‘Unconscionable’: California Gov. Newsom Cites Jesus on Billboards Promoting Abortion
The abortion-selling ads include a passage from Scripture, Mark 12:31.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom of California unveiled his plan for a billboard advertising campaign inviting women to travel to his state to have abortions, he was swiftly condemned by Catholics, who called the ads “unconscionable” and “blasphemy.”
Why the strong reaction? The abortion-selling ads include a passage from Scripture:
“Need an abortion? California is ready to help,” reads the message to be displayed along Indiana and Oklahoma highways.
In smaller lettering, the ads cite Jesus Christ’s words in the Gospel of Mark: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. -Mark 12:31”
“It is unconscionable that these ads distort Scripture to support abortion, specifically in states that have already dramatically limited abortion in favor of supporting life,” Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA Sept. 23.
Funding ads in other states is “nothing more than a political stunt by our governor,” she said. “It is virtue-signaling that California, with our extremely permissive abortion laws, is superior to red and purple states enacting abortion restrictions.”
Newsom, a Democrat, is expected to win reelection as California governor this fall. On Sept. 15 he announced seven versions of the pro-abortion ads that would run on billboards in seven states that restrict abortion.
The ads, which list an abortion-access website hosted by the California state government, note that they are paid for by Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign. His campaign committee had almost $24 million in cash on hand as of June 30, according to filings available on the website of the California Secretary of State.
Domingo said the use of Scripture to back abortion was misleading.
“If we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would want the best for our neighbor, which means true comprehensive support services so that no mother or father is misled or coerced into ending a child’s life, and no mother or father walks their parenthood journey alone,” she told CNA.
She added that basic needs aren’t being met in Newsom’s home state.
“California is not just providing abortions, but promoting abortion as a solution for women,” said Domingo. “When California families are struggling to pay for gas, afford rent and put food on the table, promoting the violence of abortion solves none of the urgent problems countless families are facing.”
CNA sought comment from several Catholic dioceses in California, Mississippi and Oklahoma but did not receive a response by publication.
Chris Check, president of the California-based apologetics organization Catholic Answers, said the ads “commit blasphemy by co-opting sacred Scripture in service of abortion.”
Writing in a Sept. 21 commentary for Catholic Answers, Check noted that the biblical quotation refers to another commandment in which it should be grounded, the preceding Bible verse, where Jesus says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Check cited other verses that stressed the need to care for widows and orphans. A woman abandoned by her husband or boyfriend is a sort of widow, and the unwanted unborn child is “a sort of orphan,” he said.
Christianity has rejected abortion from its earliest years. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.”
Pope Francis has spoken of abortion as an aspect of a “throwaway culture” that also rejects those in need.
As for Newsom, his political rhetoric has labeled bans on abortion “un-American.” He contended that his Republican foes are “literally killing women.”
“The idea that these Republican politicians are seeking to ‘protect life’ is a total farce,” Newsom said on Sept. 15. “They are seeking to restrict and control their constituents and take away their freedom.”
Newsom’s billboard ads refer to a California abortion-access website that includes information about abortion and financial aid for the procedure. The website includes telehealth information about receiving abortion drugs by mail. It provides information for specific groups, including those under age 18, those who live outside of California, and immigrants and undocumented people.
The website also repeats criticism of crisis-pregnancy centers that do not perform abortions, saying they may provide “false, medically inaccurate information” to convince women not to have an abortion. It links to a Planned Parenthood blog post about pregnancy centers and a California Department of Justice bulletin. The bulletin attempts to distinguish pregnancy centers from “reproductive healthcare facilities” and claims pregnancy centers “do not provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare.”
Newsom said the ads will run in seven of the states with the “most restrictive” anti-abortion laws. In the governor’s view, the ads “explain how women can access care — no matter where they live.”
“To any woman seeking an abortion in these anti-freedom states: [California] will defend your right to make decisions about your own health,” he said.
The billboard ads are targeting Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Some of the ads tell potential readers that these states “don’t own your body. You Do.” Some of these ads show the back of a woman in a white dress, with her hands handcuffed behind her.
These five ads do not include the citation from the New Testament but still refer to the state of California’s abortion website.
For the Catholic commentator Check, the ads should be a cause for fear, prayer and action.
“These blasphemies of Gavin Newsom and the other leaders of California should fill us with fear — fear for him, of course, whose soul is in grievous danger of a fate too horrible to comprehend,” said Check, who also voiced concern for those he might influence.
He encouraged prayers for the governor and for Newsom’s local Catholic bishop. He also encouraged Catholics to engage in their own spiritual formation and to support the work of pro-life regnancy centers, pro-life sidewalk counseling outside abortion facilities and the work of other pro-life nonprofits.