As the nation awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's most significant abortion ruling in decades, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of eight USCCB committees joined together "in prayer and expectant hope that states will again be able to protect women and children from the injustice of abortion."
"As we affirm the value of every human life, we welcome the possibility of saving countless unborn children as well as sparing women and families the pain of abortion," they said in a statement released late March 21.
All eyes are on the high court for its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which involves a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.
If the court's ruling in Dobbs, expected in June or early July, overturns the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, it will leave abortion to the states. Already, lawmakers in several states are working to codify Roe in their laws; other states have passed bills similar to the Mississippi law.
In their statement, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, USCCB president, and the chairmen of USCCB committees concerned with pro-life activities, domestic and international policy, evangelization and other issues reviewed the years of outreach by the Catholic Church through various initiatives, parishes, agencies other entities to pregnant women in need and their children and families.
They recommitted the USCCB and its various resources and ministries to these initiatives and urged Catholic dioceses, parishes, agencies and institutions to do the same.
"We proclaim a vision for our society that upholds the truth that every human life is sacred and inviolable -- a society in which the legal protection of human life is accompanied by profound care for mothers and their children," the bishops said.
"We exhort our nation to prioritize the well-being of women, children, and families with both material resources and personal accompaniment so that no woman ever feels forced to choose between her future and the life of her child," they added.
Besides Archbishop Gomez, the bishops who signed the statement and their committees are: Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, Catholic education; Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of Boston, communications; Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, evangelization and catechesis; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, domestic justice and human development; Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, international justice and peace; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, laity, marriage, family life and youth; Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, migration; and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, pro-life activities.
"The Catholic Church has a long history of service to those who are most vulnerable and remains the largest private provider of social services in the United States," they said. "Through the sacrificial efforts of faithful Catholics, the church serves millions through diocesan ministries and agencies, Catholic hospitals and health care systems, immigration clinics, shelters, and Catholic schools and parishes.
"From religious communities to pregnancy care centers, from refugee resettlement services to foster care and adoption agencies, and from maternity homes to parish-based ministries, the church consistently bears witness in word and deed to the beauty and dignity of every human life -- including both mother and child."
The prelates said the U.S. church will recommit itself to its many pro-life efforts, including:
-- Accompanying women and couples facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies and during their early years of parenthood, "offering them loving and compassionate care through initiatives such as Walking with Moms in Need and countless others."
"Walking with Moms in Need" is a nationwide initiative launched by the U.S. bishops "to engage every Catholic parish in providing a safety net to ensure that pregnant and parenting moms have the resources, love and support they need to nurture the lives of their children."
-- Ensuring "our Catholic parishes are places of welcome for women facing challenging pregnancies or who find it difficult to care for their children after birth, so that any mother needing assistance will receive life-affirming support and be connected to appropriate programs and resources where she can get help."
-- Helping Catholics "recognize the needs of pregnant and parenting moms in their communities, enabling parishioners to know these mothers, to listen to them, and to help them obtain the necessities of life for themselves and their children."
-- Being witnesses "of love and life by expanding and improving the extensive network of comprehensive care including pregnancy help centers, maternity homes, and Catholic health care and social service agencies.
-- Proclaiming "with a clear and united voice that our society can and must protect and care for both women and their children."
-- Redoubling "our advocacy for laws that ensure the right to life for unborn children and that no mother or family lacks the basic resources needed to care for their children, regardless of race, age, immigration status, or any other factor."
-- Continuing to support and advocate for public policies and programs directed toward "building up the common good and fostering integral human development, with a special concern for the needs of immigrants and low-income families."
"We are deeply conscious that, after nearly half a century of legalized abortion, more than 65 million children have died from abortion and an untold number of women, men and families suffer in the aftermath," the bishops said.
In response to this suffering, they said the USCCB's committees and other Catholic entities will recommit themselves "to proclaim God's mercy after abortion and compassionately accompany women and men who are suffering after an abortion."
They also said the church will expand diocesan "abortion healing ministries," commonly known as Project Rachel Ministry, "so that women and men receive forgiveness, healing, and spiritual renewal through Christ's infinite mercy."
The prelates also pledged to "transform our parishes into what Pope Francis calls 'islands of mercy in a sea of indifference'" by raising Catholic awareness of "the great struggle involved in an abortion, and the guilt, pain and grief that follow."
"In all these ways and more, the Catholic Church witnesses to the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death, and works to build a true culture of life in our nation," they said.
"May a renewed commitment to life overflow into increased protection of unborn children and expanded support for their mothers and families," they said in conclusion.