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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Self-identifying Catholic women are advancing in an open letter what they call "abortion and reproductive justice."
The recently published letter is titled "Open Letter From Catholic Women: Reclaiming Public Debates About Abortion & Reproductive Justice" (RPDB).
RPDB begins: "We write as Catholic women at a time when the opinions of judges and lawmakers are viewed as more valid than our own lived experiences with reproductive health."
So far, the letter has 34 signatories, who posit they "see how decades of disinvestment in the social safety net and more recent restrictions on women's reproductive care disproportionately impact Black and Hispanic women."
The pro-abortion endorsers of RPDB further declare they "are moved by compassion and conscience to say clearly that laws and policies celebrated as 'pro-life' by our Church leaders often hurt women and demean our dignity."
RPDB was spearheaded by Faith in Public Life (FBL) — a group that touts it "has played an important role in changing the narrative about the role of faith in politics, winning major progressive policy victories, and empowering new religious leaders to fight for social justice and the common good."
On Tuesday, FBL hosted a panel discussion titled "Catholic Women: Reclaiming Debates about Abortion & Reproductive Justice," which included five of RPDB's signatories: Kimberly Lymore, Ph.D., Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Jeanné Lewis, Emily Reimer-Barry, Ph.D., and Mollie Wilson O'Reilly.
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is editor at large for the Jesuit publication Commonweal.
During the panel discussion, O'Reilly explained how she experienced heavy bleeding after a miscarriage. She underwent a procedure known as Dilation and curettage (D&C), which she claimed would not have been possible in a Catholic hospital.
This led her to rethink her ideas regarding abortion.
"I had been too thick — I think — to understand that abortion is health care. It may be other things, too, but that, fundamentally, it is health care," she stated.
After adding she was grateful to be in a blue state when this happened, O'Reilly expounded on two conclusions she drew from the event:
- "Abortion is health care. It's an injustice and a scandal that any woman or any pregnant person should not be able to access the care that they need to stay healthy. I understood what reproductive justice meant in a way that I don't think I had."
- "The Church's pro-life position just had no room for experiences like mine. Even though during that whole ordeal I was leaning on my faith to sustain me, I couldn't lean on my church because it just wasn't there; it just had nothing to say to me in my vulnerability."
But one Catholic nurse practitioner, who holds master's degrees in nursing and healthcare management, told Church Militant that O'Reilly is either confused or being dishonest.
"Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a medical procedure that can be used to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage," she said. "While the procedure can be used to commit abortion, in this case, it was used to prevent hemorrhaging or infection subsequent to the child's natural death."
"Any Catholic hospital would have done that," she continued. "O'Reilly has confused a medical procedure sometimes performed after a complicated miscarriage with the same procedure used for the singular purpose of killing a child."
"Killing a child should never be labeled 'health care,'" she concluded. "And during that sad time, O'Reilly should have leaned on her Catholic faith, which she doesn't seem to understand."
"Black women — I believe — want reproductive justice and not just abortion rights," claimed Kimberly Lymore, Ph.D., during the panel discussion.
She expanded on her claim:
When we talk about pro-life in the Black community, we truly talk about the womb to the tomb. It's one thing to get the baby born, but how do you care for that child? Do you give them a good education? Do they have the right to good health care — to grow up healthy and be productive in life? So we want our young people to think about and be able to do that and not just have them born and then have families who can't take care of them due to the systemic racism that exists in this country.
Critics note Lymore failed to mention one of the country's biggest examples of so-called systemic racism — Planned Parenthood, whose founder, Margaret Sanger, was a racist eugenist who wanted to reduce and ultimately eliminate the Black population.
Lymore is a pastoral associate at St. Sabina's in Chicago, where the pastor, Fr. Michael Pfleger, is well-known for his leftist activism, flamboyant liturgical style and 2022 endorsement of a pro-abortion candidate for the state Senate.
"Another aspect of this that I think about is the importance of intersecting principles of Catholic social teaching with issues of sexual justice," proclaimed Emily Reimer-Barry, Ph.D., during the panel discussion.
"And I'm just deeply grateful for the Black women who have pioneered this really important work of looking at structural injustice," she added.
Reimer-Barry then rattled off a list of such authors from Loretta Ross to Dorothy Roberts, congratulating them for the work they are doing for "all people with uteruses."
"Reproductive justice is not just about abortion; reproductive justice is about how to center women's moral decision-making," she added. "They talk about the right to have a child, the right to not have a child and the right to parent in safe and healthy communities."
According to her website, Reimer-Barry teaches "courses in theological ethics utilizing feminist and anti-racist pedagogies." Her research looks at "themes in fundamental moral theology, including the role of experience in theological method, as well as topics that probe the relationship between social justice and sexuality, including HIV-prevention, birth control, gender justice in marriage, and reproductive justice."
She is currently writing a book on what she styles "reproductive justice and the Catholic Church."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) underscores one of the most basic principles of Catholic social teaching these signatories seem to miss: "God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being."
Regarding RPDB, one wonders how these self-identifying Catholics intend to "reclaim" public debates on abortion when the Church, on this topic, has only ever taken a singular, authoritative and immutable stance: "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law" (CCC 2271).