Earlier this week, I warned about the proclivity that everyone has to bend their religion to their politics rather than the other way around. Tim Kaine fell into that trap on same-sex marriage over the weekend, and now “Catholics for Choice” are spending money to do the same. The pro-abortion group ran full-page ads in newspapers around the country on Monday, calling for an end to the Hyde Amendment and public funding for abortions.
The name of the ad campaign? “Abortion in Good Faith“:
“The ban on public funding is the single most detrimental policy to women’s access to abortion in the US,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “We are tired of this grave injustice and our campaign lifts up the voices of Catholics who want this policy to change.”
Currently, the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for Medicaid coverage of abortion services other than in a few narrow exceptions—pregnancies from rape or incest or that endanger the life of the woman. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that one in four women enrolled in the Medicaid program who wants to terminate a pregnancy can’t obtain an abortion because of the Hyde Amendment.
While members of the Catholic hierarchy might tell policymakers and the media otherwise, Catholics don’t agree with the Hyde Amendment or its offshoots. Catholics are called to follow their conscience and required to serve those with the least among us. This includes calling for reform to policies that disproportionately affect poor women. Restrictions on public funding for abortion affect the social, economic and reproductive wellbeing of low-income women and women of color. It’s crucial that legislators understand that Catholic voters think that restrictions on public funding of abortion are unjust.
Let’s take these arguments one at a time before we get to the contradictions between this and Catholicism. Abortion is not “health care,” and therefore not within the parameters of Medicaid anyway. One could focus on any elective procedure and claim that poor people are at a disadvantage in terms of access, even without the moral and religious implications of terminating a pregnancy. Medicaid doesn’t cover tattoos, liposuction, or collagen injections either. Medicaid does, however, cover contraception through Title X funding that is broadly supported by both Republicans and Democrats, and the CDC didn’t find any impediment to access when assessing 28 years of unplanned pregnancies.
Contrary to the above as well, the Hyde Amendment actually polls well with the general public. In a YouGov poll last month, 55% of respondents supported it and only 29% oppose it. Almost every demo within the poll supports Hyde by a majority or plurality, with the only exception being Democrats — and it’s a virtual tie there at 41/44. Among the lower-income Americans that Catholics for Choice claim to champion (under $50K), Hyde gets 55/26 support. Given that Catholics tend toward the general consensus in polling, it’s safe to assume that they would at least match that consensus on Hyde, if not surpass it.
Opposition to abortion doesn’t just come from “members of the Catholic hierarchy,” it comes from two thousand years of Catholic teachings on the sacred nature of human life. The catechism of the church could not be plainer on this point, nor could the current pontiff, Pope Francis, who likened abortions to Mafia hits earlier this year in the context of global response to the Zika virus (via Sheila Liaugminas):
On his return flight from Mexico, Pope Francis strongly rejected abortion as a response to the fears surrounding the Zika virus outbreak.
“Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil,” the Pope said Feb. 18. …
“The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish,” the journalist said. “Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoid pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of ‘the lesser of two evils’?”
Said the Pope, “Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem. It is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best-case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?”
The Holy Father expanded on the evil of abortion.
“It’s against the Hippocratic oaths must doctors take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned,” he said.
The teachings on abortion within the universal Christian church go all the way back to its very first years. The Didache dates back to 70 AD, and is considered the first catechism or instruction on the faith. It’s the starting point for what Catholics call the magisterium after the canonical New Testament letters, from the Apostles themselves, and its position on abortion could not have been more clear:
And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.
St. Basil of Caesarea addressed the issue a little over a century later:
One could perhaps excuse people from knowing the writings of St. Basil and of the Didache, but Catholics who claim to act in “good faith” should have read the current catechism. It contains several paragraphs concerning abortion (2270-75), all of which make it clear that conducting, procuring, or facilitating an abortion are acts which produce an excommunication latae sententiae, meaning “by the very commission of the offense.”
What about CfC’s declaration that “Catholics are called to follow their conscience and required to serve those least among us”? That’s true, as far as it goes, but it ignores the need to properly form one’s conscience in Catholic teaching first. Only then can we live our faith in proper service to the least among us, lest we inadvertently (or deliberately) lead them and ourselves into mortal sin. Serving the least among us in the context of unwanted pregnancies could involve supporting mothers-to-be in finding the means to raise the child, facilitating adoption, or other options that do not involve abortion and/or infanticide.
An abortion advocacy organization called “Catholics for Choice” (CFC) placed deceptive full-page newspaper ads in multiple cities on September 12 calling for taxpayer funding of abortion in the name of the Catholic faith.
As the U.S. Catholic bishops have stated for many years, the use of the name ‘Catholic’ as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse.
CFC’s extreme ads promote abortion as if it were a social good. But abortion kills the most defenseless among us, harms women, and tears at the heart of families. Pushing for public funding would force all taxpaying Americans to be complicit in the violence of abortion and an industry that puts profit above the well-being of women and children.
This is nothing more than a bald attempt by a well-known splinter group of progressives to bolster the Hillary Clinton campaign. Hillary has called for an end to the Hyde Amendment, which is what prompted the YouGov polling last month. Democrats added it as a plank to their platform during the convention. Catholics for Choice are misrepresenting fellow Catholics and the faith itself as a way to achieve their political ends.
Even more than in the comments of Tim Kaine, it either takes malevolence or willful ignorance to claim a Catholic position of support for abortion as a form of “social justice.” The nature and meaning of human life is a core belief in Catholicism, which is why acting in contradiction to them carries severe consequences within the church. If these progressives don’t agree with it, they are welcome to engage in some intellectual and moral honesty and represent themselves by their political identity, rather than misrepresent the Catholic Church and its teachings.