The church’s well-documented support and concern for infants in the womb does not stop once those children have been born, noted a May 12 statement from the Roman Catholic bishops of New York state.
“Any woman — regardless of age, religious belief or affiliation, marital status or immigration status — who is pregnant and in need, can come to the Catholic Church and we will give you the services and supports you need to carry your baby to term, regardless of your ability to pay,” the bishops pledged. “Furthermore, we will not abandon you and your baby after delivery, but, rather, we will see to it that you have the resources that you and your child both need and deserve.”
The bishops’ statement comes amid headline-dominating debate over abortion following the May 2 leak of a draft opinion in the Supreme Court case Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The leaked draft seems to indicate the court is ready to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States.
Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, existing state laws will allow abortions to continue in New York, the bishops acknowledged in their statement, which is titled “Toward a Pro-Life Future in the Empire State.”
Challenges of unplanned pregnancy noted
The bishops, including Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of the Diocese of Rochester, also acknowledged the valid fears and anxieties of women facing unplanned pregnancies. They may wonder, for example, how they’ll provide for older children with another baby on the way, whether the babies’ fathers will abandon them, or how to access child care when they return to work. Lacking answers to these questions, such women may believe abortion is their only choice.
“The challenges of an unplanned pregnancy are difficult. This presents a pastoral challenge for bishops, clergy, Church leaders and, indeed, for all faithful Catholics,” the bishops wrote. “Often, the Catholic Church is unjustly accused of being more concerned with the baby in the womb than with the mother and child once the infant has been born. As false as this notion is, it is incumbent upon us as shepherds to acknowledge and address the misperception.”
Support for pregnant women and families
To that end, the bishops launched a website containing a wealth of resources for pregnant women, mothers and children. The list is organized by diocese, and the section for the Diocese of Rochester contains a link to the diocesan Office of Life Issues’ LifeROC.org website.
The LifeROC website offers help in finding crisis pregnancy centers throughout the diocese, resources for women and children needing shelter, and information about the Rochester City School District’s Young Mothers Program. It also includes a page on Elizabeth Ministry, an outreach to families dealing with miscarriage and infant loss.
The New York bishops acknowledged that they can not undertake this work in a vacuum.
“We ask every Catholic parish, every Catholic Charities program, every Catholic health facility, every Catholic school, every Catholic college and university, and every religious community in our state to proactively engage with us in this pastoral effort,” they wrote.
Legislative help for mothers and children
State and local elected officials also must do their part to care for mothers and children, the bishops continued. Abortion was legalized in New York state three years before Roe v. Wade decision made it legal nationwide, and the Reproductive Health Act of 2019 legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. The state’s taxpayers currently fund abortion through Medicaid and, as of this year, virtually all New York health-insurance plans are required to cover abortion.
“Meanwhile, programs to support women who make the choice to keep their babies, to the extent that they exist at all, are starved for funding and are not well-promoted. Yet many political leaders typically cater more to abortion providers and advocates than to women who might well make a different choice, if only they were aware of and had other options,” the bishops stated.
Overturning Roe v. Wade would not halt abortions in New York, so government officials have “nothing to lose and everything to gain” by working to bolster supports for pregnant women and families, which could reduce the rate of abortions in the state. It is possible to create a culture of life in New York state if politicians work together with Catholics and Catholic entities, the bishops said.
“Let us not put our trust in mere judges, legislators, governors or presidents. Rather, let us put our faith in God, for whom nothing is impossible. Politicians can change policies and laws, but only God can convert hearts and minds,” the bishops wrote.
The bishops also asked Catholics to pray for Mary’s intercession for an end to abortion.
“Let us work toward making New York a state where even if abortion is not illegal, it will one day be unthinkable,” they wrote.