ZE08100205 - 2008-10-02
Cardinal Rigali's Statement for Respect Life Sunday
"We Cannot Tolerate an Even Greater Loss of Innocent Human Lives"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a statement for this weekend's Respect Life Sunday. The theme for this year is "Hope and Trust in Life."
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On October 5, 2008, Catholics across the United States will again celebrate Respect Life Sunday. Throughout the month of October, Catholic parishes and organizations will sponsor hundreds of educational conferences, prayer services, and opportunities for public witness, as well as events to raise funds for programs assisting those in need. Such initiatives are integral to the Church's ongoing effort to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended.
Education and advocacy during Respect Life Month address a broad range of moral and public policy issues. Among these, the care of persons with disabilities and those nearing the end of life is an enduring concern. Some medical ethicists wrongly promote ending the lives of patients with serious physical and mental disabilities by withdrawing
their food and water, even though -- or in some cases precisely because -- they are not imminently dying. This November, the citizens of Washington State will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. In neighboring Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal, the state has refused to cover the cost of life-sustaining treatments for some patients facing terminal illness, while callously informing them that Oregon will pay for suicide pills. Such policies betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human
Embryonic stem cell research also presents grave ethical concerns. The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research -- and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells. We applaud the remarkable therapeutic successes that have been achieved using stem cells from cord blood and adult tissues. We vigorously oppose initiatives, like the one confronting Michigan voters in November, that would endorse the deliberate destruction of developing human beings for embryonic stem cell research.
Turning to abortion, we note that most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases (danger to the mother's life or cases of rape or incest). Also encouraging is the finding of a recent Guttmacher Institute study that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26% between 1989 and 2004. The decline was steepest, 58%, among girls under 18. An important factor in this trend is that teens increasingly are choosing to remain abstinent until their late teens or early 20s. Regrettably, when they do become sexually active prior to marrying, many become pregnant and choose abortion -- the abortion rate increased among women aged 20 and older between 1974 and 2004, although the rate is now gradually declining.
Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The "Freedom of Choice Act" ("FOCA") has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.
FOCA establishes abortion as a "fundamental right" throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could "interfere" with that right or "discriminate" against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden.
Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.
We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.
For twenty-four years, the Catholic Church has provided free, confidential counseling to individuals seeking emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion, whether their own or a loved one's. We look forward to the day when these counseling services are no longer needed, when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. If FOCA is enacted, however, that day may recede into the very distant future.
In this Respect Life Month, let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance. In this and in so many ways we will truly build a culture of life.
"License to Kill"
Freedom of Choice Act (Introduced in Senate)
108th CONGRESS 2d Session S. 2020 To prohibit, consistent with Roe v. Wade, the interference by the government with a woman's right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, and for other purposes. IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES January 22, 2004
Mrs. BOXER (for herself, Mr. CORZINE, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. LAUTENBERG, Mrs. CLINTON, Ms. CANTWELL, Mr. JEFFORDS, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. SARBANES, and Ms. MIKULSKI) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
A BILL To prohibit, consistent with Roe v. Wade, the interference by the government with a woman's right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Freedom of Choice Act'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress finds the following:
(1) The United States was founded on the principles of individual liberty, personal privacy, and equality. Such principles ensure that each individual is free to make the most intimate decisions free from governmental interference and discrimination.
(2) A woman's decision to commence, prevent, continue, or terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate decisions an individual ever faces. As such, reproductive health decisions are best made by the woman, in consultation with her medical provider or loved ones, without governmental interference.
(3) In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479), and in 1973, in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113) and Doe v. Bolton (410 U.S. 179), the Supreme Court recognized the right to privacy protected by the Constitution and that such right encompassed the right of every woman to weigh the personal, moral, and religious considerations involved in deciding whether to commence, prevent, continue, or terminate a pregnancy.
(4) The Roe v. Wade decision carefully balanced the rights of women to make important reproductive decisions with the state's interest in potential life. Under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy is absolute only prior to fetal viability, with the state permitted to ban abortion after fetal viability except when necessary to protect the life or health of a woman.
(5) These decisions have protected the health and lives of women in the United States. Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, an estimated 1,200,000 women each year were forced to resort to illegal abortions, despite the known hazards that included unsanitary conditions, incompetent treatment, infection, hemorrhage, disfiguration, and death.
(6) According to one estimate, prior to 1973, as many as 5,000 women died each year in the United States as a result of having an illegal abortion.
(7) In countries where abortion remains illegal, the risk of complications and maternal mortality is high. According to the World Health Organization, of the approximately 600,000 pregnancy-related deaths occurring annually around the world, 80,000 are associated with unsafe abortions.
(8) The Roe v. Wade decision expanded the opportunities for women to participate equally in society. In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833), the Supreme Court observed that, `[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.'.
(9) Even though the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed a constitutional right to choose whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy, threats to that right remain, including possible reversal or further erosion by the Supreme Court of the right, and legislative and administrative policies at all levels of government that make abortion more difficult and dangerous to obtain.
(10) 87 percent of the counties in the United States have no abortion provider.
(11) Legal barriers to the full range of reproductive services endanger the health and lives of women.
(12) Women should have meaningful access to reproductive health services to prevent unintended pregnancies, thereby reducing the need for abortions.
(13) To ensure that a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy is available to all women in the United States, Federal protection for that right is necessary.
(14) Although Congress may not create constitutional rights without amending the Constitution, Congress may, where authorized by its enumerated powers and not prohibited by the Constitution, enact legislation to create and secure statutory rights in areas of legitimate national concern.
(15) Congress has the affirmative power under section 8 of article I of the Constitution and section 5 of the 14th amendment to the Constitution to enact legislation to facilitate interstate commerce and to prevent State interference with interstate commerce, liberty, or equal protection of the laws.
(16) Federal protection of a woman's right to choose to prevent or terminate a pregnancy falls within this affirmative power of Congress, in part, because--
(A) many women cross State lines to obtain abortions and many more would be forced to do so absent a constitutional right or Federal protection;
(B) reproductive health clinics are commercial actors that regularly purchase medicine, medical equipment, and other necessary supplies from out-of-State suppliers; and
(C) reproductive health clinics employ doctors, nurses, and other personnel who travel across State lines in order to provide reproductive health services to patients.
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) GOVERNMENT- The term `government' includes a branch, department, agency, instrumentality, or official (or other individual acting under color of law) of the United States, a State, or a subdivision of a State.
(2) STATE- The term `State' means each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and each territory or possession of the United States.
(3) VIABILITY- The term `viability' means that stage of pregnancy when, in the best medical judgment of the attending physician based on the particular medical facts of the case before the physician, there is a reasonable likelihood of the sustained survival of the fetus outside of the woman.
SEC. 4. INTERFERENCE WITH REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PROHIBITED.
(a) STATEMENT OF POLICY- It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.
(b) PROHIBITION OF INTERFERENCE- A government may not--
(1) deny or interfere with a woman's right to choose--
(A) to bear a child;
(B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or
(C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or
(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.
(c) CIVIL ACTION- An individual aggrieved by a violation of this section may obtain appropriate relief (including relief against a government) in a civil action.
SEC. 5. SEVERABILITY.
If any provision of this Act, or the application of such provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this Act, or the application of such provision to persons or circumstances other than those as to which the provision is held to be unconstitutional, shall not be affected thereby.
SEC. 6. RETROACTIVE EFFECT.
This Act applies to every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.
Another Episcopal response:
The Toledo Blade
Article published Saturday, October 4, 2008
Reject the Freedom of Choice Act
By BISHOP LEONARD P. BLAIR
A WEEK ago today, an article was published in The Blade, "Who really is the pro-life candidate?" by Richard A. Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo.
To teach Catholic studies at a secular university one does not have to be a Roman Catholic, but Mr. Gaillardetz made a specific point of identifying himself as a Catholic in his article. Lest Mr. Gaillardetz's teaching position and self-identification as a Catholic create any misunderstandings, it should be pointed out that his opinions regarding the issue of abortion, and Roe vs. Wade in particular, do not reflect the clear and consistent moral position of the United States Catholic bishops. He suggests that attempts to overturn Roe vs. Wade are problematic and perhaps futile. It should be pointed out that at one time in our nation's history, the abolition of slavery was also considered by many to be problematic and futile, and extremely divisive.
Yet our nation was not content with simply reducing the number of slaves or easing their condition. It was the very institution of slavery that was morally abhorrent and incompatible with the principles on which our nation was founded.
Roe vs. Wade has been responsible for the killing of tens of millions of unborn children. It has effectively rendered the definition of human personhood flexible and negotiable. It has also implicitly excluded unborn children from human status. This morally flawed thinking is now deployed on behalf of physician-assisted suicide, fetal experimentation, and human cloning. Each reduces the human person to a problem or an object.
In 2002, the bishops reaffirmed what has been a consistent moral position. They wrote: "Roe vs. Wade cannot stand as the law of this great nation, a nation founded on the self-evident truth that all people are created with an inalienable right to life. We are committed, no matter how long it may take, no matter the sacrifices required, to bringing about a reversal of this tragic Supreme Court decision. We will speak out on behalf of the sanctity of each and every human life wherever it is threatened, from conception to natural death, and we urge all people of good will to do likewise. … Roe vs. Wade must be reversed" (A Matter of the Heart). Furthermore, "Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. … But being right about such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life" (cf. Living the Gospel of Life, 1998).
I certainly agree with Mr. Gaillardetz that we must also strive to reduce abortions even while Roe vs. Wade remains in effect. This is already happening. Annual abortions in our country declined from over 1.5 million to just over 1 million in recent years. Factors in this decline include a growing public revulsion at abortion - prompted in part by greater awareness of the grisly "partial-birth" abortion method - and the passage of hundreds of modest but effective pro-life laws such as public funding bans, informed-consent laws, laws requiring parental involvement when minors seek abortions, and so on.
Tragically, some lawmakers would reverse these gains and boost the abortion rate by invalidating all such laws, through extreme measures such as the proposed "Freedom of Choice Act" in Congress. Despite its deceptive title, it would deprive the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry, and would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. No one supporting such legislation can claim in good faith to be working to reduce abortions.
As the late Pope John Paul II affirmed: "It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop" (Evangelium Vitae, no. 101).
The failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the "rightness" of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.
The Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo.