By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Bishops of the United States are calling on Congress to “seize this hopeful moment” to work together to protect the dignity of every human person and the common good, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which “presents a historic opportunity to reshape society for the better.”
In a statement on Monday, the Bishops express concern that since the 24 June Dobbs ruling, Congress has been taking up legislative proposals that are “harmful to the common good” and have not taken any action on the measures that the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has previously endorsed and continues to support which “would help to build up a culture of life.”
The US Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling overturned the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion nationwide. The Dobbs decision returned the regulation of abortion to the states.
Protecting all human life
The Bishops propose that reshaping society begins with the recognition that “human life is an inestimable gift from God with an inalienable right to life deserving of full legal protection.”
Also, they uphold that the family, founded upon the love and mutual self-gift of husband and wife, “is the first building block of society, and that raising children is both a great gift and a lifelong responsibility.”
In this light, “a principled commitment to being pro-life entails a commitment both to protecting all human life, especially the most vulnerable, and to advancing policies that help families to flourish,” the Bishop Chairmen said, urging that “the health, safety, and support of the family should be the focus of all good policymaking.”
Catholic social teaching shows a better way
The Bishops air their worry that since the Apex court’s 24 June decision, members of Congress have focused on legislation that “places no value on the lives of children until their moment of birth, severs sex and marriage from their meaning, promotes using people as means to ends, and would strip rights of conscientious objection from those who oppose these hallmarks of the throwaway culture.”
In fact, the US House of Representatives has passed, and the Senate may soon reconsider a series of bills, including the Women’s Health Protection Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, and the Right to Contraception Act, and is advancing appropriations bills that exclude longstanding provisions prohibiting federal taxpayer funding for abortion and protecting the conscience rights of healthcare providers.
To counter this, the Bishops uphold that “Catholic social teaching shows the way to a better place—a society marked by justice, mutual support, civility, friendship, mercy, and love—than where Congress is now leading,” the prelates added, as they called for legislation that would build " a culture of life."
Such bills, in the USCCB’s assessment, include, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act; an expanded child tax credit, including for pregnant moms; the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act; the PFAS Action Act; and a federal paid family leave policy.”
This legislation, the Bishops say, provide support “for the health and wellbeing of pregnant and parenting women, assistance with nutrition and affordable housing, environmental restrictions on chemicals that cause birth defects, and provisions to assist low-income families.”
Care for creation, supporting families
The American Bishops go on to welcome the “meaning consideration of needed investments in care for our common home” and stress that “care for creation is also integral to care for human life.”
Finally, they called on families and individuals, civil society, businesses, religious groups, government and members of Congress to ask themselves “how they are supporting families at this moment, particularly around welcoming new life and raising children through adulthood.”
The Monday statement was signed by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life & Youth, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.