Washington state bishops condemn ‘extreme’ abortion proposal

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Washington State
Washington State Capitol building. Shutterstock

SEATTLE (OSV News) — A proposed amendment to Washington’s constitution that would allow the “right” for an abortion to be performed “at any point” up to the birth of a baby is an “extreme proposal” that lawmakers must reject, said the state’s five Catholic bishops.

The Senate-House Joint Resolution ignores the right to life of an unborn baby, they said in a Jan. 24 statement.

“As Catholics we must take this opportunity to speak up for the unborn and in support of life,” the bishops said. “We must state what we believe is the heart of God on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves.”

“It is our moral obligation and our duty to vote our consciences on this amendment when the opportunity presents itself,” they said. “We must also contact the governor and respective state representatives to let them know our supportive position on life and why this issue is so important to our society, state and culture.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle, Bishops Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima and Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, and Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio L. Elizondo and Frank R. Schuster of Seattle.

The proposal goes far beyond what current state law allows on abortion: It is legal only until the point of gestational viability of the unborn child. This law was approved by voters in 1991 and it remains intact following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade in its June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Abortion has been legal in Washington state since 1970.

The Catholic Church “proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society,” the bishops said. “This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teachings. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”

“The human person is not only sacred but also social,” they said. “How we organize our society in economics, law and politics directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Clearly stated, as Catholics we believe in the inviolate dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.”

The bishops quoted St. John Paul II and Pope Francis. In “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), St. John Paul said: “Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. … Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.”

He also said abortion “goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and … the harm done to them” and “falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter, on the administrators of the health care centers where abortions are performed.”

In a video message to the 75th meeting of the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 25, 2020, Pope Francis said: “It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.”

Citing statistics from the Washington State Department of Health, the bishops said that of nearly 100,000 pregnancies in Washington in 2020, there were just over 16,000 abortions. “We must act on behalf of these lives being lost,” they said.

“We call on Catholics and people of goodwill everywhere to continue their efforts to be involved in the political process to promote laws and policies supporting life, liberty and justice for the common good,” the bishops said. “This is our Christian calling and responsibility.”

OSV News

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