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Congressman Tim Ryan Comes Clean on Abortion Stance, but do His Reasons Hold Water?


AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Susan E. Wills - published on 01/30/15 - updated on 06/08/17

Here's how his rationales are easily refuted

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And then there were two. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), a lifelong Catholic from the Diocese of Youngstown, and self-described pro-lifer, confirmed in an op-ed this week what has been pretty obvious for years: he’s going to openly side with supporters of abortion and broader access to contraception — although it’s difficult to see how access to contraceptives could be broader than being free everywhere for everyone, including minors without their parents’ knowledge. (A little known provision in Obamacare ensures that.) His retreat from pro-life principles means that all pro-life Democrat legislators on Capitol Hill can now caucus in a broom closet. Only Congressmen Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Collin Peterson (D-MI) remain.

Ryan’s reasons for changing his “thinking” about abortion are, he writes, grounded in “one of the essential and highest teachings of [Catholicism] “judge not, lest ye be judged. I’ve heard firsthand from women … about the circumstances and hardships that accompany this personal choice, which we should not judge.”

This is hard to credit for several reasons. First, in opposing abortion and defending the right to life of unborn girls and boys, no one is passing judgment on the women who undergo abortions. They, too, are victims of the abortion industry and the abortion license that allows men to walk away from their moral obligations to their offspring and to the women they impregnated. With marriage, love and support off the table, girls and women are left alone to cope with “their” crisis, facing direct pressure from their partner to abort or the indirect pressure of abandonment. Some choice.

Second, “judge not, lest ye be judged” is hardly one of the “highest teachings” of Catholicism. It’s used, rather, as the refuge of scoundrels to silence debate on controversial issues. Humans are moral creatures; we naturally judge acts (and laws and Supreme Court opinions) as good or bad for individuals, families and society. Every law reflects a judgment call that these activities should be encouraged or those discouraged, depending on how they contribute to or undermine the good of individuals, families and society. I think most Catholics would agree that the new commandment given in Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse is the highest teaching of Catholicism:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another 
(John 13:34-35).

Or, perhaps, one could point to the “Golden Rule”:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets(Matthew 7:12).

Or Jesus’ reply to the rich young man who asked what he must do to attain eternal life:

"If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."
He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (
Matthew 19:17-19).

The common refrain in all of these passages is to love, and refrain from killing others, including others who are not yet born.

Congressman Ryan explains that it was listening to the experiences of women who chose to abort in very difficult circumstances that convinced him he must advocate in favor of abortion, relying on the principle of nonjudgmentalism rather than the passages above and the constant teaching of the Church since the late first century Didache ("Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles") proscribed abortion: “
Chapter Two. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. …  you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.” Here are the circumstances which, in Ryans’ mind, negate all the above:

I have sat with women from Ohio and across the nation and heard them talk about their varying experiences: abusive relationships, financial hardship, health scares, rape and incest. There are endless stories about women in troubling situations — the woman who became pregnant and has a violent spouse; the woman who lost her job and is unable to afford another child; or the underage girl worried she’ll be thrown out of her house if she reveals her pregnancy.

These are heartbreaking scenarios and some were cited in
Roe as pretexts for overturning the laws of 50 states, but in no case is abortion a solution to the crisis.

In an abusive relationship? How would an abortion fix that relationship? Call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit the site of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Financial hardship? There are about 4,000 pregnancy resource centers in the US and every Catholic diocesan pro-life office will help any pregnant woman with a "crisis pregnancy" to access whatever she needs through state and federal agencies and local charities. Many homes allow women to remain in their care, with their children, for a year or more after having given birth. Not in a financial position to raise a child? Adoption is a loving alternative. Thousands of married couples now wait years to adopt a newborn and are happy to cover all prenatal and delivery expenses for the joy of bringing a baby home.

Health scares? Life-threatening complications during pregnancy (which in all or nearly all cases occur after viability) may mean delivering the baby early, but never require killing the child. During the debates over the “necessity” of partial-birth abortion, many OB-GYNS came forward to dispute the claim that such a procedure or any method of abortion would ever be necessary to save the life or health of the mother. Curtis Cook, MD, a specialist in high-risk obstetrics, testified in federal court:

[Question:] When a pregnancy has to be ended prematurely, because of a maternal health condition of the kind that you treat, is it ever necessary to take a destructive act against the fetus directly, in order to protect the health interests of the mother?

[Answer:] No, all that is required for recovery of the mother is for separation of the fetus and placenta from her system so that she can start the recovery process. There is nothing inherent in the destruction of the fetus that starts to facilitate that process.

Harlan Giles, MD, professor of obstetrics and perinatology who performed abortions up to viability gave this testimony in another trial challenging a ban on partial-birth abortion:

I do not think there are any maternal conditions that I’m aware of that mandate ending the pregnancy that, also, require that the fetus be dead. … And I cannot think of a fetal condition or malformation, no matter how severe, that actually causes harm or risk to the mother of continuing the pregnancy.

Rape and incest? The fact that a child is conceived as a result of the appalling crime of rape or incest, does not mean justice requires that the death penalty be imposed on the innocent child. Sandra Mahkorn, MD, MPH, MS, a family physician and former counselor for sexual assault victims, conducted a survey of counseling agencies assisting women with problem pregnancies. Among the 37 women whom therapists identified as having reported a rape-related pregnancy —

“28 continued their pregnancy, 5 chose abortion and 4 were lost to follow up. Many women in this study initially had strong negative feelings and fears. Of those who continued their pregnancy, two-thirds developed more positive feelings toward their unborn child as pregnancy progressed. Their feelings of self esteem and contentedness improved during the pregnancy, while anxiety, depression, anger and fear decreased. 

… The majority of those who decided against abortion chose to raise their child, while a small percentage opted for adoption. A study of 164 such women found that the majority of those who had abortions regretted having done so and said the abortion caused them additional problems.  By contrast, among those who delivered a child conceived by rape, satisfaction was higher and none stated any regret for having given birth.

Two final points. Some of the many ways that abortion causes harm to women — physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually — are outlined in a recent article, Congressman Ryan might learn that the facts don’t fit the usual Planned Parenthood talking points. Women post tragic personal stories of their lives after abortion on many websites:,, are just a few. International research on the impact of abortion on women can be found here.

Contrary to what Congressman Ryan believes, every pertinent study reveals that greater access to contraception results not in a reduction in abortion, but in higher rates of both unintended pregnancies and abortions. What’s more, Planned Parenthood has known this for 60 years. Kenneth D. Whitehead, former US Assistant Secretary of Education, has assembled many early statements by the "fathers" of the US reproductive rights movement in his article "Do Sex Education and Access to Contraception Cut Down on Abortion?"  He quotes, for example, the concluding statement of a 1955 PPFA conference: "It was recognized by conference participants that no scientific evidence has been developed to support the claim that increased availability of contraceptive service will clearly result in a decreased illegal abortion rate." Among the signatories were Alan Guttmacher, MD (an early President of PPFA), Christopher Tietze, MD (PPFA’s principal researcher for years), John Rock, MD (co-developer of the Pill), and Louis M. Hellman, MD (a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs and administrator of the Title X program).

If you’re inclined to let Congressman Ryan know about these facts or to share your personal experience with abortion, he can be contacted at  

Susan Willsis a senior writer for Aleteia’s English language edition.

AbortionJesus ChristPoliticsPro-life
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