In his apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate,” Pope Francis reminded Catholics that our defense of the unborn must be “clear, firm and passionate” and that the lives of the poor and the marginalized are “equally sacred.” He went on to say that while some might consider the situation of migrants to be “a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions,” this dismissal might be understandable from a politician but could not be acceptable for a Christian. And yet, as recent events have made clear, both the defense of the unborn and the rights of migrants have been cast aside in our fear-driven enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
Last month, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced a new policy expanding the agency’s power to detain pregnant women. Previous practice had been to free pregnant women on bond or supervised release, according to USA Today. Fears that pregnant women would not return for deportation hearings is the stated reason for the change. Fear that these unborn children would become U.S. citizens is perhaps the unstated reason. All the same, the new policy is in keeping with the Trump administration’s broader pattern of cruel and arbitrary enforcement of our outdated and unjust immigration laws.
Despite what ICE claims, reports reveal that these pregnant women are not receiving adequate medical care. Katie Shepherd of the American Immigration Council told the Daily Beast that the rate of miscarriages in detention is on the rise. The new policy is jeopardizing the lives of innocent unborn children. Detentions of undocumented pregnant women occured under Obama as well, but the change in ICE policy under a nominally pro-life president is making the problem worse. As Catholics committed to the pro-life cause and also to justice for immigrants, this development warrants special condemnation.
The pro-life movement should in particular join advocates for immigration reform in speaking out strongly against policies that harm pregnant women and unborn children.
It is worth noting that the Trump administration previously acted to defend unborn life within the immigration system. In the tragic case of a young Central American immigrant who desired an abortion, the Trump administration battled the A.C.L.U. in court to prevent her from ending her pregnancy. While the court ultimately allowed the abortion in that case, there is no legal obligation forcing the administration to hold pregnant women in detention and expose them and their unborn children to greater risk of miscarriage.
The pro-life movement must reckon with the moral dissonance of an administration that fights in court to save the pregnancies of women who do not want them while approving a policy that jeopardizes the pregnancies for women who do want them. Where does this leave those of us who are pro-life? So far, many pro-life advocates do not seem to be giving the matter much attention. The Trump administration’s reliability in opposition to abortion must not be used to excuse its ever more draconian crackdown on immigrants and refugees. Continuing to allow ICE to hold pregnant women in their custody when other options are available implies that immigrant women and their unborn children are disposable.
As Catholics committed to the pro-life cause and also to justice for immigrants, this development warrants special condemnation.
Pro-life advocates, especially those who have been key supporters of President Trump, need to speak up. The pro-life movement should in particular join advocates for immigration reform in speaking out strongly against policies that harm pregnant women and unborn children. This is yet another moment when they can make a difference in the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children. But for some of them, their silence speaks loudest.