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March 11March 11
We believe it is providential that as we await the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Catholic Church in the U.S. next week is set to mark this year’s observance of Religious Freedom Week. (As The Criterion went to press on June 14, there was still no decision in the Dobbs case.)
Sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Religious Freedom Week takes place each June. Its theme this year is “Life and Dignity for All.”
The observance begins on June 22, the feast day of SS. Thomas More and John Fisher, both English martyrs who fought religious persecution. The week ends on June 29, the feast of SS. Peter and Paul.
The Dobbs case involves a Mississippi law banning abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy. An initial draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion in the case written by Justice Samuel Alito that was leaked by the press on May 2 indicated the high court may be set to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. Tensions have been high on both sides of the debate ever since.
In a press release marking Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB said it “is especially mindful of the debates around our country about abortion. The Catholic Church plays a crucial role in bearing witness to the Gospel of life and serving all who will be affected by these discussions and their outcomes.”
If the leaked document holds true—which we pray will indeed be the case—the court also is expected to overturn its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed Roe and prohibited regulations that created an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.
If the final ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturns Roe and Casey, the issue of abortion would be returned to the states.
Sadly, states like California and Colorado are already working on legislation to legalize abortion up to birth. The California Catholic Conference “vehemently opposes” amending the state’s constitution “to enshrine the most extreme forms of abortion.” Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 language introduced on June 8 “is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late-term abortions, which most Californians oppose,” the conference said.
As written, the amendment—which will be on the state’s November ballot—“will legalize and protect abortion up to the point just prior to delivery,” according to the conference.
Colorado legislators passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, considered one of the nation’s most permissive abortion measures. Gov. Jared Polis quickly signed it into law on
April 4. It permits on-demand abortion for a full 40 weeks of a pregnancy; allows abortion based on discrimination of sex, race or children with disabilities such as Down syndrome; and removes the requirement that parents of minors be notified if their minor receives an abortion.
In response, Colorado’s bishops in a June 6 open letter asked Catholic legislators “who live or worship in the state” and voted for Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act “to voluntarily refrain from receiving holy Communion.”
They urged this action “until public repentance takes place and sacramental absolution is received in confession.”
“The burden from their decision does not rest upon the shoulders of priests, deacons or lay extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist,” they wrote. “It rests upon the consciences and souls of those politicians who have chosen to support this evil and unjust law.”
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, “to build a culture of life and dignity for all,” the Catholic Church “must support women and children,” the USCCB press release added.
While some critics say the Church does little or nothing to help pregnant mothers and their unborn children, we must make it paramount to remind them that this is false.
Catholics across the country, joining with other pro-life advocates, have assisted pregnant mothers and their children—both before and after birth—for decades.
In 2020, the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities launched the “Walking with Moms in Need” nationwide initiative to build on these efforts. Its aim is “to engage every Catholic parish in providing a safety net to ensure that pregnant and parenting moms have the resources, love and support they need to nurture the lives of their children.”
In starting the initiative, bishops said they want to ensure “our Catholic parishes are places of welcome for women facing challenging pregnancies or who find it difficult to care for their children after birth, so that any mother needing assistance will receive life-affirming support and be connected to appropriate programs and resources where she can get help.”
Among the initiative’s goals is to help Catholics “recognize the needs of pregnant and parenting moms in their communities, enabling parishioners to know these mothers, to listen to them, and to help them obtain the necessities of life for themselves and their children.”
“Life and Dignity for All” is a staple of the Church’s mission. We pray God uses this ongoing legal fight to open minds and change hearts so society will soon work to protect all human life—from conception to natural death.