The National Catholic Review

The legalization of abortion in 1973 unleashed a significant threat against human dignity. By narrowing the definition of a human person, the United States Supreme Court eliminated legal protections for the most vulnerable. Since that fateful decision, over 55 million unborn children have lost their lives to abortion.

Today, we see a new threat to human dignity, as conscience protections for people with moral or religious objections to abortion are being taken away. Powerful individuals and institutions in our society seek to force people to be part of the abortion business.

In 2009, Cathy DeCarlo, a nurse and woman of faith, was forced to participate in a 22-week abortion against her will. Despite her protests, her supervisors required that she assist at an abortion involving the dismemberment of an unborn child, leading her to suffer long-term psychological trauma, including graphic nightmares and insomnia.

Cathy is not an isolated victim. Today, the State of California illegally requires almost all insurers, even those providing coverage to churches and faith-based organizations, to include abortion coverage in their health plans. Churches, pastors and charities that recognize abortion as a grave sin are being compelled by state regulations to participate in the funding of abortions. This is a severe threat to institutions that make important contributions to the common good. Unfortunately, other states are beginning to follow California’s lead.

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act would have helped. ANDA would have given protection to medical professionals like Cathy DeCarlo, hospitals and clinics that do not want to perform abortions, and religious institutions like churches and church ministries whose teachings forbid them to facilitate abortion. ANDA simply allows people who believe all human life is sacred to serve others in freedom. Unfortunately, ANDA failed to be enacted into law late last year, so the threats to conscience remain.

Today, we recall that the right to life and to religious freedom are both rooted in the inherent dignity of the human person.  Each and every individual is endowed with that dignity, which cannot be taken away. Religious and secular sources alike—both the teaching of our Church and the Declaration of Independence, for example—agree on this fundamental principle.

Forcing people to do what they believe is wrong—especially when it involves the killing of another innocent human being—degrades people.  Laws and institutions that force people to participate in abortion attack the conscience. They attack human dignity.

Catholics are a people animated by hope in the power of God’s mercy. As Pope Francis stated during his visit to the United States, “American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities.” And Cardinal Timothy Dolan reminds us, we must continue to share a vision of life and love that excludes no one.

The annual March for Life in Washington—and all the marches and prayer vigils marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—remind us that we must persevere. We march for the children who have lost their lives to abortion since 1973, and we bear witness to true freedom, the freedom of a society that honors the life and dignity of all people.

Most Rev. William E. Lori is the archbishop of Baltimore.


Will Stout | 1/25/2016 - 5:28am

Abortion is a cruel activity in my opinion. Today, there are a number of ways to restrict pregnancy. People are compulsorily make use of it rather aborting the baby. I support to stop abortion and hope that everyone will join my hands together to get it sanctioned. The law has to study the problems by aborting. Sometimes, it will cause pregnancy problem in woman.

Spy Security Shop

William deHaas | 1/22/2016 - 9:53am

Talk about a skewed and partial advocacy piece. Lori violates these four approaches:

The problem with the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act was not its modesty, but its partisan quality. This bill was never going to pass on account of the hold that the pro-choice groups have over the Democrats and the White House: It was a “show vote,” something for Republicans to vote for so that they could punch their pro-life ticket and demonstrate their credentials to pro-life activists.
When churchmen give credence to a partisan effort, they diminish their own credibility and they harm the pro-life cause. Let me repeat that: Churchmen harm the pro-life cause when they allow themselves to be dragged into partisan fights and make no mistake, most of the pro-life groups, like most of the pro-choice groups, are arms of their respective political parties. And just as Cardinal Dolan was right about the increasingly extremist pro-choice language, which sees legal abortion not as a necessary evil, or even a choice, but at a positive good, there is no denying the many pro-life groups are exceedingly hateful. The American Life League, the Lepanto Institute, the Susan B. Anthony List are all trafficking in hate and yet none among the bishops will call them out.

The partisanship in which the pro-life movement and, consequently the U.S. bishops, have been complicit was made obvious to all when the bishops could not get to a “yes” on the Affordable Care Act. I have heard officials at the USCCB continually misrepresent the ACA. I was frankly shocked when the National Catholic Bioethics Center stated that Catholic social service agencies should not become navigators for the ACA, citing a tendentious understanding of complicity with evil. The similar tendentious understanding of intrinsic evil, and its relationship to voting, has also exposed the ways to which the bishops have allowed themselves to be dragged into partisan language and logic that ill suits their office and damages the cause over the long haul.

Lori needs to be educated by Cupich.

William Rydberg | 1/23/2016 - 1:13pm

Actually the Roe versus Wade decision was based on Right to Privacy. One wonders what "Right" trumps that, perhaps PAC money, but is that a right?

The Right to Life is bobbing in a sea of post-modernity in North America, in my opinion.

As for the Catholic Bishops consistent position (long before the Protestants realized and finally got on board) from early days; you'll have to blame Jesus. Jesus is where responsibility for the position originates.

And I for one am OK with that!


Crystal Watson | 1/21/2016 - 6:12pm

"Cathy DeCarlo, a nurse and woman of faith, was forced to participate in a 22-week abortion against her will."

She couldn't quit her job?

Recently by William E. Lori

Beyond the Fortnight (June 20, 2013)
In Defense of Human Dignity (October 13, 2008)
Human Dignity and the End of Life (August 4, 2008)