Open Letter from Catholic Women: Reclaiming Public Debates about Abortion and Reproductive Justice

We write as Catholic women at a time when the opinions of judges and lawmakers are viewed as more valid than our own lived experiences with reproductive health. We are theologians, scholars, advocates, mothers and daughters who watch in anguish as abortion bans make pregnancies even more dangerous for women. We see how decades of disinvestment in the social safety net and more recent restrictions on women?s reproductive care disproportionately impact Black and Hispanic women. We are moved by compassion and conscience to say clearly that laws and policies celebrated as ?pro-life? by our Church leaders often hurt women and demean our dignity.

Culture wars over abortion have divided our Church, coarsened political discourse and left a legacy of mistrust and resentment. Pregnancy, parenthood and the totality of women?s lives have been turned into simplistic slogans. We are told to ?choose life? even as the policies needed to build a culture of life and dignity for women and families are rejected by the same politicians who criminalize our reproductive decisions.

We applaud Church leaders who walk with people as pastors, but a vocal segment of clergy has created a culture of stigma and shame that shuts down conversations about women?s health. This culture contributes to retaliation in the public square as some bishops weaponize Communion against Catholic politicians. In addition, when bishops describe abortion as the ?preeminent priority? in elections, the fullness of Catholic social teaching is narrowed in ways that are exploited by partisan agendas and that devalue the theological and spiritual role of discernment in making difficult decisions.

We have three core reasons for speaking out.

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