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Statement of Frances Kissling on the Catholic Bishops’ Abortion Reconciliation Campaign

April 7, 2000

Washington, DC–In response to a new, nationwide ad campaign designed by the nation’s Catholic bishops to reconcile women who have had abortions with the church, Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) offers the bishops advice in the form of the following statement by CFFC President Frances Kissling:

Whenever the Catholic bishops choose a pastoral approach to abortion rather than a political one, there is reason for cautious optimism.  There is no doubt that many women who have abortions feel sadness and loss for many different reasons after an abortion.  We’d caution church officials and counselors not to interpret these emotions as signs that women believe they made the wrong decision in having an abortion.  In fact, most women believe they made the best and most moral decision they could in difficult circumstances.

Perhaps what is needed is for the church to reconcile itself with women who have had abortions.  A first step would be to stop calling abortion murder and using imprecise language in the political arena.  One remembers the voice of Cardinal John O’Connor on Earth Day 1990 when he said, “One of the most dangerous environments in the world today is the mother’s womb.”

This language is so embedded in the bishops’ mind set that in reaching out to women in this campaign they chose the unfortunate slogan: “Something inside dies after an abortion.”

Perhaps with time, church leaders will come to understand that women’s moral sensibilities and wisdom enable them to make good decisions about abortion and childbearing.  If the church affirmed women’s ability to make good decisions, respected women’s experiences, told the truth about church teachings that leave room for women to decide to have abortions in good conscience, and offered non-judgmental spiritual counseling before the abortion decision was made, there would be no need for post-abortion reconciliation.

To a considerable extent the bishops’ current program of reconciliation is designed to solve a problem that the church has created.  For years they have told women that having an abortion is the greatest sin that they can commit and that they have excommunicated themselves from the church.  It is this approach that needs to change.

-Statement Ends-

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