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    • An article December 6, 2022
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Catholic Bishops are Ready for a Post-Roe v. Wade Election

“The Catholic Church must be prepared to act if Roe v. Wade is overturned,” Archbishop William E. Lori, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, declared on Nov. 17, 2021.

That was two weeks before the Supreme Court even heard the case of Dobbs v. Jackson on Dec. 1, 2021.

Following the oral arguments they heard, the Supreme Court justices met in a private conference to cast an initial vote on the case. Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett voted in the majority to overrule Roe, according to Politico.

“By overturning Roe, the Supreme Court delivers for the Catholic Church” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote on May 10. For the bishops, “their long game has come to fruition,” Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, told Vennochi. “I would call them the prime movers of the anti-choice movement,” she added.

 “The Supreme Court’s impending repeal of Roe will be owed more to [Catholic doctrine] than judicial argumentation,” Maureen Dowd stated in a May 14 New York Times column. All six of the right-wing justices, including Gorsuch, “were raised as Catholic …. There is a corona of religious fervor around the court, a churchly ethos that threatens to turn our whole country upside down,” Dowd noted.

 “As a Catholic … it’s hard for me to watch the Church trying to control women’s sexuality after a shocking number of its own priests sexually assaulted children and teenagers for decades, and got recycled into other parishes, as the Church covered up the whole scandal,” Dowd wrote.

The U.S. bishops have named abortion as the preeminent issue of our time for decades. We know their position is political and not “pro-life.” When Republican Gov. Mitt Romney instituted Romneycare, which provided insurance coverage for abortion, there was no organized opposition from the bishops. In fact, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said “Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts governor in decades.” 

The U.S. bishops are adjuncts of the Republican Party. Almost half (47%) publicly admitted to preferring Fox News to any other TV news in a 2016 survey religionnews. com reported.

The bishops and other “pro-life groups across the country are mobilizing for the midterms with messaging centered around emphasizing the extreme stance of pro-abortion Democrats, advancing pro-life state initiatives, and emphasizing compassion for mothers in a post-Roe world,” stated the National Catholic Register on May 12.

An Extreme Position

Multiple polls have shown a majority of Americans are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. However, only 35% want it legal under any circumstances according to a Gallup poll released on June 2. Most agreed there should be some restrictions.

Law professor Jonathan Turley noted in a May 23 opinion published by USA Today that some Democrats “have argued that the decision to abort must be left entirely to the woman, without limitations. If adopted into law that would mean a nine-month-old fetus could be aborted at will …. If a politician truly believes that the matter should be left entirely to the woman throughout the course of her pregnancy, he or she is going far beyond anything that the Supreme Court has maintained in prior case law.”

During campaigns, Republicans will portray that politician as favoring “a nine-month-old fetus being aborted at will,” a position at odds with 65% of Americans according to the Gallup poll.

The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List is “pouring $72 million into the midterms in nine battleground states,” Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications at SBA List, told the National Catholic Register. “We are working to contact 8 million voters overall and 4 million directly at their doorsteps, and we’re talking to them about the extremism of the Democratic Party position on abortion,” Carroll reported in the May 12 NCR article.

Battleground States

If Roe is overturned, it would send the matter back to the states. As many as 26 red states would institute some sort of abortion-access restrictions within a year. At least 12 red states have “trigger bans” on the books, with restrictions that would kick in automatically according to the Guttmacher Institution, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

So the battleground will be in the purple states where Republicans need to retain or gain seats in the House and Senate.

In the 2020 presidential election, “swing states, such as Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin have an oversized influence on the outcome of the presidential election. Catholics comprise 20-25 percent of the population in these states,” stated Political Science Now. “Targeting this group proved effective for Trump in 2016, when he won the Catholic vote in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa by larger margins than his statewide differential,” Political Science Now reported.

The bishops have “Catholic Conferences” at the state level to influence local legislation and regulations. Regardless of their overtly political purpose, these groups still get the same “dark money” benefits as any religious organization  – secret income, expenditures, assets plus tax-deductible donations. “The complexity of the network of nonprofits and ‘dark money’ funds [to the ‘pro-life’ movement] makes it difficult to produce a full accounting of the money flows,” noted Associated Press reporter Ashraf Khalil.

“In Florida, Christie Arnold with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops testified Jan. 19 before a House subcommittee in support of a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Ohio Catholic Conference said it also supported this legislation,” cruxnow.com reported.

In May, “Right to Life of Michigan, the Michigan Catholic Conference and two county prosecutors are asking the appeals court to throw out an injunction granted by Judge Elizabeth Gleicher,” cruxnow.com reported. “If the injunction stands, it means abortion would be legal in Michigan if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision by summer.” The court set a briefing schedule that runs through July 5.

On May 2, a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was obtained and published by Politico. The 98-page document states in part, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”  Although court experts emphasized the draft may still be subject to changes before any final decision is announced, most commentators agreed that Roe v. Wade would be overturned.

Chief Justice Roberts, however, “suggested a compromise of sorts that would preserve some constitutional right to abortion. He raised the possibility that states would be able to ban abortion at 15 weeks but go no further,” CNN reported. Experts give the chief justice’s compromise little chance of succeeding. But even if Roberts prevails, this would also send the matter back to the states.  

 “Caring” for Mothers and Babies

“The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world where maternal mortality is rising. And, the U.S. has nearly the highest maternal mortality rage among high-income countries. Each year, approximately 700 American women die during pregnancy, childbirth or subsequent complications….

“And with respect to infant mortality, the U.S. ranks 33 out of 36 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations. In 2018, more than 21,000 infants died,” Joshua Cohen reported in the August 2021 issue of Forbes.

To counter the well-deserved criticism that Republicans have worked hard to deny healthcare for women and children, in view of the midterm election they now profess “caring” for mothers and babies.

House Republican presented their post-Roe messaging strategy in a memo to their members. “Our message is clear ….We will celebrate every opportunity to support unborn babies, mothers, and families in our communities,” the memo states as reported in the April 7 edition of the National Review.

“How to protect both mothers and their babies” is the title of an article written by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) published by The Washington Times on May 12. He announced he would introduce the “Providing for Life” act, “sweeping legislation to dramatically expand the child tax credit for working families [what he called “socialism” when Democrats proposed an expansion in October 2021] to protect babies and their mothers.”

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, running for reelection, signed a new law on May 17 making low-income mothers eligible for a year of Medicaid coverage after giving birth. 

“Building a post-Roe v. Wade child- and family-support infrastructure is no small endeavor” and “government can’t do it alone.” Jedd Medefind, a former official of the Bush Administration wrote in the May 17 Wall Street Journal. “Fortunately, there’s a wide network of private charities.”

“Walking With Moms in Need” is the name of the USCCB program announced Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “A reversal of Roe should be coupled with expanded outreach and support for pregnant women and new mothers,” he explained in an article by the Associated Press on May 13.

“Walking With Moms in Need” will be promoted during the USCCB observation of Religious Freedom Week June 22-29 as noted on their website.

The bishops’ concern for mothers is as hypocritical as their position on abortion. Out of 176 U.S. dioceses, only four offer 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.  44 do not offer any paid leave. 118 dioceses did not even respond, or declined to provide answers, to the survey conducted by FemCatholic as reported March 25 on their website.

The Election

Much can happen before the election. “Most voters aren’t faced with issues surrounding abortion on a consistent basis. In three or four months a lot of people are going to forget all about Roe v. Wade, but they’re not going to forget the fact that inflation is 10% right now and that milk’s more expensive and gas is more expensive,” Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, told the NCR in their May 12 article.

Public opinion is shaped by the latest headlines. Issues like the MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter have faded. It is not incomprehensible that Alito’s draft opinion was purposely leaked so that the outrage and activism it generated would fade by November.

If abortion, however, is an issue that could get-out-the-vote for Republicans in the midterms, the Catholic bishops and their GOP allies are ready.

Post-Election, the Bishops will Revert to their Old Ways

“David Gibson, director of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, questioned the significance of recent promises by Catholic bishops and other anti-abortion leaders to boost support for mothers. “Can this movement that is so tied to the Republican Party and the conservative movement suddenly pivot to mobilizing its people for socially liberal policies? Gibson asked, referring to programs such as subsidized child care and paid maternity leaves,” as reported the Associated Press on May 13.

“It’s unrealistically hopeful to think that the habits of division will be abandoned by the bishops” after the elections, said Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union. He expects the bishops’ “entrenched polarization over abortion” will “continue even if Roe is overturned,” as reported in the same AP article.

The Future: Yes, LGBTQ Human Rights are in Peril

“If Roe finally falls, Catholic Church leaders will rejoice and get behind a federal abortion ban. And, then what about same-sex marriage? The Catholic Church opposes that, too …. Citizens should be thinking long and hard about that,” Joan Vennochi wrote in her May 10 article in the Boston Globe.

“Anti-abortion activists are also seeking to overturn other rights, such as access to contraception and same-sex marriage,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned during an interview of the May 23 “Morning Joe” broadcast.

“The Sexual Revolutionaries are not wrong to be fretting over gay marriage and contraception,” wrote Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute. “Once the court stops propping up the Sexual Revolution with so-called rights invented out of thin air, a lot of ‘settled issues’ will be unsettled,” she noted in the May 18 edition of the National Catholic Register.

The Ruth Institute is listed as one of many anti-LGBTQ hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Nevertheless, the Institute’s views are supported by the Register, owned by the EWTN Global Catholic Network, the largest religious media network in the world.

Unless we vote, and encourage others to vote, not only our democracy, but also more human rights will disappear.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.

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One Response

  1. They may be anti-abortion but are hardly pro-life.
    Jack

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