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Catholics for Choice board member Sheila Briggs wrote an LA Times op-ed on Wednesday arguing that the end of Roe v. Wade is “a disaster” for Christians, particularly the Catholic Church in America.
She argued that the Church supporting the end of abortion shows it willing to violate Americans’ “religious liberty” because “[b]anning abortion does not rest on established medical and scientific fact. “
“The imminent overturning of Roe vs. Wade is a disaster for women. It is also a disaster for the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy in America has made opposition to abortion central to its mission,” she wrote.
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Most American Catholics oppose the overturning of Roe vs. Wade (68%, according to a 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center). The bishops pay no heed to their voice but instead seek to silence Catholics in public office who defend women’s reproductive rights , “she added, as if bishops should ignore strict Church teaching on abortion in favor of popular sentiment.
She continued, “Ordinary Catholics feel condemned for their views and for the decisions that they and their families make around abortion, same-sex marriage and even contraception, coverage for which the US Catholic bishops sought to exclude from the Affordable Care Act.”
Though the Catholic Church is explicitly and strictly against abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception, Briggs framed it as the bishops oppressing women. “Time and time again, the bishops have fought against women having control over their own bodies,” she added.
Briggs turned the screws to Catholic teaching even further, saying, “There is a disturbing awareness, crossing the lines of gender and age, that the church is not doing the right thing.” She then warned that Catholic membership will drop if Roe goes.
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“The exodus from the church, fueled by moral doubts about the bishops’ actions and teachings, will swell if the Supreme Court proceeds to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” she claimed, adding, “As the devastating effects on women’s lives become visible after the Supreme Court’s judgment, Catholics are going to feel increasing shame over what their church has done. “
Briggs then made the point that “as members of a longtime minority, American Catholics instinctively understand from their own history what their bishops ignore: At stake here is religious liberty.”
In her telling, “Religious freedom carved out a private sphere in which individuals were free to hold any or no religious beliefs and to act on their conscience. In return, they were required not to impose their religious beliefs and the conduct that derived from their conscience on others. “
“In contrast, the public sphere was to operate on empirically observable and rational norms, which would be self-evident to any reasonable person,” she added, before making the controversial claim that “Banning abortion does not rest on established medical and scientific fact and therefore cannot lay the claim on any reasonable person that it becomes part of public law. “
The author asserted, “Catholics who oppose abortion rights do not have to justify their religious beliefs and their religiously motivated conduct to me or, more importantly, to a court of law. By the same token, a religiously motivated decision to not have an abortion should not be imposed on those of us who do not share the religious beliefs. “
Thus, Briggs found leeway to declare, “The overturning of Roe vs. Wade would threaten religious liberty. If such a ruling remains in effect for any length of time, it will prevent hundreds of thousands, eventually millions, of women from acting upon their conscience. ”
She added, “This will result in serious harm to women and their families – and one of the bulwarks of democratic society will be weakened.”
She warned pro-life Christians religious liberty will be diminished and one day they would come to “miss the protections for religious liberty once enshrined in American culture and law.”
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Briggs concluded, “Roe vs. Wade is part of a patchwork of laws that have protected the privacy of individuals against the religiously motivated incursions of others. Ultimately, there can be no religious liberty for some but not for others. Either all of us enjoy it , or none of us will. “