This week Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver issued a statement on “gestational legislation.” Gestational legislation refers to a law limiting abortions to a particular period of gestation. For example, a law forbidding abortion after a woman has been pregnant for twenty weeks. Currently in Canada an abortion can legally be performed at anytime and for any reason.
Some Catholics support proposing such a law because it would limit the number of abortions being performed. Others oppose such a law arguing that even if it limits the total number of abortions performed, it still would require giving legal sanction to some abortions. Both groups have accused the other of being unfaithful to Church teaching.
Archbishop Miller’s letter clarifies the fact that support for gestational legislation is not equivalent to support for abortion and that Catholics can in good conscience support such proposals:
“legislation which intends to limit the harm done by a pro-abortion law is not itself co-operation with an unjust law, but rather ‘a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects’ A law aimed at limiting the number of legally authorized abortions does not entail the approval of those abortions it fails to criminalize.”
More importantly Archbishop Miller emphasizes that while all Catholics must oppose the crime of abortion, we may not always agree in the manner of obtaining this goal. Catholics are free to either support or oppose such legislation based on their honest appraisal of the situation. However, neither side should condemn the other as being unfaithful to the Church or the pro-life movement.
The Second Vatican Council reminds us:
“Often enough the Christian view of things will itself suggest some specific solution in certain circumstances. Yet it happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that with equal sincerity some of the faithful will disagree with others on a given matter. Even against the intentions of their proponents, however, solutions proposed on one side or another may be easily confused by many people with the Gospel message. Hence it is necessary for people to remember that no one is allowed in the aforementioned situations to appropriate the Church’s authority for his opinion. They should always try to enlighten one another through honest discussion, preserving mutual charity and caring above all for the common good.” (Gaudium et spes, 43)
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