This edition of the Life Issues Forum is available in English and has been posted to our website, where its Spanish translation will be posted as soon as it is available.
The Life Issues Forum is a bi-weekly column by Pro-Life Secretariat staff addressing the latest issues on the culture of life. Columns may be reprinted as they appear here (in full and without alteration) without further permission.
The Pro-Life Secretariat
LIFE ISSUES FORUM FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Will They Be Free to Serve?
By Mary McClusky
I can still see the tiny pink socks. And boxes and boxes of diapers. Most of all, I remember the warmth and cheeriness of the staff as I toured the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Help Center in downtown Buffalo, New York. Their love and dedication shone brightly through every word and smile. How tragic that their service to women, children, and families is at great risk this February, when the Supreme Court hears NIFLA vs. Becerra--a case that has nationwide ramifications.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against California's so-called "Reproductive Fact Act." The California law forces medically-licensed pregnancy support centers, in direct contradiction of their mission and beliefs, to provide information to clients about publicly funded abortion. A national pregnancy resource center advocacy group, National Institute of Family Life Advocates (NIFLA), is challenging the law, arguing that it violates the centers' rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
Such unjust laws undermine the ability of the Church and its people to provide pastoral care-the spiritual and material help that the U.S. bishops call "a primary way that the Church expresses its love for all God's children" (USCCB Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, 2001). The U.S. bishops view pregnancy support services as an essential part of reaching out to women who are vulnerable to abortion. Many women feel pressured to abort. A pregnancy help center may be a woman's sole means of emotional, material, or financial support. Many centers provide medical services, helping women who would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to obtain high-quality medical care for themselves and their unborn children.
Laws like the California "Fact Act" place a significant burden on those who serve, and threaten the welfare of the thousands of women, children, and families who benefit from pregnancy support and medical care.
There are 3,042 stationary or mobile pregnancy help centers throughout the country. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are among the compassionate people who serve at one of them. You may know someone who's benefited from such help. According to research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), 1.9 million women received pregnancy support or education from pregnancy help centers in 2011. That same year, 230,000 ultrasounds were provided at little or no cost to women, supported by private funding.
How tragic if this unjust, intolerant, and anti-American law stands! In a culture that often gives negative messages regarding parenthood, it is important that those who offer support and medical care to pregnant women retain the right to care for and celebrate the gift of new life.
|Mary McClusky is Assistant Director for Project Rachel Ministry Development at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For confidential help after abortion, visit www.hopeafterabortion.org or www.esperanzaposaborto.org.|