Skip to Content

Catholic Women Scholars & Advocates: End Abortion Culture Wars, Pass Policies that Support Families


Wednesday, April 12, 2023


Austin Schuler, aschuler@faithinpubliclife.org, (540) 280-3393 

John Gehring, jgehring@faithinpubliclife.org, (410) 302-3792

Catholic Women Scholars & Advocates: End Abortion Culture Wars, Pass Policies that Support Families 

Washington, D.C. — More than 30 prominent Catholic women scholars, theologians and advocates are speaking out against growing restrictions on abortion in states and calling on lawmakers to enact robust policies that support women and families.

The statement, released by Faith in Public Life, is signed by Catholic women scholars from more than a dozen Catholic universities. Other Catholic women represented in the open letter include Jeanné Lewis, CEO at Faith in Public Life, and Marie Dennis, Senior Program Director of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative at Pax Christi International. 

“We are theologians, scholars, advocates, mothers and daughters who watch in anguish as abortion bans make pregnancies even more dangerous for women,” the leaders write in anOpen Letter from Catholic Women: Reclaiming Public Debates about Abortion & Reproductive Justice. “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.” 

“My survival depended on the availability of a doctor who was able and willing to perform an abortion procedure,” said Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, a Catholic mother and an editor at large at Commonweal magazine who signed the statement. The mother of four children experienced two miscarriages. “It was coming out of that experience that I realized in a really personal way how inadequate the ‘pro-life’ framework was for situations like mine. We need to work for a better conversation about abortion and reproductive justice that reflect the realities of women’s experiences.” 

Women who live in states with abortion bans are nearly three times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth or soon after giving birth, according to a January 2023 report from the Gender Equity Policy Institute.

“We urge elected officials to support robust policies that address how economic, racial and reproductive justice are interconnected,” the leaders write. “Abortion is often viewed as a single issue, but women do not make decisions in isolation. The lack of quality health care, the high cost of raising children, poverty wages for workers, sexual violence and rape, and the racial gap in maternal mortality rates all impact how women make decisions about our reproductive lives.”

“Catholic women have moral agency and experiences that are often ignored when we talk about the impact of criminalizing abortion,” said another signatory on the statement, Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Director of the Catholic Studies Program at Manhattan College. “I encourage our church leaders and elected officials to show more humility by listening to women of faith who are finding the courage to challenge narratives that do more to serve narrow ideological agendas than honor the dignity and complexity of our lives.”

The women urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid; implement child tax credits that have proven to significantly decrease child poverty; support full, paid parental leave after the birth of a child; do more to help families cover the high cost of childcare; and ensure that workers are paid living wages. “All of these policies are rooted in principles of solidarity, the dignity of work and the common good found in Catholic social teaching,” the statement reads. “We recognize that even many of our own Catholic institutions are not doing nearly enough to support policies that help women, children and families flourish.” 

The statement also highlights how polarizing debates over abortion — including the call from some Catholic bishops to deny Communion to President Biden and other high-profile Catholic elected officials —  has distorted the Catholic witness in politics and public life. “Culture wars over abortion have divided our Church, coarsened political discourse and left a legacy of mistrust and resentment,” the leaders write, adding that “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.” 

The open letter and a list of signatories can be viewed here. Several of the women who endorsed the letter will be taking part in a public online dialogue next Tuesday, April 18, at 1:30 pm ET. The panel discussion will be moderated by Faith in Public CEO Jeanné Lewis. Media can register here

Faith in Public Life is a national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. Together, with a network of over 50,000 leaders, they are leading the fight to advance just policies at the state and federal level that affirm our values and the human dignity of all.

Back to top