Cardinal Justin Rigali, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has written a letter to U.S. Representatives encouraging them to co-sponsor the Pregnant Women Support Act (PWSA) which has recently been reintroduced in the House. The bill would provide money to pregnancy support centers, more options for prenatal care and services to protect women from domestic violence.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bill (H.R. 2035) was reintroduced on Wednesday by Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN).
While acknowledging that there are "disagreements on abortion and the rights of the unborn," the cardinal noted that "there are some statements that almost everyone can endorse" such as that steps must be taken "to reduce abortions" in the U.S.
Following reports that economic hardship has resulted in more women having abortions, Rigali stated that "no woman should ever have to undergo an abortion because she feels she has no other choice or because alternatives were unavailable or not made known to her."
Among other provisions, the PWSA will ensure that pregnant women are not denied coverage by insurance companies; establish a toll-free number for resources during pregnancy and after birth; provide life-affirming pregnancy services and parenting education in maternity group homes and other centers; provide new mothers with free home visits by registered nurses; and codify the current regulation allowing states to provide State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) coverage to unborn children and their mothers. It will also encourage adoption by expanding adoption tax credit and adoption assistance programs.
In addition, Cardinal Rigali wrote, the Act would improve the information women are given regarding "supportive services available to them during and after pregnancy, through a public awareness program as well as a basic requirement that abortion facilities provide informed consent (including information about alternatives to abortion)."
Debate over the way to reduce the number of abortion in the U.S. was recently rekindled by the $200 million set aside for contraceptives in the stimulus package, an allocation that was later removed.
Citing studies that show increased access to contraceptives does not reduce the number of abortions, Cardinal Rigali said that Rep. Davis' bill would provide "authentic common ground," and offers "an approach that people can embrace regardless of their position on other issues."
"Regardless of your stance on other issues related to abortion or family planning, I hope you will join Representative Davis in ensuring that the Pregnant Women Support Act will be considered and enacted by this Congress," wrote the cardinal bringing his letter to a close.