by Deacon Keith Fournier
The Pregnant Women Support Act reaches out to women with a helping hand when they are most vulnerable.
In the encyclical letter “The Gospel of Life”, the Servant of God John Paul II not only set forth the definitive reaffirmation of the Christian rejection of every act against the fundamental Right to Life as being intrinsically evil, but also presented important directions regarding the pragmatic application of this clear teaching by those charged with governance. At the end of Paragraph 73 we read the following words:
“A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favoring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter.
“In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.”
Justin Cardinal Rigali, though not in elective office, recently demonstrated the application of this essential direction for those who are. He issued a letter encouraging support for the Pregnant Women Support Act. In it he gives every Catholic in elective office a good example of how to apply the absolute commitment to the Right to Life as infallibly taught in that same Encyclical letter. Sadly, currently in the United States, a majority of those in Public Office continue to reject the inalienable, fundamental and preeminent Right to Life as revealed in the Natural Law, confirmed by medical science, affirmed in the Sacred Scripture and taught infallibly by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.Truly Pro-Life political leaders must not compromise but can find ways to limit the evil effects of the current law.
We offer the good Cardinal’s letter to encourage support for the Pregnant Women Support Act. as well as to demonstrate to all Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will in public office how to proceed while they work without compromise to bring an end to the reign of the Culture of Death in the current positive law in the United States:
April 24, 2009
In a society where disagreements on abortion and the rights of the unborn child seem persistent and intractable, there are some statements that almost everyone can endorse. First, the fact that over a million abortions take place every year in this country is a tragedy, and we should at least take steps to reduce abortions. Second, no woman should ever have to undergo an abortion because she feels she has no other choice or because alternatives were unavailable or not made known to her. An abortion performed under such social and economic duress meets no one’s standard for “freedom of choice.”
If you agree with these statements, I hope you will support and co-sponsor the Pregnant Women Support Act recently reintroduced by Representative Lincoln Davis (D- TN).
This Act will provide many kinds of life-affirming support for pregnant women and their unborn children. These include: Eliminating pregnancy as a “preexisting condition” that can be used to deny health coverage for women; grants to support centers providing alternatives to abortion; assistance encouraging colleges and universities to provide support for pregnant and parenting students; increased support for the WIC program, and for adoption programs; allowing states to cover unborn children and their mothers under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing prenatal care for especially needy pregnant women who may not otherwise be eligible; and improving services for pregnant women who are at risk from domestic violence. The bill also improves the means for informing women about supportive services available to them during and after pregnancy, through a public awareness program as well as a basic requirement that abortion facilities provide informed consent (including information about alternatives to abortion).
The Pregnant Women Support Act reaches out to women with a helping hand when they are most vulnerable, and most engaged in making a decision about life or death for their unborn children. It provides an authentic common ground, an approach that people can embrace regardless of their position on other issues. For example, it does not raise the entirely separate issue of seeking to reduce pregnancies through government promotion of contraceptives, which recently created so much controversy when it was inappropriately proposed for inclusion in an economic stimulus package. That issue raises serious questions regarding priorities in health care as well as the conscience rights of patients and health care providers, which demand a serious debate of their own. In any case, low-income women already have guaranteed coverage for family planning through Medicaid, with the Federal government assuring States that it will pay 90% of this coverage – yet it is precisely among these women that abortion rates are highest. Many studies have concluded that programs for ensuring access to contraception do not reduce abortion rates (see www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/contraception/index.shtml).
Discussion of pregnancy prevention and related issues will surely continue inside and outside Congress. In the meantime, pregnant women need our assistance now so that abortion is not promoted to them as their only choice. Regardless of your stance on other issues related to abortion or family planning, I hope you will join Representative Davis in ensuring that the Pregnant Women Support Act will be considered and enacted by this Congress.
Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman, Committee for Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops