Pro-choice Catholics exist; we are here and taking back the narrative from reactionary elements that want to undermine our voices. There is no conflict between being pro-choice and being Catholic, and pro-choice Catholics should not be silenced for their feelings on a policy issue.
Among Catholics in the United States, 56% believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Indeed, Catholic views on abortion vary and we should not be considered a monolith. At mass, we’re regularly told to pray to end the evils of abortion and stem cell research, and use our faith when casting our ballots. This is profoundly disappointing to hear as someone who not only holds my Catholic faith dearly, but also as someone who supports a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions. It reinforces a deeply rooted stigma associated with being pro-choice and Catholic, fails to shed light on the complex nature of someone’s personal reproductive choices, and actively pushes current and future Catholics away from our Church.
Bans on abortion impact groups that are already disadvantaged by society. In the 26 states that have banned abortion, nearly 12.5 million of those women are economically insecure. Further, millions of the women in those states are not white, which compounds already existing disparities in healthcare between non-white and white women. A major aspect of the Catholic faith is social justice. We can identify four major teachings in Catholic Social Justice: human dignity, subsidiarity, the common good and solidarity. Human dignity refers to how every person is created in the image of God, and entitled to freedom and equal treatment. Failure to uphold a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions violates her human dignity and does not treat her as an equal.
Subsidiarity is more than just the idea that all groups in a society deserve to participate in decision-making. It also refers to the duty of higher levels of government to protect the smaller parts of society, down to the individual. When we read the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, we can further see how unjust restrictions on abortion violate social doctrine:
“Subsidiarity, understood in the positive sense as economic, institutional or juridical assistance offered to lesser social entities, entails a corresponding series of negative implications that require the State to refrain from anything that would de facto restrict the existential space of the smaller essential cells of society,” reads the Compendium. “Their initiative, freedom and responsibility must not be supplanted.”
Ultimately, while the state doesn’t have the right to promote abortion, it must refrain from placing an unjust burden to seek abortion, which the Ohio legislature has been all too eager to do.
Religious pluralism is an important aspect of Catholic teaching as well. Pope Francis further entrenched this idea in our doctrine with His historic meeting with Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar. God wills the diversity of color, sex and race, so it is natural and right to say that He wills religious diversity. This also applies to our secular government in the U.S.. What reactionary bishops have been seeking to do is codify their conservative theological views into law. This not only violates an individual’s right to religious freedom under the First Amendment, but also violates Catholic teaching about religious pluralism. Catholic doctrine guides Catholics how to act, not secular people nor non-Catholics.
Rightfully, Catholics will cite the fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270 defines the beginning of life from the moment of conception. While I am not casting doubt on this teaching, the Catechism conveys the morals and faith teachings of the Catholic church and acts as guidance for us. The Catechism cannot and should not be used to deny the reproductive rights of any person, regardless of creed. Codifying doctrine into law would violate principles of religious pluralism we hold dear to us.
Reactionary American bishops have consistently doubled-down on weaponizing the Catholic faith against equality. This was recently seen in Cleveland when the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland made a statement barring LGBTQ+ expression in its schools and churches. No different is the marginalization of LGBTQ+ people as the denial of reproductive rights to women. Pope Francis’ papacy has made wonderful inroads into the acceptance of all people and promoting the equality of women across the world.
During His visit in Lisbon, Pope Francis noted American bishops’ failure to live by doctrine and, instead, attempt to replace it with their own ideology:
“Those American groups of which you speak, so closed, are isolating themselves. And instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies,” he said. “But when you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war.”
I am a pro-choice Catholic and I am not ashamed to say it. As a Catholic, I am called to support the freedom and equality of all people in society, and voting yes on Issue 1 does that. We must dispel the idea that Issue 1 somehow promotes abortion; it simply protects the rights of people in our society and ensures they are not discriminated against by the state.
Catholics in Cleveland, I urge you to vote yes on Issue 1 to uphold the dignity and equality of all Ohioans. Pro-choice Catholics, you are not alone. We must continue to speak out and not be disregarded or marginalized by reactionary voices.