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Legal Protection for Unborn, Support for Mothers Both Needed, Say Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.

WASHINGTON—"Our faith requires us to oppose abortion on demand and to provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies," Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., said in an October 21 statement. The bishops urged Catholics to study the teaching of the Church, rather than rely on statements and materials from outside groups and individuals.

Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy made the joint statement in response to arguments that the Church should accept the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion as a "permanent fixture of constitutional law" and should concede that the only way to reduce abortions is to provide more government support for pregnant women. At the same time the two bishops also responded to those who argue that the Church's efforts against abortion should focus solely on restoring recognition for unborn children's human rights and that proposals to provide social and economic support for pregnant women distract from that effort.

Cardinal Rigali chairs of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Bishop Murphy chairs the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"Providing support for pregnant women so they choose to have their babies is a necessary but not sufficient response to abortion. Similarly, reversal of Roe is a necessary but not sufficient condition for restoring an order of justice in our society's treatment of defenseless human life," they said.

The bishops also noted that "in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision knocked down laws against abortion in all 50 states, fabricating a constitutional 'right' to abortion that continues to haunt and divide our society....Roe v. Wade is a clear case of an 'intrinsically unjust law' we are morally obliged to oppose. Reversing it is not a mere political tactic, but a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life," they said.

The bishops added that legalizing abortion had greatly increased annual abortions in the United States. "The law is a teacher, and Roe taught many women, physicians and others that abortion is an acceptable answer to a wide range of problems."

The bishops noted strides made in modifying Roe v. Wade's unjust legal precedent and drew attention to the many lives saved by the modest laws and regulations allowed under Roe. They voiced concern that the pending pro-abortion "Freedom of Choice Act" (S. 1173, H.R. 1964) in Congress would threaten strides made in limiting abortions.

"Bans on public funding [of abortion], laws requiring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors, and other modest and widely supported laws have saved millions of lives. Laws made possible by reversing Roe would save many more," they said.

"On the other hand, this progress could be lost through a key pro-abortion proposal, the 'Freedom of Choice Act,' which supporters say would knock down hundreds of current pro-life laws and forbid any public program to 'discriminate' against abortion in providing services to women," Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy said.

"By protecting the child's life to the maximum degree possible, improving life-affirming support for pregnant women, and changing the attitudes and prejudices imposed on many women to make them see abortion as an acceptable or necessary solution, we will truly help build a culture of life," they said.

The full text of the joint statement may be found at www.usccb.org/prolife/Rigali-Murphy-Joint-Statement.pdf.

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