Bishops’s statement urges support for pregnant women, rejects harassment of pro-life centers

In a joint statement released Jan. 18, Maryland’s Catholic bishops called for an outpouring of support for women facing crisis pregnancies and rejected recent proposals to single out pro-life charities that provide them with assistance.

“Set Out in Haste: Serving Women, Serving Life” was signed by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly, whose dioceses include parts of Maryland.

The document has been distributed to nearly 280 Catholic parishes, and pastors have been asked to include it as a bulletin insert in the next several weeks. The release was timed to coincide with the start of Maryland’s legislative session on Jan. 13 and the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on Jan. 22.

“Among the most powerful testimonies to the culture of life is our outreach to pregnant women in need,” the bishops wrote, urging the faithful to offer concrete assistance to those women.

The statement decries a recent campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Planned Parenthood of Maryland to single out pro-life pregnancy resource centers, which provide pregnant women with emotional and material assistance.

Since 2008, three proposals have been introduced – one each at the state level, in Baltimore City and in Montgomery County – that would subject pregnancy resource centers to compelled-speech requirements, regulations, and possible fines because they decline to provide or refer for abortion or contraception.

The state bill died in committee in 2008, the Baltimore City bill was signed into law in December, and the Montgomery County proposal is still under consideration.

The bishops asserted that the proposals send a “disturbing” message that failure to provide abortion or contraception is an activity that merits regulation and, if necessary, punishment.

The bishops noted that the state’s abortion rate is 38 percent higher than the national rate, and has risen even while the national rate has declined. There were 37,590 abortions in Maryland in 2005.

“To even consider targeting centers that help women choose life is unconscionable in light of these tragic statistics,” the bishops said, “which represent an even more tragic reality.”

At a time when many in the ‘pro-choice’ movement claim to seek common ground on abortion, the bishops said, “these proposals demonstrate a baffling and aggressive impetus in quite the opposite direction.”

The full bishops’ statement available online at www.mdcathcon.org/setoutinhaste.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.