Pioneer Press: Bernard Hebda: After Roe v. Wade, let’s work together to assist women in crisis

Originally published in the Pioneer Press.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, neither legal abortion nor the abortion debate will go away.  Instead, it will turn into a highly contentious issue at the state level.

The Catholic Church prays, and has prayed in the 50 years since Roe, for an end to abortion. The Church will unapologetically continue to advocate for every child to be welcomed in life and protected by law from the moment of conception.

We have long supported a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution, affirming what science shows about the child in the womb, namely, that the new life is a human being from the moment of conception and therefore should be afforded the constitutional rights of a person.

The landscape in Minnesota is shaped by our own version of Roe v. Wade. The 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision characterized the state right to an abortion as a “broader protection” than Roe, including the right of poor women to a taxpayer-funded abortion. Gomez is unlikely to be overturned without a change in federal law or a state constitutional amendment.

Despite Minnesota’s legal landscape, we should continue to find ways to put reasonable limits on the availability of abortions, especially after viability (Minnesota is one of the few states without limitations on post-viability abortions), and both put in place, and keep in place, measures making abortion as safe as possible for mothers by licensing abortion clinics and requiring chemical abortions to be procured only through a physician.

But there is another path forward, where pro-life and pro-choice advocates can build common ground for the common good and work together across partisan lines to make abortion unthinkable. Walking with the two feet of charity and justice, we can accompany women in need and limit the demand for abortion.

Women seeking abortions are already in crisis, which is why in most instances they turn to abortion as a pathway out.  Surprisingly, the biggest demographic of women seeking abortion is not teenagers, but women ages 18-24 who already have one child. They are often in school, working, facing homelessness or economic insecurity, and worrying about the impact another child will have on their ability to support themselves and existing children. Sometimes, they are pressured by parents, the baby’s father, or others to abort and feel they have no other support structure to which they can turn.

Many of our Catholic faithful work in crisis pregnancy centers to create nonjudgmental networks of support for women, whether through offering shelter, housing assistance, free diapers and clothing, pregnancy and parenting classes, community referrals, childcare, or other charitable assistance.

The Catholic bishops of the United States have launched a nationwide initiative, Walking with Moms in Need (, to create additional avenues of support for mothers involving Catholic parishes, ministries and crisis pregnancy centers.

The state should commit its resources to ensuring that women have the support that they need to choose life. Some pregnancy centers are supported in part by the state’s Positive Alternatives Grant Program, which promotes healthy pregnancy outcomes and assists pregnant and parenting women in developing and maintaining family stability and self-sufficiency. In a budget that will reach $60 billion by 2024, our state allocates only $3.375 million for these services, but the most recent round of grant applications totaled roughly $6.5 million. And surely the need is greater.

Fully funding the Positive Alternatives Grant Program is a great place to build common ground for people with differing views about legal abortion.  We should all agree that, facing both a workforce shortage and a demographic cliff that will endanger the state budget and state prosperity, we need babies, and we should accept that women looking for avenues of support should be assisted in the decision to make the choice of keeping their baby.

I pledge that our Catholic churches will be a sanctuary for women in crisis pregnancies. Any woman in a crisis pregnancy who comes to the door of a Catholic church in this Archdiocese seeking assistance will be supported and, at minimum, referred to resources where she can get help.

Regardless of your position on the availability of legal abortion, let’s step out onto common ground where we can walk with moms in need.

Bernard A. Hebda is the Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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