NEW YORK – After a series of defeats on abortion during this week’s midterm elections, Catholic leaders have emphasized their continued commitment to the pro-life cause and supporting mothers in need.
Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont on Nov. 8 chose to enshrine abortion protections into their state constitutions with little to no restrictions. Meanwhile, voters in Kentucky rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have denied any constitutional protections for abortion.
After the results became clear, Catholic leaders in those states used words like devastating, tragic, and disappointed to describe the results. Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington commented that the outcome “certainly does not bode well for the future.”
“Yet we Catholics and others who share our love for all human life will continue to do what we have been doing: encouraging, supporting and forming a greater culture of life,” Coyne said in a statement. “We must increase our efforts to support pregnant women, new mothers and families.”
Proposal 5, the formal title of the Vermont measure, doesn’t include any abortion restrictions.
It was likely to pass in deep-blue Vermont regardless of the Catholic and pro-life advocacy against it. As of Nov. 9, with more than 95 percent of the votes counted, “yes” votes for the measure outnumbered “no” votes 72 percent to 22 percent, according to data from the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. About 6 percent of voters left the question blank.
The same can be said for deep-blue California. Late on Nov. 9 only 42 percent of the votes on its abortion measure, Proposition 1, were counted. Still, the “yes” votes for the measure outnumbered the “no” votes 65 percent to 35 percent, with a margin of about 1.6 million votes, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement, the California Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in California called the broad language of the measure “reckless,” adding that they look forward “to fighting again to protect life when Prop. 1 is inevitably challenged in the courts.”
Proposition 1 says “the state cannot deny or interfere with a person’s reproductive freedom and that people have the fundamental right to choose” whether or not to have an abortion, and whether or not to use contraceptives.
The California Catholic Conference highlighted that it doesn’t solve any of the underlying issues that women face that lead them to get an abortion, including intimate partner violence, housing insecurity, inadequate access to healthcare, insufficient paid leave, childcare opportunities, or having no one in their lives able to accompany them through pregnancy and parenting.
“Every day, hundreds of California women facing an unexpected pregnancy look for support in our great state,” the conference said. “The pro-life community is there for them through our network of resource centers, pregnancy clinics, maternity homes, and call centers.”
It wasn’t as clear which way Michigan voters would go, but in the end almost 57 percent of voters voted “yes” to enshrine the right to an abortion into the state’s constitution, with about 43 percent voting “no,” according to the Associated Press. The margin was about 580,000 with 98 percent of the votes counted.
Paul Long, the president of the Michigan Catholic Conference, said in a statement that the result forces Catholics in the state to “accelerate a mission of love and mercy where all life is respected and supported, before, during and after birth.”
“We will expect policymakers to address with substance and empathy the women and families in our state who are in need of support and compassion to ensure they have the help and life-affirming care needed to live with their children with dignity and joy,” he said.
Neither the result in Michigan, nor those in Vermont and California were as surprising as what happened in red Kentucky. Like the result in Kansas months ago, Kentucky voters voted against an amendment to the state constitution that would have blocked abortion protections in the state constitution.
About 52 percent of Kentucky voters voted “yes” on Amendment 2, with about 48 percent voting “no,” according to the Associated Press. The margin was about 70,000 with 98 percent of the votes counted.
In a joint statement, the state’s four Catholic bishops and Jason Hall, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said they hope the vote doesn’t lead the courts to determine public policy on abortion, and leave it to the state legislature.
“The defeat of Amendment 2 is cause for sadness, but also a call to redouble our efforts at ensuring that every Kentuckian has the support they need to thrive,” the statement reads. “We renew our commitment to work with legislators to pass laws that protect the unborn, support women and families, and respect human life and dignity in all stages of life.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg