Letter to the Editor: Please Clarify Bishops’ Statement
Published: January 31, 2008
To the Editor:
I read the statement of the Georgia bishops regarding HR 536 (The Georgia Bulletin, Jan. 17) and was confused as to why they are not supporting this human life amendment. The statement is vague and leaves me with many questions. Why support a national amendment to the U.S. Constitution and not a state amendment to the Georgia Constitution? Is there something being proposed on a national level? Why is this being published publicly? Why do they think this will not succeed? Why did they support the woman’s right to know bill? Or the ultrasound bill? (Neither of these pieces of legislation is being enforced by the way.) I hope that there will be a follow-up article with more information to clarify their position.
Sheila Palazzo, Grayson
The following is a response from Pat Chivers, communications director of the Archdiocese of Atlanta:
The belief in the sacredness of human life is the foundation of Catholic social teaching and the bishops of Georgia are very clear in their recent statement that they will unceasingly advocate for the protection of human life. With expert legal advice in constitutional law and with careful consideration of the goal, potential impact and implications of HR 536, as well as the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, the bishops of Georgia are not supporting the passage of the state human life amendment. A state human life amendment (HLA) is not an effective means to achieve the goal of the legislation to gain full legal recognition of the right to life of the unborn child and bring an end to all abortion.
Since the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court reaffirmed the federal right to an abortion focusing on the woman’s health and her right to control her reproduction. Proponents of the state HLA argue that a HLA will present medical evidence that human life begins at conception and that evidence will cause the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, leading to Roe v. Wade being overturned. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused at least nine times over the past 15 years to hear a case that directly challenges Roe using this same evidence. As recently as Oct. 1, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case on appeal from the New Jersey Supreme Court, Acuna v. Turkish.
If HR 536 passed in Georgia and was passed by the voters of Georgia, its enactment could be interpreted as repealing existing abortion laws in Georgia, such as the parental notification law, woman’s right to know law and the law requiring that an ultrasound be offered to a woman before an abortion. When these laws were considered by the Georgia General Assembly, they were supported by the bishops because they reduce abortions and help to educate others on the negative impact of abortion on women. Recent research published by the Heritage Foundation provides compelling evidence that incremental abortion laws were responsible for the more than 17 percent decrease in abortion during the 1990s. It is a fact these laws are being implemented in Georgia, despite misinformation being distributed by the proponents of HR 536 to the contrary. There may be a misunderstanding by some of the requirements of the laws.
The U.S. bishops have always supported a federal human life amendment and will continue those efforts on a national level, rather than state constitutional amendments. Currently National Right to Life and Americans United for Life are not supporting state HLAs either.
The statement by the bishops of Georgia was published recently because Catholics throughout the state have asked for clarification from their bishops on this piece of legislation and on the misinformation being distributed. We will continue to monitor this bill throughout the legislative process and will offer follow-up information through The Georgia Bulletin.
The state personhood amendment approach has not saved and, in current circumstances, is not likely to save a single life. The bishops of Georgia will support legislation that will save lives.