, 2022 Catholic News Agency 4
Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., May 12, 2022 / 09:35 am (CNA).

More than 70 pro-life leaders, including Archbishop William E. Lori who leads the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, are demanding that state lawmakers refuse to punish or criminalize women who obtain abortions. 

“As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts,” the May 12 letter to state lawmakers reads. 

The letter comes as lawmakers in states such as Louisiana consider legislation that could subject women who obtain abortions to criminal prosecution and prison.

Laura Echevarria, a spokesperson for the National Right to Life, the pro-life group that coordinated the letter’s release, told CNA that it responded, in part, to actions by states like Louisiana. Teh letter also responded to rhetoric from abortion activists.

“This has been a long-standing policy issue of ours” and many of the other signers,  Echevarria said. “We felt we needed to make it clear that this was something that we did not agree with. That we do not believe in prosecuting women who have had abortions. We see them as a second victim in these situations.”

“We wanted to make sure that this was very clear to state legislators, but also to the public-at-large,” she added. “We do not want women thinking that this is something that the movement approves of, because we don’t.”

In addition to Lori, signers include Carol Tobais of the National Right to Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, and Catherine Glenn Foster of American United for Life. You can read the full letter below:

The open letter follows a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, later this year.

The letter takes care to say that there are two victims with every abortion: both the mother and her unborn child.

“The mother who aborts her child is also Roe’s victim,” the letter reads. “She is the victim of a callous industry created to take lives; an industry that claims to provide for ‘women’s health,’ but denies the reality that far too many American women suffer devastating physical and psychological damage following abortion.”

In bold text, the letter adds, “Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.”

If the Supreme Court ovrturns Roe, as the leaked draft suggests, the issue of abortion will be left up to each individual state — and elected lawmakers.

“But in seizing that opportunity,” the letter cautions, “we must ensure that the laws we advance to protect unborn children do not harm their mothers.” In other words, the letter continues, “turning women who have abortions into criminals is not the way.”

Several organizations, many of them run by Catholics, offer healing and hope to women harmed by abortion, including Project Rachel, Rachels’ Vineyard, Silence No More Awareness Campaign. 

While the Catholic Church condemns abortion, it also stresses the importance of forgiveness and mercy for the women who have obtained abortions. Just as the unborn have inherent dignity and worth as human persons, so do their mothers.

“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”


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News Briefs

Pro-life leaders, hopes raised, react cautiously to leaked abortion decision draft

May 2, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Students from Liberty University pray in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case on Dec. 1, 2021. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 2, 2022 / 21:25 pm (CNA).

Pro-life leaders had mixed reactions Monday night to the news of a purported U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion signaling that justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. While many declined to comment on the reported leak, all of them condemned Roe.

Politico on Monday night published a purported 98-page draft majority opinion allegedly written by conservative Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the closely watched Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The document states, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Court experts reacting to the news emphasized that, if authentic, the draft may still be subject to changes before any final decision is announced.

The March for Life “will not be providing comment on an official decision of #scotus possible leak until a decision is officially announced,” Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, responded on Twitter after Politico published its exclusive report. 

“We also believe that given the leak the court should issue a ruling as soon as possible,” she added. “This leak was meant to corrupt the process. It is heartbreaking that some abortion advocates will stoop to any level to intimidate the court no matter what the consequences.”

Back in December, Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in the Dobbs case, which centers on a 2018 Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks and directly challenges Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

“It is commonly known that Roe was erroneously decided,” Mancini said. “#SCOTUS needs to correct the wrong and give people the ability to decide abortion policy.”

Pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List similarly declined initially to comment on the alleged leak, tweeting, “Regarding the SCOTUS leak on Dobbs, SBA List will not be commenting until an official decision is announced by the Court.”

Later, however, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser issued a fuller statement. “If the draft opinion made public tonight is the final opinion of the court, we wholeheartedly applaud the decision. The American people have the right to act through their elected officials to debate and enact laws that protect unborn children and honor women. If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature,” Dannenfelser said.

“We also recognize the need for the pro-life movement to continue its existing work to support pregnant women and children in need. There are thousands of pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes nationwide and an ever-growing pro-life safety net,” the statement continued. “The pro-life movement will continue to grow to meet the needs of these women and their families, walking and planning with them to love and serve both mother and child.”

In response to the Politico report, Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action, responded with a slew of tweets, beginning with, “Roe Must Go! The right to kill a child doesn’t exist. But the right to life is a basic human right.” 

She commented on the “Unprecedented leak of a draft SCOTUS decision.”

“Roe has been wrongly decided since the day it was issued. It’s illogical and gravely unjust. Overruling Roe would be an important step in the right direction of protecting our fundamental right to life. But if this decision is issued, true justice has not yet been achieved,” she stressed in a Twitter thread. 

“It’s not enough to send abortion back to the states,” she said, indicating what would happen if Roe is overturned. “Democracies shouldn’t have the ability to vote on if a genocide can be committed against an entire group of people. Human rights are not decided by majority vote. They are inalienable.”

“Pray for the Justices tonight and every night until the decision comes out,” she concluded. “I fear there will be unprecedented threats against them.”

As president and CEO of Americans United for Life, Catherine Glenn Foster responded, “We stand alongside all Americans who have waited so hopefully and for so long for the Supreme Court to reverse Roe, to set American on the path to abortion abolition, and to restore justice to our nation. Today is a day for courage and hope.”

In the same statement, Steven H. Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel at AUL, condemned the leak. 

“The Supreme Court wishes to return the issue of abortion to the American people, and for that reason this draft opinion language is to be applauded,” he said. “It is outrageous that this draft language was leaked, presumably by pro-abortion staffers within the Court. It is a cynical and naked attempt to pressure justices to alter course in Dobbs and to perpetuate abortion violence. The Court should maintain the moral high ground, stick to the clear and courageous language this draft opinion, and not allow itself to be ruled by the expectations of pro-abortion activists or proxy media allies.”

AUL took the position that the “implicit intent of this leak is to pressure and manipulate members of the Court to alter their votes or otherwise water down the language of the final opinion — if the Court is truly the nonpolitical body that Chief Justice John Roberts has said that it is, the Court cannot now bow to partisan pressure to change course for the sake of an illusory detente.”

Another pro-life leader, Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, said, “We don’t know whether rumors of the end of Roe are accurate yet, but we know that ending Roe is the right decision, returning the issue to ‘we the people’ from a few judges with an agenda.”

“You won’t find ‘abortion’ written in invisible ink in the Constitution undiscovered until 7 men saw it in 1973,” she added, referring to the Roe decision. “Ending preborn human life is and has always been a judicial error. The court cannot allow the bullying tactics of the left combined with the threat of chaos caused by an unprecedented leak to change the right course — the end of Roe.”