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New England pro-life directors hail court decision

By Christine Williams
Posted: 4/20/2007

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BRIGHTON -- Pro-life directors of several New England dioceses said in a joint statement that they applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 18 ruling to uphold a ban on partial-birth abortion.

The statement jointly issued by the pro-life office directors from the archdioceses of Boston and Hartford as well as the dioceses of Fall River; Worcester; Burlington, Vt.; Norwich, Conn. and Providence, R.I. read: “We applaud today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion, which will put an end to this horrendous procedure throughout the United States. We pray for the legal protection of all human life and continue to offer pastoral support to all involved with and suffering from the trauma of abortion.”

The New England directors were gathered in Boston for their semi-annual regional meeting as news of the decision broke.

Seated around a conference room table at the Boston Archdiocese’s chancery, the directors reacted to the news, which they called “incredible.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley was also present for part of the meeting.

Especially encouraging, several noted, is the language used in the majority decision. Pregnant women are referred to as “expectant mothers” and the child is called “life within the woman.” Additionally, the decision acknowledges the pain that women go through after abortion.

“The Supreme Court has never spoken this way before,” said Marianne Luthin, director of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Pro-Life Office. “This has the potential to really reframe the entire debate.”

According to Luthin, one-third of women of childbearing age have had abortions.

Many women feel pressured into the procedure that is never fully explained to them. Later, when they discover what they have done, they often feel remorse, she said.

Women who are carrying children with birth defects often feel that abortion is the only option, Luthin said.

“One thing we were talking about with Cardinal Seán (O’Malley) earlier was the pressure that so many women feel to have late-term abortions due to fetal abnormalities,” she said.

Both men and women can be affected by abortion, and that is why ministries like Project Rachel, which promotes post-abortion healing, are so essential, she said.

There are two upcoming Project Rachel retreats -- on May 5 and June 2 -- for anyone dealing with the aftermath of abortion.

Those affected by abortion need to know that they are not alone in their pain and that there are places they can go to heal, Luthin added.

“The Church needs to be there with love, compassion and concern,” she said.

Dan Avila, associate director for policy and research for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which represents the Church in public policy matters, said that the immediate effects of the Supreme Court’s decision will not be legal.

Rather, it is the ideas expressed in the majority decision that will have ramifications, he said.

The ruling recognized that women have a stake in whether or not to carry a child to term. There are consequences for herself as well as her child. Women will be able to understand that the pain they feel after abortion is real and will be able to come to grips with that, he said.

The ruling also acknowledged that doctors are the protectors of life and that it harms the medical community when some doctors use a procedure where they partially deliver children and then kill them, he said.

“The power of the recognition of those consequences of abortion, I think, will reverberate very far and broadly in the public consciousness,” he said.