By Vatican News
“We oppose abortion because we believe it takes the life of a child – every time,” says Archbishop Joseph Nauman, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the US Catholic Bishops' Conference. “But we also believe that if we’re going to have abortion, we ought to at least protect the health of the mother.”
Archbishop Naumann spoke with Vatican News following last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admission privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.
“This was a very reasonable… statute,” said Archbishop Naumann, noting that it had been passed by bipartisan majority in the state legislature. “It was a reasonable requirement which the court failed to uphold, by a 5 to 4 margin, a very close margin.”
Putting profits ahead of women’s health
Archbishop Naumann lamented the fact that the court seemed to prioritize abortion industry profits over women’s health. “Unfortunately, there’s tremendous profits being made in the abortion industry,” he said. “We think this particular statute, the court actually took the side of the abortion clinics, their desire to make a profit, over and above the health of women in this case.”
He agreed that there is an ideological component in the abortion debate. “There’s become this ideology that treats abortion differently than almost anything else in our society or culture.” Archbishop Naumann argued that the “so-called ‘right to abortion’” has no basis in the American Constitution, nor is there any basis for the idea that “abortion rights” supersede any other concern, “including health services.”
A disappointing outcome
The result of the most recent case before the Supreme Court “was very disappointing,” said Archbishop Naumann. Pro-life activists had hoped that the Chief Justice, John Roberts, would provide the fifth, and deciding, vote in favour of the law, overturning an earlier decision by the Court.
Instead, Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority, although he did not subscribe to their reasoning. Archbishop Naumann noted that Roberts felt bound by the precedent set by the Court in the previous ruling – a legal doctrine known as stare decisis (literally “let the decision stand”).
“I think this signals that the Chief Justice is not going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the [Supreme Court] decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States, without at least another vote on the Court,” the Archbishop said. “He doesn’t want to reverse this precedent with a 5 to 4 majority.”
Elections make a difference
Archbishop Naumann emphasised the importance of elections. “We don’t elect Supreme Court justices. But we do elect Presidents who appoint them, and we do elect Senators who are the ones who have to confirm the appointments of the President,” he said.
With regard to the Supreme Court, he noted that there are four firm pro-life votes. “We think we are very close to having a majority” on the court, he continued. “And if we had another vote on the Supreme Court, I think that the chief justice would come along and be the sixth vote, but not the fifth vote.”
“So elections do make a difference,” he said.
Protecting the unborn with love, not law
Archbishop Naumann recognized the difficulties facing defenders of the unborn. “Right now, we’re in this climate where we don’t have… this protection of the unborn.”
But, he said, “what we can’t do with the law, we can do with love.”
He pointed to a nationwide initiative called “Walking with Moms in Need,” aimed at evaluating the services available to women facing difficult pregnancies, and determining how the Church can better support women in those situations. “Where are the gaps in these services?” he asked. “How can be communicate better, what services are available, and how can we accompany women better?”
Archbishop Naumann insisted, “We can save lives with love, that we can’t protect with law at this moment.”