This week brought two significant developments in U.S. policy regarding abortion. First, President Trump reinstated the “Mexico City rule,” the policy that bars foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funds from providing or promoting abortion as a means of family planning. In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution to permanently codify the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of taxpayer money for abortion services within the United States. Both the Mexico City policy and the Hyde Amendment provide exceptions for situations involving life-threatening conditions, incest or rape.
Both measures are significant steps in the right direction. As the U.S. bishops have often said, such policies are in line with the views of the American people. In a recent Marist Poll, the overwhelming majority (83 percent) of Americans said they support policies like the Mexico City rule, including 73 percent of respondents who identify as pro-choice. There is no widespread consensus regarding abortion and the federal government should not pretend that funding abortions is value-neutral.
Yet these new restrictions, while necessary, are not sufficient. The culture of life envisioned by Catholic teaching requires substantial investments in the lives and health of women and children as well. Ending the moral tragedy of abortion is only one step toward building a pro-life country that strengthens families and protects the least among us.
By that measure, this week the country took two steps forward and one step back. While President Trump’s actions in defense of the unborn are welcome, his proposals for immigration reform are ill conceived and divisive. On Jan. 25, the president authorized the construction of a wall on our southern border, which will do little to stem the flow of migrants and is contrary to the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. As Pope Francis famously remarked, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel.”
Catholics who are engaged in public debate must always bear in mind that the church’s consistent ethic of life transcends our partisan divisions. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical, “The Church forcefully maintains the link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated.”