On September 13, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham (S.C.) introduced a bill entitled “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.” The proposed bill would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
This week, President Joe Biden, the second self-declared Catholic president in U.S. history, discussed Graham’s bill when speaking to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York. He said, “I happen to be a practicing Roman Catholic. … My church doesn’t even make that argument now.”
The claim that pro-abortion policies comport with church teaching or that the act itself is regarded as permissible by the church, though both have been repeated by other Democrat politicians and are potentially politically expedient, is wrong, at least according to the pope and the church.
Not according to the pope
Earlier this summer, Pope Francis referred to Biden’s support for abortion as “incoherent.” Referring to an unborn baby, the pope said, “There is human life. Is it fair to eliminate a human life?”
In 2018, Pope Francis answered in the negative, claiming it is wrong to take a human life, regardless of what age or stage of development it is in. “Getting rid of a human being is like resorting to a contract killer to solve a problem.”
The pope added, “How can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life as it blossoms be therapeutic, civil or, simply, humane?”
Pope John Paul II, recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2014, condemned abortion and euthanasia as moral “crimes,” which he suggested had been misconstrued as individual rights in a growing “culture of death.”
Building on his predecessor’s thematics, Pope Francis has since criticized a “culture of indifference and waste” and urged families not to allow themselves “to be poisoned by the toxins of selfishness.”
“We are victims of the throwaway culture. … Today [abortion] has become a ‘normal’ thing,” he said in an address on September 27, 2021, “a habit that is very bad; it is truly murder.”
This summer, the pope told Reuters that he respects the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade. While admitting he did not understand the full legal significance of the court’s ruling from a “technical point of view,” he emphasized that abortion “is a problem.”
He suggested that the science is clear. “Science today and any book on embryology … tells you that 30 days after conception there is DNA and the laying out already of all the organs. … It’s a human life — that’s science. The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem.”
While aboard the papal airplane on September 15, Pope Francis said, “It is true that the West degenerates. … The West has taken the wrong paths.” Contrary to Biden’s suggestion, the Roman pontiff stated, “If you kill — with motivation, yes — in the end you will kill more. It’s not human. Let’s leave killing to the animals.”
Not according to the Catholic Church
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” is an official document that summarizes the main beliefs of the Catholic Church. It indicates the church’s explicit condemnation of abortion along with its procurement, its provision, and its support. Furthermore, it indicates that those who formally cooperate in an abortion are excommunicated and thereby cut off of from the church.
With scriptural and theological reasons and corroborates also provided, the catechism states the following :
- “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (2270);
- “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (2271);
- “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life” (2272);
- “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin” (2273); and
- “Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being” (2274).
According to its catechism, the Catholic Church not only condemns abortion of the kind Graham’s bill seeks to ban, but would similarly support the prohibition of abortions before 15 weeks, including the killing of embryos.
American bishops speak out
After the Dobbs decision, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore issued a statement saying, “In response to the Dobbs decision, I called for the healing of wounds and repairing of social divisions … and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”
Furthermore, he said, “It is deeply disturbing and tragic that President Biden is choosing instead to use his power as President of the United States to promote and facilitate abortion in our country, seeking every possible avenue to deny unborn children their most basic human and civil right, the right to life.”
Archbishop Lori said that after the Dobbs ruling, Biden sought to use “the power of the executive branch … to facilitate the destruction of defenseless, voiceless human beings.”
In August, responding to Biden’s executive order facilitating abortion, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities stated: “Continued promotion of abortion takes lives and irreparably harms vulnerable pregnant mothers, their families, and society. It is the wrong direction to take at a moment when we should be working to support women and to build up a culture of life.
In 2008, then-Vice President Joe Biden was similarly called out by Bishop Joseph Martino (now bishop emeritus). “I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he’s learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
At the time, Kansas City’s Archbishop Joseph Naumann said of self-declared Catholic politicians who support abortion: “They cannot call themselves Catholics when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn.”
According to Graham, by adopting his bill, “We would be in the mainstream of most everyone else in the world. … There are 47 of 50 European countries that have banned abortion from 12 to 15 weeks.”
Graham explained the significance of the 15-week mark. Besides the fact that over 90% of abortions in the U.S. are executed before 15 weeks, it is at that point in a pregnancy that “science tells us” that unborn babies have the requisite nerve endings to feel pain.
He asked, “If you need to provide anesthesia to keep the baby from feeling pain to help save its life, should we as a nation be aborting babies that can feel excruciating pain from an abortion?”
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, claimed, “Politicians voting against this bill will stand against science and the American public, not to mention compassion for women and babies.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another self-declared Catholic who has suggested it is “sinful” to restrict abortion, suggested that Graham’s bill is the product of “those in the party that think life begins at a candlelight dinner the night before,” those she would also refer to as “extreme MAGA Republicans.”
The bill, as proposed, would, among other things, eliminate “particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures,” preserve “the integrity of the medical profession,” and mitigate fetal pain.