The Court, the House, and the elections ahead

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Editor’s note. Charles J. Chaput is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia. The bill he refers to in this column written for the CatholicPhilly earlier this month has since passed the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee, in addition to have passed the full House of Representatives.

“The Court has simultaneously transformed judicially created rights like the right to abortion into preferred constitutional rights, while disfavoring many of the rights actually enumerated in the Constitution. But our Constitution renounces the notion that some constitutional rights are more equal than others.” — Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt

“Only six other countries allow an abortion to be performed by dismembering a baby as it is aborted, North Korea, China, and Vietnam amongst them. I joined with 131 of my colleagues, including 25 Democrats, to vote in favor of ending a procedure that many physicians told me, before my vote, that they absolutely refuse to perform because of the sheer brutality of it.” — State Rep. Nick Miccarelli, on the passage of HB 1948

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadephia

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadephia

Two events happened late last month that are worth considering before the election season begins in earnest this fall.

In its June 27 Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and abortion facilities to maintain the safety standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Both provisions were common sense medical safety matters, but the Court now seems committed to ensuring easy access to abortion anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

Long gone are the days when supporters of abortion described it as tragic and regrettable. Now it’s a positive good; a right that trumps any obstacle — including any other right — that gets in the way. Abortion has become a cornerstone of America’s unofficial state religion of “choice.” And the unborn child is now little more than a lump of organic material miraculously made human or inhuman by the sorcery of adult will.

On a much more hopeful note, on June 22 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 132-65, to pass HB 1948.

HB 1948 bans dismemberment abortion, which ends the life of the unborn baby by tearing off one limb at a time. It’s used in more than 1,500 abortions in our Commonwealth each year.

The bill also bans abortions after 20 weeks, when the baby can feel pain. The legislation now heads to the state Senate, where a similar bill, SB 888, has also been introduced. In a state where Kermit Gosnell (now in prison) ran an abortion racket that resembled a butcher shop, HB 1948 is a welcome exercise in medical prudence and common sense.

All leaders — in the church, in education, in business and in elected office — are accountable for their actions to the people they serve. When they do something right that serves the common good they need to be thanked. When they do something wrong, they should expect to hear about it. The men and women who voted for HB 1948 did the right thing, and I urge Catholics across the archdiocese to let them know their gratitude.

[Archbishop Chaput then mentions Pennsylvania House members within the geographic area of the archdiocese who voted for HB 1948 and encourages readers to thank them. Referring to the November elections, he concludes with this.]

All of us who are Catholic need to begin thinking carefully about our political responsibilities now, guided by the essentials of our faith. And as I’ve said many times in the past, the best place to start (but not stop) our thinking is with the 1998 U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter, Living the Gospel of Life.

A lot is at stake in the months ahead. We need to pray daily for our Commonwealth, our nation and our Church.