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Women’s Health Protection Act would go beyond Roe, bishops warn


Bryan Olin Dozier | NurPhoto | NurPhoto via AFP

John Burger - published on 07/18/22

House of Representatives passes bill that would threaten state laws protecting the unborn.

Offering free or low-cost abortions instead of increasing the resources women need to care for themselves and their children is not choice but “coercion and callous abandonment,” two leading Catholic bishops said in response to a bill passed Friday by Congress.

The House of Representatives narrowly passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which the bishops say would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy and would eliminate pro-life laws at every level of government.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement called the bill, HR 8296, “the most unjust and extreme abortion on demand bill our nation has ever seen.”

“Answering the needs of women by promoting taxpayer-funded elective abortion, as this bill would do, is a grave evil and a failure to love and serve women,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori said. “Simply repeating the mantra that abortion is healthcare doesn’t make it so. Deliberately ending the lives of defenseless and voiceless human beings is the antithesis of healthcare.”

The bishops say the legislation would trump state laws requiring parental notification for minor girls, informed consent, and health and safety protections specific to abortion facilities. 

“H.R. 8296 also would compel all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars and would likely force health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as force employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion,” Dolan and Lori said. 

“We implore those who see abortion as a legitimate ‘solution’ to the needs of women to abandon this path of death and despair. Instead, we invite all to join us in pursuing a vision we presented in Standing with Moms in Need, a vision that upholds the truth that every human life is sacred and inviolable — a society in which the legal protection of human life is accompanied by profound care for mothers and their children,” the bishops said. “We exhort our nation to prioritize the well-being of women, children, and families with both material resources and personal accompaniment so that no woman ever feels forced to choose between her future and the life of her child.” 

Success of the Women’s Health Protection Act is uncertain in the Senate, where an even split between Democrats and Republicans means the legislation might not have the votes. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, introduced the bill in the upper chamber.

The nation’s largest union of registered nurses, the National Nurses United (NNU), called on the Senate to suspend its filibuster rules so the bill can pass. The majority female union urged the Senate to “take a stand for reproductive health justice.”

“Nurses understand that abortion is an essential part of health care, and that a patient’s right to control their own body is at the very basis of a free and just society,” the union said.

But Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, said the bill is “far outside the American mainstream and goes far beyond Roe v. Wade.”

“Abortion is not health care unless one construes the precious life of an unborn child to be analogous to a tumor to be excised or a disease to be vanquished,” Smith said during debate on the bill on July 15. “This legislation constitutes an existential threat to unborn children.”

Smith warned that the bill will nullify almost every pro-life restriction ever enacted by the states, including parental involvement laws in 37 states and pain capable unborn child protection laws in 19 states.

“Unborn babies are society’s youngest patients and deserve benign life affirming medical interventions — not medicines that kill,” he said. “The weakest and most vulnerable — unborn babies — deserve our respect, empathy, protection and love.”

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