Bishops Celebrate Every Life Saved by Texas Abortion Law
September 7, 2021 / (CNA) - Bishops around the country reacted with praise to a Texas law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, and noted that women experiencing a crisis pregnancy have resources available, instead of abortion.
“We celebrate every life saved by this legislation,” said the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Texas’ 16 Catholic dioceses and 20 bishops, in a Sept. 3 statement.
The Texas bishops said that opponents of the law, who have described a fetal heartbeat as “electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue” or “embryonic cardiac activity,” are making a “disturbing” effort to “dehumanize the unborn.”
“Abortion is a human rights issue; the most fundamental human right is the right to life,” said the Texas bishops. “Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is not freedom. Abortion does not help women. Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.”
The statement dismissed the notion that abortion is a privacy right.
“We cannot turn away and say that, since the killing of another person takes place within the body of a woman, we as a society should not care, any more than when someone is killed within the privacy of a home or in a public venue,” said the Texas bishops.
The Texas Heartbeat Law went into effect Sept. 1 after the Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction. This is the first time since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that the Supreme Court has not blocked a piece of pro-life legislation while the law is being contested in lower courts.
The law prohibits abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. A provision awarding damages to people who report illegal abortions, or those who aid and abet the procurement of an abortion, has drawn significant controversy.
The Texas bishops wrote that “hundreds of millions of dollars” have been invested in abortion alternatives programs for pregnant women and their families, and that there are “hundreds of pregnancy and parenting support programs and adoption services” in the state.
“Pregnant and parenting moms in need are in our parishes and our neighborhoods,” said the Texas bishops. “As Pope Francis reminds us, our parishes must be ‘islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.’ Everyone in the parish should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need.”
The two bishops of neighboring Oklahoma issued a similar statement lauding the bill.
“This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to permit Texas’ heartbeat abortion ban to remain in effect marks a critical turning point in our decades-long battle to defend unborn life,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa in a joint statement published Sept. 6. The governor of Oklahoma signed a similar “heartbeat bill” into law on April 26, 2021, but it has not gone into effect due to legal battles.
The bishops said, “it is estimated that as many as 4,000 lives each month will be spared” as a result of the law, and added they “pray that the courts in Oklahoma will follow suit and allow our state’s recently-enacted heartbeat law to go into effect.”
“One doesn’t need to be Catholic to believe that abortion is an offense against human dignity and the taking of an innocent life,” they said. “We are not only opposed to abortion because the Church tells us to oppose it (as a matter of faith), but because it is morally repugnant and inconsistent with respect for human life.”
The Texas law prompted President Joe Biden (D) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to consider some sort of federal intervention that would keep abortion legal throughout a pregnancy.
Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act when they return from recess. The bill would create a law allowing abortion throughout a pregnancy, and would forbid states from enacting their own pro-life restrictions on abortion.
Biden, in a statement published after the law was allowed to go into effect, directed his administration to examine “what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, warned that these actions by Catholic politicians could warrant excommunication.
In a Washington Post op-ed published Sept. 5, Archbishop Cordileone, who is Pelosi’s ordinary, noted that in the 1960s, prominent Catholic segregationists were excommunicated by then-Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans for refusing to embrace racial integration.
The three excommunications, he said, were an example of a legitimate Catholic response to “a great moral evil” of that time period, and were not “weaponizing the Eucharist.”
“Rummel recognized that prominent, high-profile public advocacy for racism was scandalous: It violated core Catholic teachings and basic principles of justice, and also led others to sin,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
The same, he said, is true of prominent Catholics who support abortion rights.
“You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings. The answer to crisis pregnancies is not violence but love, for both mother and child,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
“This is hardly inappropriate for a pastor to say,” he said. “If anything, Catholic political leaders’ response to the situation in Texas highlights the need for us to say it all the louder.”
Archbishop Cordileone’s essay drew strong reactions from his brother bishops.
“Thank you for speaking up, Archbishop,” said Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler. “I am with you 100% as are many Catholics and others who know that life is sacred.”
His comments were echoed by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois, who said it was an “excellent op-ed.”
Bishop James Conley of Lincoln wrote, “It is impossible to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Catholic politicians must uphold the human rights of these tiny citizens,” and encouraged people to “take some time to read this excellent piece by Archbishop Cordileone.”