U.S. bishops back 15-week abortion ban as ‘positive step’ forward

The chairman said a 15-week ban is “a step toward fulfilling the ultimate imperative that all preborn children be protected from the moment of conception and that mothers be supported” and encouraged other members of Congress to co-sponsor the legislation.

“Science continues to reveal the amazing development and characteristics of babies in utero, such as their ability to respond to music, to their mother’s voice, and to other stimuli,” Burbidge said in his letter. “Furthermore, there is significant scientific evidence that babies can feel pain as early as 12 weeks’ gestation.”

Burbidge cited a report published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, which found that “the evidence, and a balanced reading of that evidence, points towards an immediate and unreflective pain experience … from as early as 12 weeks” and stated: “[We] no longer view fetal pain … in a gestational window of 12–24 weeks as impossible based on the neuroscience.”

Although the bishops support the 15-week proposal as a starting point, Burbidge emphasized that the Church urges that the government protect preborn children from the moment of conception. 

“The Catholic Church remains clear and consistent in asserting that true justice demands protection for the right to life, the most basic human and civil right, for every child, from conception onward,” Burbidge said. “No person or government has the right to take the life of any innocent human being, regardless of his or her stage of development. We will never cease working for laws that protect human life from its beginning, supporting mothers in need, and ultimately making abortion unthinkable. It is long past time to provide more life-affirming alternatives that support and protect both mother and child.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, lawmakers in about two dozen states imposed more restrictions on abortion than were previously allowed under the Roe precedent. The case also opened the door to the federal government changing its laws on abortion.

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