Catholic Conferences Support State Measures to Restrict Abortion

Pro-life protesters are seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on December 1, 2021, the day judges heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization over a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. (SNC photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As many state legislatures consider restrictive abortion measures in current legislative sessions, Catholic conferences in those states are paying close attention to these bills and urging Catholics to defend.

The abortion bills, proposed by Republican lawmakers, come ahead of a Supreme Court ruling this summer in the Dobbs case involving Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks.

If the decision overturns the court’s decision Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion nationwide, she will leave it to the states to craft abortion policies.

Twelve states already have “trigger bans” in place that would ban abortions if Roe is overturned, and similar measures are being introduced in four more states this year.

If Roe falls, 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on abortion and reproductive health.

One such state is Nebraska, where state lawmakers introduced a bill on the first day of its January session to ban all abortions if Roe is overturned.

A message about this bill and other proposed measures to restrict abortions is featured on the state’s Catholic conference website, calling the moment a “turning point” in US history.

The conference statement said the Dobbs Supreme Court case has “spurred a national conversation about the future of abortion” and that many states “are now reckoning with their abortion laws.”

Other abortion measures in Nebraska this year are a heartbeat bill and a bill that addresses medical abortions in the state.

Heartbeat legislation would require an ultrasound before an abortion to determine if a fetal heartbeat is present. If so, abortion cannot be performed. The abortion medication measure aims to require follow-up visits after an abortion, strengthen reporting requirements for abortion complications, and stop the supply of abortion medication through the mail.

In Florida, Christie Arnold, associate for social concerns and respect for life at the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, testified on January 19 before a House subcommittee in support of a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Current state law prohibits abortions when a fetus is viable or able to survive outside the womb, which is generally considered 24 weeks.

Another bill also introduced early in Florida’s legislative session aims to protect the fetus from exposure to tobacco by requiring that pregnant women and women who could become pregnant be informed of the health risks of tobacco. A review board is also needed to study fetal and infant mortality in Florida.

The Ohio Legislature introduced the Human Life Protection Act, which would ban most abortions in the state if Roe were overturned. The bill would apply criminal penalties to abortionists, but grant immunity to women wishing to have an abortion.

The Ohio Catholic Conference said it supported the legislation, noting that “the Catholic Church teaches that every human life has inherent dignity and should therefore be treated with the respect due to a human person. We support public policies that protect human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

In Kansas, the Kansas Catholic Conference is promoting a state amendment called Value them Both, which Kansans will vote on in August. If passed, it would reverse a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that called access to abortion a fundamental right.

According to the state’s Catholic conference, the impact of the state court ruling means that “virtually all of Kansas’ pro-life laws are now presumptively unconstitutional and, in practice, unenforceable.” This includes more than 20 bipartisan laws such as parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions, bans on taxpayer-funded abortion, laws guaranteeing basic sanitation of clinics, and many more.

On the other side of this issue, more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have legal protections in place to protect access to abortion.

In California, for example, lawmakers are considering a plan to make the state a “sanctuary” for those seeking abortions, which could include paying for travel, accommodation and procedural costs for women in States where abortions are restricted or prohibited.

In documents on its website, the Catholic Conference of California said this effort by state officials “completely misses a vital, life-affirming point. California is already uniquely positioned to actively meet the needs of women, children and families.

The conference said it agreed with Pope Francis that abortion “attacks the sanctity of human life” and said it is “not ‘progressive’ to try to solve problems by eliminating a human life”.

“At this pivotal moment,” the statement said, “We, the bishops of the dioceses of California, commit ourselves to a vision for our state that honors women with vital support and practical resources so that all families can thrive, and so that no woman feels trapped in the devastating decision to end a life through abortion.

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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