Courts Pit The Undocumented Against The Unborn

Printed from:

There are few more inspiring actions than witnessing a venerable institution alter course after having taken a contrary public position.

In politics, such a change is frequently dismissed as a “climb down.” In religion, Catholics and others view it as a sublime example of courage and wisdom — if you will, a “rising up.”

We witnessed such a moment on October 25, when Cardinal Sean O’Malley revised a diocesan directive, and decided to permit signature gathering for petitions in accord with Catholic teaching on church property. This changed a previous decision by the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts to disallow petition drives on all church grounds. Because the most prominent current petition effort seeks to end taxpayer funding of abortion, many pro-life Catholics felt deep regret over those limitations.

The Archdiocese of Boston, soon joined by Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus, announced the policy change, effectively allowing the Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions to request authorization from parishes and pastors to collect signatures at local churches. This provided a significant boost, as the ballot drive entered its final weeks, to collect 64,750 signatures by Tuesday, November 22. Having sacrificed so much time and energy, pro-life volunteers got a much-needed lift, knowing they would again be welcome on the grounds of the Church that had inspired many of them to work on behalf of the unborn in the first place.

Meanwhile, across the country, another institution was displaying the arrogance of “raw judicial power.” Dominated by liberal Democrat jurists, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit forced the United States government, the Trump Administration, and the state of Texas to facilitate an abortion for a teen-ager held in federal custody as a result of unlawfully crossing the border. 

Had this individual remained in her native Central American country, the domestic laws protecting the unborn in that nation would have applied. Instead, the person entered the United States, where federal courts overruled the state and federal governments. After previous conflicting rulings, the Appeals judges voted on a strictly partisan basis:  three conservative Republican judges supported the authority of the state and federal governments; six liberal Democrat judges ruled in the majority that essentially obliged the government to facilitate the order of a district judge, appointed by President Barack Obama, that the teen-ager’s abortion proceed “without delay.” 

Should this judicial fiat stand, the pro-choice goal of turning the United States into an “abortion sanctuary nation” becomes a reality. Any person, including teen-agers, who has neither a legal right to reside in the United States nor a right to abort in her own country has — by judicial fiat — been granted an absolute “right to abort” once she crosses the border. 

Forget about sanctuary cities or a nation without borders; the liberal judges are intent on declaring “sanctuary destination for abortion without borders.”

Quite possibly, this news story came to the attention of Cardinal O’Malley as he pondered reforming policy regarding signature gathering in the Archdiocese of Boston. In the Lone Star State, Catholic bishops commended federal and Texas officials “for defending the life of an innocent unborn child.” Calling the pro-abortion position “unconscionable,” the bishops stated, “No one — the government, private individuals or organizations — should be forced to be complicit in abortion.”

In Massachusetts, some noted that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 13 other Democrat attorneys general filed a brief in support of the ultimate abortion ruling. Because the pro-abortion ruling in the Texas case has implications that could eventually reverberate in the Bay State, His Eminence would have had demonstrable reasons for revising the signature policy.

Simply put, those implications threaten to trap the Catholic Church in an untenable position.

After all, no other institution more forthrightly defends undocumented persons who enter the United States without securing legal status. At the same time, no institution speaks more firmly and eloquently on behalf of the rights of unborn children.

What a dilemma the Church faces.

How can it both defend the lives of the unborn and advocate for the undocumented, if the courts strip the unborn of all protection? Should this ruling set future precedent, it invites adults and teen-agers residing in countries that protect unborn babies to enter the United States illegally in order to procure the abortion that their very citizenship at home restricts.

The situation becomes even more fraught in states where courts have expanded abortion on demand to force taxpayers to pay for the choices of others. One such state is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, whose Supreme Judicial Court mandates taxpayer-funded abortions. With liberals completely controlling the state judiciary, it’s a short step to declaring that citizen-taxpayers must fund abortions for all non-citizens, even teen-agers held in federal custody without any legal right to remain in the state or the nation and without consulting their parents or guardians.

When this plays out across America, the Church will see a pair of deeply-held principles at war with each other, as the liberal judiciary pits “the undocumented against the unborn.” 

How can a pro-life Church support providing sanctuary for illegal immigrants, if at the same time courts are ordering the end to sanctuary for innocent unborn children? How can a pro-life Church support extending constitutional rights to undocumented immigrants, if among those rights is the court-ordered “right to abortion,” accompanied by state courts ordering taxpayers to fund those abortions?

One way out of this dilemma is by ending taxpayer-funded abortions in Massachusetts. Because of prior state court rulings, a petition drive is required simply to begin the long and difficult process. The Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions is trying to do just that, to start the process and open the conversation. The pro-life volunteers have much to surmount; Cardinal O’Malley has made their climb a little less steep.

Should pro-lifers reach their petition-drive goal, their achievement will bring to mind Winston Churchill’s memorable quote:  “This is not the end; this is not even the beginning of the end; this is just perhaps the end of the beginning.”


Joseph Tortelli is a freelancer writer. Read other articles by Mr. Tortelli here.