NEW YORK — Top leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called on the faithful to pray and fast Friday, hoping the Supreme Court is on track to strike down the constitutional right to abortion. Yet even among Catholics who oppose abortion, there is some unease about the consequences of such a decision.
A recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggests a majority of all nine justices are set to overturn Roe v. Wade of 1973 – a decision that would allow every state to ban abortion.
Some anti-abortion Catholics say such a result would be the answer to their prayers. Others warn that Catholic leaders should distance themselves from the politically partisan wing of the anti-abortion movement and broaden their concept of “pro-life” by supporting general policies that put in place safety nets for single mothers and low-income families.
Madison Chastain, a Catholic blogger and disability advocate, describes herself as anti-abortion, but opposes Roe’s cancellation and the criminalization of abortions.
Factors that cause abortion, she wrote in the National Catholic Reporter, include lack of comprehensive sex education, inadequate health care and workplace inequities.
“Making abortion illegal before tackling these injustices will kill women, because women will continue to have abortions, in secret and in unsafe conditions,” she wrote.
Sam Sawyer, a journalist and Jesuit priest, says he is a “devoted pro-life advocate” who favors Roe’s overthrow. Yet he responded to the leak with an essay listing why abortion-rights supporters are so alarmed by the prospect.
“The pro-life movement and its political alliances are seen as a threat not only to abortion itself, but also to democratic norms, judicial commitments to civil rights, and health and economic security. women,” Sawyer wrote in America, the Jesuit magazine. of which he is editor-in-chief.
Republican politicians, backed by anti-abortion leaders, “have used the lives of unborn children as moral cover to ignore other calls for justice,” Sawyer wrote. “Political allies of the pro-life movement gutted social safety net programs that would make it easier for women to carry their pregnancies to term.
The call for a day of fasting and prayer came from Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Pro-Life Activities Committee of the USCCB.
They asked for prayers for the overthrow of Roe and for “the conversion of the hearts and minds of those advocating for abortion.”
The archbishops echoed calls from other Catholic leaders who, after the Supreme Court leak, suggested that a reversal of Roe should be coupled with increased awareness and support for pregnant women and new mothers.
Lori pointed to a USCCB program called Walking With Moms in Need, saying the church should redouble its efforts “to accompany women and couples facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, and during the early years of parenthood. “.
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The episcopal conference has designated the “threat of abortion” as its top priority — a view that many lay Catholics do not share. According to Pew Research Center polls, 56% of American Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Professor O. Carter Snead, who teaches law and political science at the University of Notre Dame, said by email that most Catholics engaged in anti-abortion activism “are not political supporters tough guys, but more like people looking to take care of mothers and babies by any means available.”
As an example, Snead cited the Nicola de Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture – which he directs – and one of its initiatives, titled “Women and Children First: Imagining a World post-Roe”. Through teaching, research and public engagement, the initiative aims to strengthen support for “women, children (born and unborn) and families in need”.
However, achieving broad bipartisan collaboration on such initiatives may not be happening anytime soon, Snead acknowledged.
“It is true, unfortunately, that the only political party that has been willing to join together to provide legal protection for unborn children is the Republicans,” he said.
Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, also doubted there could be a post-Roe push for bipartisanship on abortion.
“As long as Democrats insist on abortion during nine months of pregnancy, and as long as Republicans recognize that abortion violates the 14th Amendment, it will remain a partisan issue,” he said. declared by e-mail.
“But the focus of the pro-life movement has never been partisan,” Pecknold added. “The goal is justice for the unborn who have the right to live, to be loved, to be raised in a family.”
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas – a vocal critic of Catholic politicians who support abortion rights – said abortion opponents “must continue to provide support and care for mothers who find themselves in difficult situations”.
“I pray that we can move to a place where both mother and child are held sacred and where society supports both lives in any way possible,” he said via email.
David Gibson, director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture, questioned the significance of recent promises by Catholic bishops and other anti-abortion leaders to boost support for single mothers.
“Can this movement that is so tied to the Republican Party and the Conservative movement suddenly pivot to mobilizing its people for socially liberal policies?” Gibson asked, referring to programs like subsidized child care and paid maternity leave.
Steven Millies, professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, says the bishops bear partial responsibility for the entrenched polarization over abortion, which he expects to continue even if Roe is overthrown.
“It is unrealistic to hope that divisive habits will be abandoned,” Millies said, suggesting the bishops could have done more to reduce abortions over the years by pushing for stronger, better-funded social programs.
Rebecca Bratten Weiss, writer and digital editor at Catholic American Magazine, said she no longer calls herself “pro-life” – although she has been active in the movement for many years and believes that any life deserves to be protected.
“The people working to overthrow Roe have made it clear that they have no interest in expanding the safety nets,” she said. “Either they haven’t thought about the consequences, or they’re okay with the consequences — higher infant mortality, more women seeking unsafe abortions, more families pushed into desperate measures.”
Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, suggested in a column that Roe’s overthrow should be an occasion for reassessment by the many bishops who have embraced the Republican Party because of its anti-abortion stance.
“Catholic bishops will celebrate this victory they have worked for decades, but ironically it should lead to a divorce between bishops and Republicans,” Reese wrote. “The GOP has nothing else to offer them. In fact, with the exception of abortion, his proposals are the opposite of Catholic social teaching.
Assuming Roe is overthrown, Reese added, “bishops can declare victory on abortion and focus on social programs…that help women have and raise children so they are not forced to abort.”
Still, Reese doubts that will happen.
“I guess they will keep fighting until there is consensus in America on abortion,” he wrote. “That will mean sticking with the Republicans and sacrificing all of their other priorities.”
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer.
Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.