By Natalie Romano and Pablo Kay
Portions of this article first appeared in July 15 issue of the Angelus and are reprinted here with the permission of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The June 24 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade was the answer to decades of prayer for many Catholics, but state leaders’ attempts to expand and enshrine abortion in California has quickly emerged as the next battlefront in the Church’s fight to protect the unborn.
After decades in pro-life ministry, Karen Hein says she’s ready to do more, but calls the reversal of Roe a game changer.
“We’re winning this war,” declared Hein, Business Manager at St. Peter and St. Paul parish, Alta Loma. “We’re going to keep winning it one heart at a time and we’re going to win it through prayer.”
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court not only ruled in favor of Mississippi’s attempt to ban abortions after 15 weeks but revoked the federal right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade and later affirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
“The Constitution,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, “makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”
Those were the words that many Catholic leaders, including our own bishop, have been waiting to hear.
“We rejoice at this decision of the Supreme Court because it is an affirmation that every precious life created by God should be protected under law,” said Bishop Alberto Rojas. “So many millions of lives have been extinguished under the shadow of Roe v. Wade these past 50 years.”
Mary Huber, who just received the “People of Life Award” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls the Dobbs ruling a good first step. Huber, now semi-retired, served as the Diocese of San Bernardino’s Director of Respect Life and Pastoral Care Programs for six years and worked in the Office nearly two decades before that.
“This is not a final victory but certainly a very important milestone,” said Huber. “Americans in general think if it’s legal, it’s moral, and yet as Catholics we know abortion isn’t moral. This ruling could affect the overall thinking of generations.”
In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, more than a dozen states have moved to ban or limit access to most abortions. In California, elected leaders have done the opposite. Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to spend $40 million in taxpayer money to make our state a “sanctuary” for women seeking abortions regardless of where they live.
Additionally, the state legislature has sent to voters a proposed amendment to California’s Constitution that enshrines abortion and contraception. Voters will decide Proposition 1 on November 8. The California Catholic Conference adamantly opposes the measure saying it is “so broad and unrestrictive” it will protect and even encourage late-term abortions.
The Conference will “actively” work against the passage of Prop 1 with an informational campaign targeting the state’s 12 million Catholics. Our Diocese’s new Director of Respect Life and Pastoral Care Programs affirms her department will follow the conference’s lead by providing parishes with information and speakers. Voter registration drives could also be part of the campaign against Prop. 1, and the clergy of the Diocese will be encouraged to preach and speak publicly against the measure.
“[Prop 1] is completely radical,” said Maria Valadez, Director of Respect Life and Pastoral Care Programs. “The language of it is very extreme. Catholics should respond to that Baptismal calling to protect life, and vote no.”
Hein says Catholics should try to change things at the ballot box but believes their visible presence at marches or outside abortion clinics goes a long way in helping women choose life. As a volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, she says she met women that wanted their babies but needed words of encouragement they weren’t getting elsewhere. Hein says she’s seen that “beautiful things can happen” when a woman keeps her child.
Conversely, when someone chooses abortion the regret can last a lifetime, says Father Edward Molumby, S.T., a retired priest in residence at Sacred Heart Church in Rancho Cucamonga. For 12 years, he served as chaplain at Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats helping women and men heal after abortion. He says he’s seen firsthand the emotional scars of abortion.
“Sometimes there are women who had abortions 60 years ago and it still bothers them,” explained Fr. Molumby. “They cannot forget the pain and a lot of them think they cannot be forgiven.”
While pleased with the Supreme Court ruling, Fr. Molumby is concerned about the months ahead.
“In terms of God’s plan, yes, this is good, but the price we’ll pay is unrest,” he said. “I’m worried. I think there’s going to be a lot of violence.”
Other concerns are being voiced by the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Chino. Father Edmund Gomez states his whole ministry is about lifting women and families. He says he visits abortion clinics in hopes of changing women’s minds but doesn’t insult them in the process. He fears women seeking abortion will now be harassed and criminalized.
“We put women in really hard situations in our society. They get dumped on a lot,” said Fr. Gomez. “I’m trying to be there so they can make a good decision ... we still have to do that one-on-one work.”
Huber acknowledges that abortion is a complex issue for the women of this country.
“For some women who have been hurt by abortion… I imagine this is a really positive thing because they don’t want to see their sisters hurt in this way,” suggested Huber. “For women who think [abortion] is their right ... this is a real setback because equality is often connected to a woman’s right to have an abortion and it shouldn’t be that way.”
Huber goes on to say that men and women share equal responsibility for the creation of life, and this ruling makes that more of a reality.
“Behaviors are ultimately going to have to change to some degree. If I can’t just go to the store and get an abortion pill, maybe I have to think this through a little better,” said Huber. “Abortion also affects how some men treat women. It strips away his responsibility because it’s her responsibility to have the abortion.”
In preparation of the court’s ruling and its consequences for women, the California Catholic Conference, recently launched “We Were Born Ready,” an informational campaign to mobilize assistance for those with “difficult and unexpected pregnancies” and help women obtain housing, health care, and other needed services.
According to Fr. Molumby, that’s a good start.
“We need continued evangelization,” he said. “We have to find ways of supporting women and supporting politicians. We have to pray for the reestablishment of morality in all its forms.”
Huber says when doing outreach, Catholics should always remember people may carry hurt from past experiences.
“We continue the work, with affirmation, we’re doing the right thing. It goes back to Scripture. We speak with love in our voice and with that love in our voice comes support and help in any way we can.”
Natalie Romano is a freelance writer for Angelus and the Inland Catholic BYTE. Pablo Kay is the editor-in-chief of Angelus.