Miscarriages are happening in I.C.E. custody. Will the pro-life movement respond?

Blanca Hernandez Rivera, prays before breakfast in the Aid Center for Deported Migrants in Nogales, Mexico in 2014. (CNS photo/David Maung)

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the new policy is in keeping with the Trump administration’s broader pattern of cruel and arbitrary enforcement of our outdated and unjust immigration laws.

Advertisement

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
1 month 1 week ago

Maybe some special arrangements should be made for pregnant woman. Something to advocate for.

Aren't the editors just as guilty because they openly advocate for people to migrate and tens of thousands have died because of these migrations, including the unborn. Maybe the editors should look into the mirror for those culpable of advocating policies that lead to people dying.

Advocating for open borders may be an advocation for an immoral outcome.

Finally, using an emotional appeal such as mis-carriages is sure to cloud the discussion as it is meant primarily to arouse sympathy for the detained women as opposed to what should be the coherent policy for immigration. This does not in anyway mean that pregnant women shouldn't be cared for. But we don't want this to become a strategy as migrants might try to bring pregnant women into the country in order to receive favorable consideration. This may endanger even more potential babies.

Dionys Murphy
1 month 1 week ago

First you claim editors are guilty as people die because of the migrations (because of a lack of open borders, safe crossing), then you suggest open borders will cause the same harm.

Your comments are a constant source of a reminder of what psychological projection is. How funny you suggest others look into a mirror when looking at your comments is looking right into the mirror showing your shadow side. How disturbing that you continually claim to be a Catholic, but lack even the most basic level of empathy. How very white of you.

J Cosgrove
1 month 1 week ago

Thank you very much for agreeing with me. You may not realize you have but your failure to read and bad logic supports my case.

You seconded my assertion that the authors are guilty because they encourage the migrations. And the various migration has killed tens of thousands.

A few things,

First, Encouraging migrations leads to migrations which lead to a large numbers of deaths. So the editors are supporting an activity which kills thousands of individuals by encouraging migrations.

Second, if you read closely what I said, I said advocating for open borders is advocating for an immoral outcome. Such an advocation encourages these migrations. That is true. I didn't say anything about what open borders itself would do, only what advocating for them are leading to. So how is that a problem with anything I said? The answer is it isn't and your misreading of what I said agrees with what I said.

Third, Now what about open borders itself. It could be a catastrophic. What would stop anybody from coming to the United States or any other country they choose? The answer is very little. The chaos is would create, might lead to extremely large numbers of deaths as people protect themselves from people who cannot feed or take care of themselves and may actually want to do harm by migrating.

Fourth, denigrating others is always a sure sign that one has no rational reason against what the other person is saying.

Fifth, It would be nice if the editors and authors at America would put their cards on the table for all to openly see and to actually espouse for what they believe. But all is vague and we can only guess what their true beliefs are by what they advocate and don't say on key issues. All these point to a belief in open borders and what is called transnational progressivism which is a form of world government that would supersede the laws of any sovereign nation.

So, I thank you again for your comment supporting mine.

Toby Gillis
1 month 1 week ago

Mr Murphy has accused 3 that I know of, including me, of this "psychological projection". He has a little projection problem of his own. He fails to project intelligence. He also question others on how good a Catholic they are.
His reading comprehension ain't much either.

Mimi Kennedy
1 month 1 week ago

I would just like to address what you cite as the problem - "encouraging migration." In my view, which includes experience of large migrations of the populations of El Salvador and Guatemala to Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s, it is the policies of our US government that resulted in mass exodus. Our defense budget gave millions to bombing and supporting right-wing death squads in both countries. Union organizers were killed. Many Catholics, like Bishop Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande, SJ, supported the people in the villages that were being terrorized by guerrillas on both sides, and were killed. Mostly the killing was done by right-wing elements, because they had the money to pay for the mayhem, courtesy of US taxpayers who mostly had no idea what was done in our name. Anyway - encouraging migration: it's done by policies of trade, defense, and myriad other concerns that voters (for instance, to use a category) know little about. In light of this, what is our national responsibility? At least, we should know our history of supporting corporations and strongmen that exerted control over populations of countries as small as some of our states. The people fled in hope. In the LA riots, I'll never forget the paper publishing remarks of an illegal Salvadoran immigrant who declined to give his name because he was undocumented. But he said he saw televisions and other goods, as he came home from work, on the street, from looted stores. He wanted one, but believed stealing was wrong, so he didn't take anything. I have learned from domestic workers that this is the principle of "Gleaning" which they learn from bible study. You can take what is left after the harvest, if the land belongs to another. But you can't take what you know doesn't belong to you. I mention this to counter the rabid anti-immigrant fears exemplified by the "murderers and rapists"" comments of our president. No blanket characterization fits. But ideas like "encouraging migration" is what resulted in the advent of so many to our country is a blind assumption that fails both to get at a solution or at the root cause. Meanwhile, Jesus told us to welcome the stranger, and mercy and justice "encourage' us to hear their stories in order to better understand how we can all live together and in peace - here, there, and everywhere.

Sean Keller
1 month 1 week ago

Well stated. I was thinking the same, but unable to articulate it as well as you. My first thought was, "Geesh! When will America Magazine engage in real scholarly thought and not extreme left wing drivel?"

Phillip Stone
1 month 1 week ago

Thank you. Killing babies in the womb is permitted by the US (Caesar) and enforcing homeland border security is the duty of the same Caesar.
We must render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's like border security and render to God the things that are God'd (like the lives of unborn children).

Bob Hunt
1 month 1 week ago

First, America magazine is published by the Society of Jesus, a society of Catholic priests. You are part of the pro-life movement. So, why do you speak of the pro-life movement as “them”?

Second, how many people know about this? I am only learning about it now through this article. Before condemning the “silence” of pro-lifers, why not initiate a campaign to educate the public on the problem?

Colin Donovan
1 month 1 week ago

Do the editors even know prolife people on the frontlines, who in places like the Rio Grande Valley, and by means of organizations like the Gabriel Project and others, assist pregnant women in pre- and post-natal need, regardless of immigration status. This has been going on for decades, and often the same people and pastors are at the local clinic on Saturdays where women and children, mostly minority, are preyed on, and life not just threatened but taken.

Finally, as a purely factual matter, do the editors know the causes of these miscarriages, versus the frequency in the general population (many couples have several - and not because they’ve walked a thousand miles), and whether INS is respondible for treatment causing them. I suspect not.

Eric Collins
1 month 1 week ago

There is a big difference between miscarriages and abortions. One must distinguish between the two. One cannot correlate custody and miscarriages. These women suffering miscarriages May be miscarrying for a multitude of reasons.

Ellen B
1 month 1 week ago

With the percentage of miscarriages increasing & with pregnant women not receiving adequate care while in custody... yes, you can correlate custody & miscarriages.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 month 1 week ago

Editors

You ascribe as the NOT so subtle true reason for this detention policy:

" Fear that these unborn children would become US citizens is perhaps the unstated reason"

That is nonsense.....the subject detention facilities are in the United States and children born while on US soil are citizens. Your ascribed fear consists of a null set! But it does allow you to state a crass unacceptable reason for this policy. How convenient for your Argument

John Walton
1 month 1 week ago

Would like to see some statistics. Fewer than 300 of the 400,000 detention cases each year involve pregnant women. 10% to 25% of all pregnancies result in miscarriage, and the largest reason for miscarriage seems to be chromosomal abnormality.

Once a miscarriage starts rolling it is very difficult to stop, and the miscarriage, while emotionally scarring, is part of a larger plan.

Cynthia Hintz
1 month 1 week ago

You are assuming far too much. It is doubtful that every female crossing the border is pregnant and it is also doubtful that because they are crossing over the border that their pregnancies are in danger. If a pregnancy ends in a miscarriage, chances are, it would have ended that way regardless of the women's situation.

Lisa Weber
1 month 1 week ago

If the women detained are not receiving adequate prenatal care, that would fit into the overall picture of cruelty and misogyny that the Trump administration promotes. It would be reasonable to suppose that the stress of being detained contributes to miscarriage. In any case, detention cannot be good for either mother or child. I am ashamed of our country and the people who support this administration.

lurline jennings
1 month 1 week ago

The editors are becoming a bit Schizophrenic about this illegal migration and the problems it causes. First of all where are your statistics showing any evidence that natural abortion(miscarriage) is so much greater than in the normal population of any city or other social grouping? Natural abortion is a common occurrence amongst those women with physical problems, genetic problems and other problems caused by environmental toxins. It is rare that a woman who has multiple pregnancies has not had one or more miscarriages. Creating the fiction that Ice or any other group causes this problem is without credence. Perhaps you should do a real-credible statistical study on what is the norm and that which is not. It is pretty hard to rid of oneself of a pregnancy which is not wanted much less makeup worthless claims. Do some real studies. Thought Jesuits were the real scholars of Catholic communities. Perhaps they have lost their way and can no longer find the truth.

Vincent Gaglione
1 month 1 week ago

Any and everyone who is placed in any kind of detainment in any governmental facility – prison, immigration detainment center, mental institution, etc –operated by the federal or a state government is morally entitled to the best possible care, equal to what you would expect for yourself, for their health and well-being. Yes? Or no?

If you answer yes, then the article cites examples of USA shortcomings, worth addressing, especially by pro-life groups.

If you answer no, you are entitled to your opinions, as so many have espoused such through the current elected governmental administrations. You cannot, however, make claim to having embraced a Christian response. Neither the Gospels, Catholic traditions, or papal teachings will justify your opinions.

Mike Macrie
1 month 1 week ago

The Pro Life Movement as seen in Texas, has mutated into a Political Republican Party. How does “Faithful” Catholics follow Christ Second Greatest Commandment “To Love thy Neighbor as Yourself” ( Democrat ) and follow Pro Life ( Republican ) at the same time. As Pope Francis says both are equally important.
I can tell you the message in the article above will never be read to the Catholics sitting in the Pew in my Parish for fear of retribution from Church Members. Here lies the problem, the American Conference of Bishops have buried themselves in Government Politics and the Chickens are coming home to roost. You don’t need Bishops and Pastors swaying Catholics how to politically vote. They need to stay on Christian Message inside the Church and let the Parishioners themselves decide how they will vote.
If the American Conference of Bishops believe you can ‘t be a Democrat and a Catholic at the same time then have the Parishes put up a sign over the Church Doors that says “ Democrats not Welcomed “ . This is the feeling that Catholic Democrats have when listening to the American Conference of Bishops. If both positions are equally important then it needs to get down in sermons to all Catholics sitting in the Pew. But this is only my opinion as I see it in my Parish.

Phillip Stone
1 month 1 week ago

You might be interested in a distant point of view.
From Australia, it is incredible that a Catholic person in the USA could in good conscience be a supporter or voter for a Democrat candidate. So if your Bishops are suggesting something along these lines, I recommend you rethink your attitude to the whole question of what is right and wrong when it comes to voting. Maybe the time has come to establish a Christian Democrat party and others so as to stop this swapping of rigid tyrannies from time to time.

Mike Macrie
1 month 1 week ago

The Pro Life Movement as seen in Texas, has mutated into a Political Republican Party. How does “Faithful” Catholics follow Christ Second Greatest Commandment “To Love thy Neighbor as Yourself” ( Democrat ) and follow Pro Life ( Republican ) at the same time. As Pope Francis says both are equally important.
I can tell you the message in the article above will never be read to the Catholics sitting in the Pew in my Parish for fear of retribution from Church Members. Here lies the problem, the American Conference of Bishops have buried themselves in Government Politics and the Chickens are coming home to roost. You don’t need Bishops and Pastors swaying Catholics how to politically vote. They need to stay on Christian Message inside the Church and let the Parishioners themselves decide how they will vote.
If the American Conference of Bishops believe you can ‘t be a Democrat and a Catholic at the same time then have the Parishes put up a sign over the Church Doors that says “ Democrats not Welcomed “ . This is the feeling that Catholic Democrats have when listening to the American Conference of Bishops. If both positions are equally important then it needs to get down in sermons to all Catholics sitting in the Pew. But this is only my opinion as I see it in my Parish.

Mike Macrie
1 month 1 week ago

Sorry it posted 3 times and I quess it’s too late to delete 2

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 month 1 week ago

Mike
Go to each of the repeats and go to "edit" and do the "back up delete" all the way....then type in "deleted repeat " and post that.

Jaroslav Lunda
1 month ago

Technical parameters of some facilities can evolve even from within "one world" system (left-liberals, maoists, socialists, "good" Christians, african slave smugglers, etc.) itself. Whole-planetary organized unborn babies genocide cannot. It is direct consequence and evidence of utopical origin of the "one world". This why are Christians hated.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018