Letters & Op-Eds 2016

Opinion: Campaign advocates for choice as social justice

Earlier this week, Catholics for Choice launched the Abortion in Good Faith campaign with Catholics appearing in ads across the country. The campaign tells the stories of Catholics who want accessible reproductive healthcare for everyone because of their call to live out social justice. These Catholics support abortion because of their faith, not despite it.

We started this campaign because treating each other with respect is an important part of being Catholic. We are called for follow our conscience and to serve those with the least in our community. We know that restrictions on public funding for abortion punish women for being poor. That is the opposite of social justice.

Currently, the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for Medicaid coverage of abortion services other than in a few narrow exceptions: pregnancies from rape, incest or those 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.

Legally, abortion is available to anyone who decides she can’t continue a pregnancy — whatever the reason. But in reality, because of restrictions on publicly funded abortion, many women in the U.S. can’t get an abortion. This disproportionately impacts women of color, women of low incomes, and women who live in rural areas. Our campaign is lifting up the voices of Catholics who want this policy to change.

Politicians of all stripes have perpetuated the restrictions on public funding for abortion, putting politics over women’s lives again and again. In 1977, when President Jimmy Carter was asked whether or not it was fair that poor women would be denied abortions under Hyde he replied, “There are many things in life that are not fair.”

When President Ronald Reagan and the increasingly anti-choice Republican Party took control of the White House and Senate in 1980, the sole exception to the Hyde Amendment was if the pregnancy endangered the life of the woman. As a congressman, Al Gore repeatedly opposed Medicaid financing of abortions for poor women. During his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton promised to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, but under his presidency the amendment was applied to Medicare. George W. Bush expanded the Hyde Amendment by issuing an executive order that existing restrictions also applied to the medical abortion pill under the Medicaid program. President Obama has made empty promises to repeal Hyde.

For years, the Catholic hierarchy has lobbied politicians to keep these restrictions on abortion. So it’s no surprise that they have issued proclamations against our Abortion in Good Faith campaign, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

We are delighted that our campaign has already shone a spotlight on what the bishops say and do when they lobby against reproductive healthcare choices for Americans. Our campaign has already brought to the surface some very uncomfortable truths for the Catholic hierarchy. Like the simple question: Who exactly do they represent? The Catholic Church claims to speak on behalf of Catholics when they fight against no-cost birth control as part of the Affordable Care Act. Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as those of other faiths and those of no faith, despite the bishops. Half of Catholic voters believe private‐ and publicly‐funded insurance programs should include abortion coverage whenever a woman and her doctor decide it is appropriate. Polling clearly shows that Catholics continue to believe in choice on abortion, as they have done for many years.

We need politicians to stop listening to the Catholic hierarchy. Instead they should listen to the voices of Catholics in the United States who believe that, as a matter of social justice, women must be able to access abortion no matter how much money they have or what they believe.

This piece was originally published in the Pocono Record.