Abortion, public policy, and the Catholic bishops

This article by Richard Doerflinger in America magazine “The U.S. bishops aren’t the extremists in the abortion debate” makes what I think are some very important points about the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion and public policy. It answers a few questions I’m sometimes asked and clears up some misunderstandings.

Catholic teaching does, in fact, allow for an incremental approach to ending abortion, as Pope St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, 73. This means that, while Catholic politicians can never legitimately vote for more permissive abortion laws, they can in good conscience make reasonable compromises when advancing pro-life legislation.

The article also alludes to how skewed the mainstream media coverage of the issue has become, making such compromises that much harder to achieve. The position of today’s Democratic party on abortion–with a few brave exceptions, such as the governor of Louisiana–could not be more extreme. Government neutrality on abortion is no longer enough; by funding it, the state must make abortion its de facto preferential choice. Even health regulations meant to avoid cases like that of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Kermit Gosnell must be abolished. Pro-life pregnancy centers (and churches) are vilified and vandalized. Not only must late-term abortions be protected, but the ex-governor of Virginia speaks blithely of killing infants after they have been born.

Doerflinger rightly concludes:

Are there extremists on the fringe of the pro-life movement, as in all movements? Yes. But on the pro-abortion side, extremism is very much in the driver’s seat—and mainstream media protect it through bias and misinformation. My hope is that Catholic journalism will provide a corrective. Meanwhile, the U.S. bishops remain committed to principle—including the principle of respect and support for both patients involved in abortion—as well as to recognizing political realities in a pluralistic society. That deserves to be recognized and emulated.

Author: Anthony Lusvardi, SJ

Anthony R. Lusvardi, S.J., teaches sacramental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He writes on a variety of theological, cultural, and literary topics.

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