Nearly 50 Catholic women health workers call for protecting women and the unborn

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Nearly 50 Catholic women in the health profession are emphasizing the dignity of human life after dozens of Catholic women scholars signed an open letter calling for new conversations on “reproductive justice” while claiming that abortion restrictions endanger women.

“It is our ethical duty as healthcare professionals — and moral obligation as Catholics — to care for both the mother and her child, to uphold the human dignity of both, and to protect and defend both,” they responded in a new open letter.

The letter — coordinated by Mary Hallan FioRito, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center through the Catholic Women’s Forum — went public Thursday. The signers identified themselves as doctors, physician assistants and nurses who are board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, pediatrics, psychology, neonatology, radiology, maternal-fetal medicine, pediatrics and midwifery.

“I signed the letter because I realize that in an era when the culture frantically celebrates inclusion, tolerance and diversity; the one left out consistently is the unborn child,” Grazie Pozo Christie, MD, a diagnostic radiologist and an advisory board member for the Archdiocese of Miami Pregnancy Resource Centers, told Our Sunday Visitor.

“This child happens to be my patient, and the patient of the other signatories who work in health care,” she said. “Just as much as the pregnant mother is our patient, so is her child.”

Abortion is not health care

Christie and the other signers responded to an open letter by Faith in Public Life, a self-described movement of clergy and faith leaders. Thirty-four scholars, theologians and advocates signed it as Catholic women. The letter, “Reclaiming Public Debates about Abortion and Reproductive Justice,” called for a “comprehensive agenda” in support of women and families while criticizing abortion bans and the Church’s focus on abortion.

“We 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,” the scholars wrote before demanding new public conversations and policies.

The Catholic health professionals responded by addressing their “sisters in Christ.”

“In response to your recent open letter in which you expressed your concerns about women’s health and restrictions on reproductive care,” they began, “we write to share with you our own experiences as medical professionals who regularly care for women and children.”

They supported the idea of a “comprehensive agenda,” but insisted that it exclude abortion.

“We would welcome a ‘comprehensive agenda’ that would better genuinely support women and families,” they wrote. “But we cannot in good conscience support that agenda if human rights violations like abortion are offered as a solution to unplanned or unwelcome pregnancies.”

They added: “Abortion is not healthcare, and it is not a solution to social and economic difficulties.”

The health professionals invited the scholars to engage in a discussion with them.

“Will you discuss abortion with us in a frank and honest conversation that includes science, faith and reason?” they asked. “Are you willing to take in our experiences as medical professionals, as well as those of our patients? Are you open to meeting with us in a public forum where the harms of abortion to women will be laid bare?”

“We would like to unite our efforts as Catholic women,” they concluded, “so that together we can arrive at a life-affirming consensus that will benefit not only women, but the Church and greater society.”

An intersection of faith and science

As Catholics, health professionals and women, the signers of the new letter mourned the destructiveness of abortion.

“We have seen first-hand the damage that 50 years of abortion on demand has imposed on women,” they wrote. “We are deeply saddened, but not surprised, that legal abortion did not result in a society that fully accommodates pregnancy and childbirth, but rather continues to undermine the unique gift that has been entrusted to us as women: bearing and nurturing new life.”

They stated that science supports the Church’s teaching on life, which recognizes a right to life from the moment of conception.

“We wish to share with you how ‘following the science’ has only strengthened our understanding of the Catholic Church’s ‘unchanged and unchangeable’ teaching on abortion,” they wrote. “In doing so, we hope to expand your own understanding of the humanity of the unborn and the God-given dignity that they possess as members of the human family.”

Mary Bauer, CMN, a certified nurse-midwife in private practice who signed the letter, highlighted that same point.

“I feel that women need to be told the truth and have a better understanding of the fact that … the Church’s teaching is completely supported by science,” she told Our Sunday Visitor of why she signed the letter.

Looking forward

Christie and Bauer both told Our Sunday Visitor that they hope the letter will change the narrative.

“I hope that this letter balances out the shameful letter of the pro-choice Catholics who are like lemmings in the current, following sin to its awful conclusion,” Christie said.

For her part, Bauer called increased awareness an important part of the message they are trying to get across to women.

“Because so many women have been misinformed about the scientific facts of when life begins,” she said, “and it will help them guide their own decisions, if they really understand the truth.”

Bauer said that, instead of being a solution to a problem, abortion becomes another problem with its own repercussions.

“One of our goals should be that, for all women, especially those of us who are Catholic providers and Catholic women, that abortion should be considered an unthinkable alternative and that we should be able to work together to develop a panel of resources for women to be able to rely on when they get into an unplanned pregnancy,” she said.

“Most of us Catholic providers really do have a good understanding of what’s involved in an unplanned pregnancy, from a psycho, social, emotional perspective,” she added. “We really understand the women who are in trouble or in danger, somebody who’s been threatened or raped, but we still value the distinct human being that is inside of her, and we really want to be able to try to find a solution that doesn’t involve killing anyone.”

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.