Brief: Defend Life from Abortion

January 26, 2019

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A Catholic perspective:

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops’ opposition to abortion is rooted in our understanding that it is a violation of the fifth Commandment, given to Moses by God: “Thou shall not kill.”[1] In addition, throughout Christian Scripture, we are reminded of God’s love and concern for each human person: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”[2] We believe Christ teaches us that we must care for each neighbor and that “our neighbor” is precisely the individual who is most vulnerable, marginalized, despised, forgotten, and cast aside.[3] Catholics thereby receive two of our most fundamental moral imperatives: respect life and care for the weak and defenseless. The very possibility of our salvation rests upon love for God and care for our neighbor.[4]

Abortion is a direct attack on the dignity of a human person which promotes and encourages the devaluation and dispensability of life.[5] Therefore, the Church teaches: “No one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”[6] In accord with this, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Abortion and euthanasia are crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection…. In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.”[7]

Our stance on abortion is informed by currently accepted biomedical facts, according to which human life begins upon completion of fertilization, at which point a single-celled embryo contains “a new combination of chromosomes that is different from that in the cells of either of the parents.”[8] What is present thereafter is a new human life whose development is coordinated, continuous, and gradual:

  1. Genetic information in the new being guides and controls acts at the cellular level so that the embryo itself coordinates its development to accomplish its potential.[9]
  2. The process that begins at fertilization is, if uninterrupted, a continuous formation of an individual human being which is acquiring its definitive form.
  3. Multicellular organisms attain a final form by gradually passing through simpler forms, yet from the beginning, such beings keep their own identity and individuality.[10]

These are the attributes of a living being. They are confirmed by biomedical facts and demonstrate that life begins at fertilization. The tradition of the Catholic Church—from the Apostles in 2nd century to the Church in the 21st century—has always held that every human life shall be protected and cherished from its beginning.

[1] Exodus 20:13

[2] Jer. 1:5; cf. Job 10:8-12; Ps. 22:10-11, 139:15; Jn. 10:10; Mt. 22:37-40; Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; Lk. 10:25-37; Mt. 25:1-46.

[3] Lk. 10:25-37.

[4] Mt. 25:1-46.

[5] Supreme Court of the U.S., Gonzales v Carhart. 550 U.S. ___ (2007). Page 8. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. (CCC #2272) In contrast, Pope Francis reminds us: “Things have a price and can be sold, but people have a dignity; they are worth more than things and are above price. (Address to Participants in the Meeting Organized by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, September 20, 2013. Sec. 2, quoting CDF Declaration on Procured Abortion, Sec. 11. See also Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia [On Love in the Family], The Vatican. (March 19, 2016). Sec. 83.)

[6] CCC #2258; CCC #2270; CCC #2278.

[7] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae [The Gospel of Life], The Vatican. (March 25, 1995). Sec 73.

[8] Drs. Keith Moore and Vid Persaud. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. Page 33.

[9] Elio Cardinal Sgreccia, Personalist Bioethics: Foundations and Applications (Philadelphia, PA: The National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2007). Pages 423-424.

[10] Sgreccia 425. On continuity, cf. Moore 2.

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law,
such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia,
it is never licit to obey it, campaign for it, or vote for it.

~St. John Paul II

Texas law and policy:

Before Roe v. Wade, Texas had a law that made it a crime to procure an abortion, with one exception which permitted an abortion procured by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.[11] Roe held Texas’ laws to be unconstitutional and established a new trimester framework to regulate state laws on abortion.[12] As a result, most state laws that previously regulated abortion were pre-empted by the Court’s new national standard. However, in Planned Parenthood v Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to greater state regulation. It did so by moving away from Roe’s trimester framework and toward a framework in which states could regulate abortion after viability, because that was the point in fetal development at which the State’s interest in life has “sufficient force that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy may be restricted.”[13] Texas regulates abortion in the Health and Safety Code[14] and the following regulations are currently in force:

  • partial birth abortion is prohibited;[15]
  • abortion after 20 weeks is prohibited;[16]
  • after 20 weeks, abortions may be performed an ambulatory surgical center if a baby has a severe fetal abnormality;[17]
  • abortion providers must receive a woman’s voluntary and informed consent;[18]
  • a sonogram must be provided, and the baby’s size must be explained, its limbs and organs pointed out, and the heartbeat must be made audible;[19]
  • an abortion cannot be provided less than 24 hours after a sonogram is provided;[20]
  • abortion providers cannot perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent;[21]
  • abortion providers cannot sell or donate a baby’s organs or tissue,[22]
  • abortion providers and their affiliates cannot receive state funding,[23]
  • monthly insurance premiums paid into a general private or public health insurance plan cannot be used to pay for elective abortions;[24]
  • abortion providers must report complications to Health and Human Services, and [25]
  • abortion facilities must be licensed.[26]

Bill Summaries:

Several pro-life bills have passed through the Texas Legislature since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, but abortion remains legal throughout Texas.[27] While we recognize that ending abortion requires a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, we support good-faith attempts to uphold the sanctity of life at the state level. We therefore support legislation which would:

  • prohibit all state and local government funding for abortion providers or their affiliates,
  • increase funding to abortion alternatives for expectant parents,
  • remove the wrongful birth cause of action,
  • establish a trigger ban to prohibit abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, and
  • require that abortion providers acquire malpractice insurance in accord with the common practice of healthcare providers.

[11] Vernon’s Texas Statutes: 1948, Texas Penal Code: Articles 1191-1194, and 1196.

[12] Roe at 164; cf. Casey at 877.

[13] Planned Parenthood v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992) at 869.

[14] Texas Health and Safety Code (HSC), Chs. 170, 171, 172, 173, and 245.

[15] HSC Ch. 171 § 101-106. Effective 2017. Supreme Court of the U.S., Gonzales v Carhart. 550 U.S. ___ (2007). Page 8.

[16] HSC Ch. 171 § 044. Effective 2013. Several exceptions are made to the 20-week ban. See HSC Ch. 171 § 046.

[17] Ibid. at Ch. 171 § 004. Effective 2011.

[18] Ibid. at Ch. 171 § 012. Effective 2011.

[19] Ibid. at Ch. 171 § 012(a)(4).

[20] Ibid.

[21] Texas Occupations Code Sec. 164.052(a)(19); Texas Family Code Sec. 33.0021. Effective 2016. However, minors may seek judicial bypass. See Texas Family Code Sec. 33.003.

[22] Texas Penal Code Sec. 48.03; HSC Sec. 173.005.

[23] Texas Human Resources Code, Sec. 32.024(c-1); 85 RS SB 1 (2017), page II-72-74, IX-34. There is no prohibition on local governments funding abortion providers or their affiliates.

[24] Texas Insurance Code, Chs. 1218, 1695, and 1696. Coverage for elective abortion must be separate from other health insurance plans so that general monthly premiums do not fund elective abortions.

[25] HSC at Ch. 171 § 006. Effective 2017.

[26] HSC at Ch. 245 § 003.

[27] Guttmacher Institute, State Facts About Abortion: Texas.

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