Going to the Extreme

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Sadly, what’s happening in California is only one example of the tidal wave of radical abortion legislation in some states.

Pro-life activists march during the 49th annual March for Life, on January 21, 2022, in Washington, DC.
Pro-life activists march during the 49th annual March for Life, on January 21, 2022, in Washington, DC. (photo: Mandel Ngan / Getty)

Just when you think abortion extremism can’t get any worse in the United States, a pro-abortion state government proves that’s not the case. 

California leads the way in radical abortion policy. I’ve already drawn attention recently to the numerous steps underway to enhance abortion rights, as Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Democratic Party collaborators in the state Legislature move to position the Golden State as the nation’s most zealous promoter of abortion.

But one aspect of California’s attack on the dignity of human life particularly worth national outcry is a provision in one of the state’s pro-abortion bills — which appears to decriminalize infanticide for the first month of a baby’s life outside of the mother’s womb.

According to backers of the bill, the provision is intended to apply merely in the cases of women who are physically unable to care for newborns who die as a result of such neglect. But such claims ring hollow, given that the bill’s Democratic sponsor has refused repeated requests by the California Catholic Conference to amend its language to clarify that it can’t apply more broadly to the killing of newborn babies in other circumstances. 

Another strong reason for suspicion is that the bill is intended to shield women from criminal and civil liability for participation in criminal abortions and to similarly shield anybody else who assists in such abortions. It’s certainly not a coincidence this bill is strongly backed by Planned Parenthood and other members of the government-supported “California Future of Abortion Council.”

Sadly, what’s happening in California is only one example of the tidal wave of abortion extremism that’s washing over blue-state America. Last year, state legislatures introduced 109 bills intended to expand abortion access. And so far, in 2022, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Connecticut and Maryland have all moved forward with radical pro-abortion legislation.

While the specifics of these bills vary, in all cases they enhance abortion access significantly in jurisdictions that already have entrenched anti-life legal frameworks. One method now being employed in California, Hawaii, Delaware and Maine is the advancement of laws that allow nurses, instead of doctors, to carry out abortions. Along with the conscience problems that necessarily arise whenever medical professionals are co-opted to participate in the life-destroying procedure, this move potentially places women who suffer complications during abortions in grave jeopardy due to the absence of doctors whose medical skills could be required to provide lifesaving emergency care.

Another technique by which the abortion lobby is currently seeking to extend its reach even further is by persuading governments to fund the training of medical students to perform abortions via scholarships and repayment of student loans. This is necessary because most doctors have a strong inherent repugnance toward any direct participation in abortion procedures.

Several states have moved to position themselves as so-called “sanctuary states” for abortion, by passing measures facilitating abortions performed on women who travel there from pro-life states and protecting abortionists against out-of-state lawsuits. It’s bizarre to apply the idea of “sanctuary,” a Catholic concept formulated in the Church’s early centuries for the specific purpose of affording refuge in churches to individuals whose welfare is threatened by public authorities, to legal measures intended to facilitate the killing of unborn human lives. Unfortunately, abortion activists are cruelly blind to such tragic contradictions.

More broadly, the abortion lobby and its political allies justify their new extremism on the grounds that it’s needed to defend the right to abortion that was conferred by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which the current Supreme Court justices will hopefully overturn via their impending decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case expected in June. However, these new state laws are far more extreme than what Roe’s legal framework currently stipulates. That framework allows states to introduce restrictions on abortion after 24 weeks, whereas the new pro-abortion radicalism seeks to institutionalize on-demand abortion right up to the moment of birth.

Legislators in Vermont are seeking to go even further by amending the state constitution to guarantee an undefined right to “reproductive autonomy.” Pro-life advocates warn that this “abortion-plus” amendment potentially could provide activist judges with an instrument to mandate abortion without any parental notification for minor children, as well as to strip away parental oversight over hormonal and surgical “gender-transition” treatments.

In fact, the stripping away of existing pro-life protections is a central element of the current wave of pro-abortion political activity. 

Last December, Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed five pro-life bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, including one that imposed criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care to babies who survive abortions and another that prohibited abortions based on a baby’s sex, race or national origin. 

Other states where protective provisions have been rolled back since 2019, either by executive or legislative action, include Kentucky, Nevada, Rhode Island, Delaware and New Mexico

This state-level abortion extremism is proceeding despite national polling that consistently shows that a large majority of Americans oppose such radical measures. A January 2022 Marist poll, for example, found that only 17% of Americans support unrestricted abortion until birth. Even among Democrats, only 31% support such extremism.

Also, as Chief Justice John Roberts correctly noted last December during oral argument in the Dobbs case, U.S. abortion law is already very permissive compared to other developed nations and to global standards. In fact, only a handful of governments, including China and North Korea, similarly allow unborn babies to be killed after 20 weeks of gestation. So these radical new state laws would move us even more out of step with the international consensus than our nation is already.

More fundamentally, as the Catholic Church stresses in its teaching on the evil of abortion, it’s always morally wrong, no matter what the laws of a particular jurisdiction might allow. The Church teaches this because of a profound and inescapable truth: In every case, abortion ends the life of a completely innocent and defenseless human being. 

This is a truth that the abortion lobby will never be able to obscure, no matter how hard it tries. And it’s why faithful Catholics, in company with all Americans of goodwill, will continue to join with all their strength in what the U.S. bishops have identified as “the fundamental human-rights issue” of our time — ending legal abortion in our nation.

And we can also take heart from another reality: The reason that the abortion lobby and its political allies have become so much more extreme lately is because they know they are losing ground in the hearts and minds of the American people.

God bless you!