To the editor:
Recently, Fr. John Michalowski, pastor of Mary Queen of Peace and St. Joseph Parishes in Salem, N.H., placed a flier in our church bulletin. In it, he urged us to write a letter-to-the-editor about health care reform and abortion. His flier opposed abortion as being considered a part of health care. I thought the flier contained some half-truths and hyperbole — for example, that this health care plan is an effort to implement part of FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act, which is currently nonexistent) and a taxpayer abortion industry bailout, both claims of which are wrong and misleading. So, I went to the U.S. Bishops' Web site to read the letter that they had sent to Congress on July 17.
The bishops' letter contained many ideals which, as someone raised Catholic and having attended a Catholic grammar school, I could identify with and feel proud of, like "health care that protects and respects the life and dignity of all people," "including the weakest and most vulnerable," and "truly universal and ... genuinely affordable."
The Catholic ethic on child bearing is one which is lofty and appeals to my idealistic side. It aspires to all pregnancies being wanted, to all women being maternally fit, and all fetuses being perfectly formed. These are ideals to which society should aspire.
But then, there is the real world which tugs at my pragmatic side. It is a world which is not ideal, and never will be — a world in which there can be troubled and tragic pregnancies that bring some women and their families to their breaking point, which put some women under the shadow of death, and which deliver some children so malformed that they die upon birth. We do not live in a perfect world.
It is this real side of life that draws my faith and conscience into action, which leads me to know that it is for the imperfect that Jesus also came — for the troubled pregnancies also. If abortion were not to be considered a part of health care, it is the women with the troubled pregnancies, as well as their families, who would have to suffer the consequences.
There are many faiths which teach "sanctity of life" and "freedom of conscience" with respect to abortion, including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Unitarian Universalist Churches. In his homily shortly before the last election, Fr. Michalowski criticized candidate Obama for his stance on abortion, but failed to note that Obama was following his faith as a member of the United Church of Christ.
As Catholics, we protect and respect all phases of life, and we should live as best as we can in the real world by that ideal. But, we cannot and should not impose our ideals on others. We must have respect for the faith and consciences of all people, as well as the mothers of the unborn.
While I believe that abortion should not be a form of birth-control, nor do I condone promiscuity, within my conscience, I believe that abortion must be part of women's health care, so that those who are truly found in tragic and untenable situations are not further burdened by unbending law — either civil or church.