May 7, 2023 Essay: Fashioning a Truly ‘Pro-Life’ Society

Apr 28, 2023

After the Dobbs decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that there was not a constitutional right to an abortion, the United States Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to every member of Congress in which they articulated what our nation must do to ensure the flourishing of the human person from conception to natural death. Their letter was a powerful articulation of what it means to be authentically pro-life.

“…We hope for the day when abortion is unthinkable because society has decided to make the full flourishing of children and their families the highest goal, without anyone being excluded…Ultimately, we call for what Saint John Paul II described as ‘radical solidarity’ with mothers, babies (born and preborn) and families throughout each person’s entire lifespan.” To provide for the needs of all women and children, our bishops set forth the goals that our society must now meet. “Ensuring that no children grow up in poverty, that parents have time away from work to care for them, that families are formed and remain intact, that the healthcare necessary for healthy moms and children is affordable, that workplace policies respect pregnant and nursing mothers, that child care is affordable and high quality, but also not forced on families by financial pressures, that no children are hungry or homeless, that toxic chemicals do not cause babies to have birth defects or cancer, that immigrant families be treated in accord with their inviolable dignity—all of these goals require the cooperation of all and the exclusion of none.”

Our bishops take a strong stand in defense of immigrants and the need to include them in society’s efforts to ensure that the needs of all are met. “…We must also recognize the central role of immigrant families within our society. In a country fundamentally shaped by the contributions of immigrants…we cannot accept policies that unjustly exclude newcomers, especially when we continue to rely on—and collectively benefit from—their labors. With a strong scriptural foundation, the social doctrine of the Church clearly affirms that the ‘families of migrants have the right to the same protection as that accorded other families,’ including ‘the right to respect for their culture and to receive support and assistance towards their integration into the community to which they contribute.’ Immigrant workers in particular, whether seasonal, undocumented, or otherwise, must be treated ‘not as mere tools of production but as persons.’”

Our bishops went on to enumerate specific policy proposals that they support. They include:

  • Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – This legislation was, in fact, passed and will go into effect in June of this year. It will require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to workers for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
  • Child Tax Credit – The bishops call for the credit to be fully refundable, without a minimum income threshold, and to allow mixed-status families to be eligible for the credit. The costs of the credit should not be offset by cutting programs that serve those most in need.
  • Paid Family Leave – The bishops’ Conference continues to support a federal paid family leave policy. The United States remains the only advanced economy without nationally mandated paid parental leave.
  • Housing – Housing policy should: increase the supply of quality housing by funding production; preserve the affordable housing that does exist, including public housing; significantly expand rental assistance so it is available to all households in need; address racial disparities in home ownership.
  • Nutrition – Congress should support and strengthen programs that feed hungry families. These programs must be safeguarded from harmful cuts or changes that lessen their effectiveness or accessibility.

In supporting these and other public policies, our bishops are challenging us to create a society that is truly ‘pro-life’, that is, a society committed to the flourishing of all persons without exception. It is what our gospel demands of us.

— Fr. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor