ST. LOUIS — Giving civil-rights protection to abortion would undermine respect for life and threaten the religious freedom of Catholic institutions, the archbishop of St. Louis has said in a strong criticism of a proposed city bill.
“City ordinances should respect all people, including women facing unplanned pregnancies, unborn children, and people who desire to live their lives in accordance with their religious convictions,” Archbishop Robert Carlson said Jan. 10.
“Protection and care for human life at all stages of development from conception until natural death is a fundamental moral value shared by Catholics as well as many other people of faith,” he added.
The bill would add “reproductive health decisions” to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance concerning housing and employment. If the proposal becomes law, the city Civil Rights Enforcement Commission would be empowered to consider complaints.
Archbishop Carlson said the bill is “vague and ambiguous” and could pose “terrible consequences” for religious institutions.
“For example, a Catholic school or Catholic Charities agency could be fined by the city of St. Louis for not employing persons who publicly promote practices such as abortion,” he said. Catholic institutions could also be fined for refusing to cover abortion in employee health insurance plans.
“This proposed ordinance seeks to make St. Louis a sanctuary city for abortion, an act that kills innocent unborn children,” the archbishop added. “This is not what our city should stand for; rather, St. Louis should be a sanctuary for life and compassion, especially compassion for mothers and their developing children.”
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s proposed city ordinance, Board Bill 203, specifically protects decisions “related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device or medical service, including the use or intended use of contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of pregnancy.”
Archbishop Carlson charged that the bill would “force the people of St. Louis to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion.”
“This would be a flagrant violation of religious liberty and individual rights of conscience,” he said, urging St. Louis citizens to oppose the proposal.
Alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, the bill sponsor, said the amendment would clarify that women “should be free to make reproductive choices they want to make without consequences from their employer or landlord,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
According to Green, the bill would not limit a religious institution from firing an employee who advocates abortion.
Archbishop Carlson, however, was adamant, saying the Archdiocese of St. Louis “cannot and will not comply with any ordinance like Board Bill 203 that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business.”
“There is no room for compromise on such a matter. This is a matter of fundamental religious and moral beliefs,” he said.
The archbishop added that the archdiocese would help provide spiritual and material assistance to all in need, “especially the poor and those women facing crisis pregnancies who feel they have no one else to turn to for help.”
The bill is pending before the Housing Committee, though no hearing has been set.