Message from the President

Standing with Women Who Need a Later Abortion

Jon O'Brien, President Catholics for a Free Choice
Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice.
Photo Credit: Eric Haase.  This picture is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without the express permission of Catholics for Choice.

This week, Dr. LeRoy Carhart opened a clinic near Washington, DC, in an effort to provide services for women who need later abortions. Catholics for Choice welcomes him here, and thanks him for doing what so few can or are willing to do: provide a safe, caring, environment for women who face unreasonable obstacles in exercising their moral and legal right to terminate their pregnancies when they need to, even when that decision comes later in pregnancy.

Catholics for Choice supports Roe and the principle that decisions about abortion should be left to women and their doctors. While this may surprise some people, we also agree with the Vatican that there is no simple, authoritative way to know when a developing life becomes a person. That statement comes from the Vatican’s “Declaration on Procured Abortion” in 1974 in which it acknowledged that there is ambiguity on this question. Fortunately, as Catholics in the United States, we can embrace both of these principles, as we do in our name: Catholics for Choice, and as we do in our mission, which promotes the right of women and men to make moral decisions based on the dictates of their own consciences.

Unfortunately, there are many individuals who support legislation that accords to their own personal beliefs—rather than the needs of those whom they serve. Further, there are people who seem to be willing to negotiate over women’s rights—assured in their belief that they know which are worth trading away in exchange for others. These tactics make interesting sound bites, but are disrespectful to women and their families. Furthermore, they are unethical and just plain wrong.

At Catholics for Choice we believe no one has the right to trade away another person’s rights—no matter what the potential prize. Specifically, we believe we have a responsibility to stand with each and every woman who seeks to make decisions about her own reproductive life, as is the case with abortion, with the counsel of the professionals, friends and family she chooses to involve. There can be no debate—from either the church or the state—about whether a woman is a person, a moral agent. She must be allowed and encouraged to make the decision that is right for her whether that is to become pregnant or to remain pregnant. Truly, she is the only one who can make the right decision for herself.

Throughout our history, Catholics for Choice has supported efforts that allow women to make informed decisions about pregnancy and childbirth. We support programs that help women avoid unplanned pregnancies. We promote policies that create a climate where women can access abortion services as early and safely as possible. We have thrown our weight behind legislation that supports women who make the decision to continue a pregnancy in the hope of raising a healthy child or children.

However, we know that for many reasons there is and will continue to be a need for later abortions. As Catholics, and from the social justice perspective that is central to our religion, we believe that it is important to stand with women who find themselves in this often difficult situation. We are happy that there are people like Dr. Carhart who make sure that despite the challenges—for both doctor and patient—women are getting the care they need and deserve. Welcome to our neighborhood, Dr. Carhart. Thank you for being here.

Read the November 2016 message from Jon O'Brien:
Pope Francis’ Announcement on Abortion Is About Bridging the Deep Chasm Between the Church Hierarchy and the Reality of Everyday Catholics