When President Trump was elected, many women realized that something that seemed a far prospect could become reality — that Roe V. Wade could be overturned. In the face of this threat, we have also seen something inspiring. State legislators across the country — from Oregon to Illinois to New York — have passed a wave of progressive laws to protect access to abortion and safeguard a woman’s autonomy to make her own moral choices over deeply consequential, deeply complex decisions around when and whether to continue a pregnancy.
These legislative wins show what moral leadership is about and what most Americans, including faithful Americans, expect from their leaders. More than 60 percent of Catholics believe abortion should be legal; 6 in 10 Catholic voters say that abortion can be a moral choice and Catholic women have abortions at similar rates as women of other faiths or no faith.
Yet, the President has shown time and again a willingness to throw women under the bus as political payback to a narrow group of ideological arch-conservatives. Most recently, President Trump and the anti-choice lobby have gone after Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran for defending a bill that would provide greater protections to women who need a later abortion.
As the leader of an organization that works at home and abroad to deeply engage communities on the difficult moral questions around abortion, I found Delegate Tran’s answers on later abortion refreshing. I was relieved to see her talk openly about the real situations women can face around fatal fetal anomalies and stand up for policies that would make these situations less painful and bureaucratic for a grieving family.
I saw in Delegate Tran a willingness to consider the ethical and medical questions and to not shy away from offering thoughtful and unequivocal support for a law that would facilitate later abortion when a woman needs it. Her honesty and commitment to put the needs of her constituents first — and to not play coy with politically correct answers that negate the lived realities of real women facing later abortion decisions—should be lauded, not attacked.
As a pro-choice organization of faith, Catholics for Choice stands with women who need abortions later in pregnancy and with the brave providers who care for them at great personal risk because they know deep in their hearts it is the right thing to do.
When we see a woman in need of a later abortion we know that she is worthy of our support and respect. She should be able to trust that she is in the hands of a provider who will help make her decision a reality — and that those she has voted into office to look out for her will not make these decisions more difficult than they already are.
Access to abortion is an inextricable piece of women’s reproductive health needs, and we believe that an ethical view that allows for later abortion is inseparable from one that respects any aspect of a woman’s right to choose. We defend later abortions because we understand that women need them, just as they need early abortion—and, indeed, just as they need contraception.
Later abortion is something that some people find problematic — even those who support early abortion. This is often because they think it is unnecessary, preventable and requested too frequently. None of this is true.
It is crystal clear from a moral and ethical perspective that if you believe a woman should be able to follow her conscience in decisions around a pregnancy and you respect her bodily autonomy, then you support her right to choose not just in circumstances in which you feel comfortable, but those in which she decides is best. That is the essence of being pro-choice.
The moral responsibility of decision making, at whatever the gestation, should rest with women, their doctors and their families, because only they can know their circumstances and the results of their actions. There is no reason to assume that any higher burden of justification is required than for earlier procedures.
Pro-choice voters, including people of faith like me and many others, want politicians who empathize with the very complex and personal decisions women face around reproductive choices, who understand what policy decisions will best protect their rights and who won’t play politics with their lives. This is the kind of moral leadership that makes America great.
This piece was originally published by The Hill.