‘Lives are at stake’: Catholic leaders react to abortion rights victories in midterm elections
Despite opposition from Catholic conferences and bishops, major pro-abortion rights measures passed in three states in the midterm elections, and a number of measures aimed at restricting abortion failed at the ballot box.
Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont approved constitutional amendments that will protect abortion access in their states.
“Prop. 1 does not solve any of the underlying personal challenges that women cite as reasons for choosing abortion—intimate partner violence, housing insecurity, inadequate access to healthcare, insufficient paid leave, childcare opportunities, or having no one in their lives able to accompany them through pregnancy and parenting,” the conference said.
Despite opposition from Catholic conferences and bishops, major pro-abortion rights measures passed in three states in the midterm elections.
Proposal 3, an amendment the Michigan Catholic Conference believes will add full-term abortion protections to the state constitution, was approved by voters on Nov. 8. In a statement on Nov. 9, Paul Long, the president and C.E.O. of the conference, called it “a tragic day for Michigan and for the cause of protecting and upholding the inherent dignity of all human life.”
Catholic leaders in Vermont have not yet commented on the success of a ballot measure that adds protection for “reproductive autonomy” to Vermont’s State Constitution. But in the days leading up to the election, Vermont Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Burlington, had urged voters against the amendment, arguing that its vague language would not only protect late-term abortions but could be extended to protect other procedures like human cloning and gender transitioning without parental permission.
A proposed amendment in Kentucky to clarify that the state constitution did not include a right to abortion or public funding for the procedure was turned back on Tuesday. The Catholic Conference of Kentucky expressed disappointment but outlined its goals moving forward.
“We must continue to insist on legal protection for unborn human life,” the conference said, “but we also stand ready to work with all people of good will to advance policies that support Kentuckians in vulnerable situations and that ensure access to health care for all.”
After the passage of California’s Proposition 1, the California Catholic Conference issued a statement calling the decision “devastating for women, children and families.”
Votes are still being counted, but a ballot measure in Montana, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, is also expected to fail. The proposed law would have required medical treatment for infants born alive during an abortion procedure. The Montana Catholic Conference, which supported its passage, has not officially commented on the results.
The state’s Catholic conference issued a statement in September saying the measure was “the epitome of commonsense legislation” and was needed to “safeguard those infants who, through no fault of their own, are born into some of the most difficult and challenging circumstances imaginable.”
The bishops said the measure reiterated a similar law passed by Congress in 2002 and would go a step further, noting that the previous law did not “provide specific measures for enforcing protection of these helpless infants and failed to specify that a born-alive infant is entitled to medically appropriate care and treatment.”
Online reactions from other Catholics to the various ballot measures have ranged from statements of disappointment to efforts to discern how the votes went against pro-life priorities.
“Abortion is now legal in Michigan at an unprecedented level, and millions of lives are at stake,” wrote Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in a letter to Catholics posted on the archdiocesan website Nov. 9.
“Abortion is now legal in Michigan at an unprecedented level, and millions of lives are at stake,” wrote Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in a letter to Catholics.
“We awake today to the news that Proposal 3 has passed, altering our state constitution to allow for unregulated and unsafe abortion on demand in Michigan,” he wrote, saying that people of faith are “deeply saddened by this grave assault on the dignity and sanctity of unborn, innocent human life.”
The archbishop called the measure an “unjust and perverse law” and pointed out that in the last several months pro-life advocates in the state had “worked tirelessly to spread the truth about Proposal 3, imploring voters to make an informed decision at the ballot box.”
“I offer my deepfelt gratitude to all who prayed, spread awareness, voted and otherwise worked against this proposal,” he said, “and I share in their sorrow at the outcome.”
He asked Catholics to join him in prayer about this issue and to renew their “commitment to accompanying women and families in need, with greater resolve than ever,” pledging to “ continue our efforts to build a culture of life in which abortion is unthinkable, all families receive the support they need, and the dignity of all people is recognized.”
From the pro-choice side, after the results of various ballot measures protecting abortion access came in, Catholics for Choice tweeted, “Abortion access is popular, pass it on!”
Patrick T. Brown, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, tweeted: “If you’re pro-life, last night’s results need to be a wake-up call. Simply trying to restrict abortion is not going to win at the ballot box.”
Material from Catholic News Service was used in this report.