By Christopher White
The Tablet National Correspondent
Catholics for Choice, a group that has been repeatedly described by the U.S. bishops as not representing authentic Catholic teaching, launched a new nationwide advertising campaign earlier this week endorsing public funding for abortion.
The ads are running in papers throughout the country, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Sun Times, The Marion Reader, and the Harrisburg Register and state that “public funding for abortion is a Catholic social justice value.”
“As Catholics, we are called upon to have a preferential option for the poor – and that means ensuring poor women have the same rights as every other woman to make their own moral decisions about when, how and whether to have a family,” Catholics for Choice president Jon O’Brien said in a press release.
“That is why we support public funding for abortion as do the majority of Catholics,” he said.
Their campaign has been met by sharp criticism by pro-life advocates across the country.
“The preferential option for the poor calls us to stand with women and their unborn children alike,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops.
“Who’s more disadvantaged than the voiceless child in the womb?,” she asked.
“Abortion advocacy ‘for’ the poor is unjust,” said McQuade. “It’s effectively discrimination against a whole class of unborn humans based on the socio-economic status of their parents.”
According to Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, “Catholics for Choice’s tactic to target and oppose a longstanding bipartisan agreement to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion not only goes against the Church’s teachings but also contrasts the majority opinion of American voters.”
In an interview with The Tablet, Day said she believed abortion advocates would view the campaign as extreme.
“A 2016 Marist poll revealed that 62 percent of self-identified pro-choice voters opposed federal funding of abortion,” said Day.
The new ads are timed to coincide with the 41st anniversary of the passage of the Hyde Amendment, which originally was passed by Congress on Sept. 30, 1976 and established broad restrictions on federal funding for abortion.
The amendment became the subject of much debate in the 2016 presidential election when the Democratic Party called for its repeal as a part of its platform.
On the campaign trail, Clinton said the Hyde Amendment makes it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.
“Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all,” said Clinton.
McQuade challenged that assertion, and told The Tablet that “public funding for abortion increases abortions and does absolutely nothing to address the underlying problems faced by women and their families.
“The flipside is the Hyde Amendment saves lives and helps protect women from the physical and emotional risks of abortion,” said McQuade.
“The extreme ads promote abortion as a social good, as if the solution to poverty is violence, namely the killing of poor people’s children,” she said. “Pushing for abortion coverage in Medicaid forces taxpayers to subsidize that violence.”
Day is also concerned that the campaign will jeopardize current debates over healthcare.
“Democrats, including pro-life Democrats, support universal and affordable healthcare for all,” said Day.
She told The Tablet that many Democrats who are in favor of abortion rights recognize that entangling abortion funding in healthcare debates is unhelpful and encouraged them not to forget their history on this front.
“When we are on the cusp of Republicans repealing the Affordable Care Act, Catholics who support it should unite behind protecting healthcare for millions of Americans instead of dividing people over abortion,” said Day.
“Bringing abortion into the healthcare debate almost cost us the opportunity to pass the Affordable Care Act in the first place,” she added.
Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 to promote “a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”
Since its founding, the group has been widely denounced by a number of Catholic bishops who oppose their use of the Catholic label.
In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner earlier this week, senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association, Maureen Ferguson said “‘Catholics for Choice’ is not an authentic voice for any faith, but rather is just another abortion advocacy group with misleading letterhead and a horrid message.”
Those sentiments were echoed by McQuade who derided the “hijacking of the name ‘Catholic’ to promote the taking of innocent human life.”
“It’s not just offensive to Catholics,” she added, “but to all who expect a basic degree of honesty in public discourse.”