Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a professing Catholic who has broken with the church on several fundamental moral teachings, publicly reaffirmed her support for abortion and contraception in early March.
Murkowski’s comments came during an interview with Anchorage Daily News writer Julia O’Malley. Murkowski said she regretted casting her March 1 vote in favor of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act that would have amended the federal health care law to allow health plans to decline coverage of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs that are contrary to the religious beliefs of those offering the plan or those purchasing it.
“I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News in an article published March 5.
Murkowski explained that she initially voted for the conscience protection measure to affirm her support for religious freedom. She even wrote a letter to the Catholic Anchor in February in which she blasted the Obama Administration for mandating that religious groups offer health care coverage that is contrary to their moral teachings.
“Unfortunately, the Obama administration unilaterally determined that religious hospitals, charities and schools will be required to go against their deeply-held — and constitutionally-protected — beliefs when offering health care services to current employees,” Murkowski said in her letter to the Catholic Anchor.
“Worse still is the olive branch extended by the Department of Health and Human Services: religious institutions have a year to compromise on their beliefs and adhere to this policy,” Murkowski added. “It is insulting that this administration believes that a year delay in implementation of this rule would cause more Americans to change their position — their conscience — their belief — on a fundamental freedom such as this.”
Also in the letter, Murkowski said she agreed with Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz’s February pastoral letter to all area parishes, in which he said “People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.”
Murkowski even quoted Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York in saying the Obama Administration “has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand.”
But just two weeks later, after hearing some criticism for her vote, Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News that if she would not support the Blunt Amendment, given another vote.
“I have always said if you don’t like abortion the best way to deal with it is to not have unwanted pregnancies in the first place,” she said. “How do you do that? It’s through contraception.”
When told that this position contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church, Murkowski was unmoved.
“You know, I don’t adhere to all of the tenets of my faith. I’m a Republican, I don’t adhere to all of the principles that come out of my party,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “I’m also not hesitant to question when I think that my church, my religion, is not current.”
She added: “I have taken the position that there are instances where abortion should be made available.”
In a March 9 email response to questions from the Catholic Anchor, Murkowski said she supports conscience clauses.
“However, I have concerns that the Blunt Amendment could have unduly limited American’s access to many health services,” she said.
The Catholic Church has long taught that contraception is contrary to God’s designs because it distorts the purpose and context of sexual relations, which are to bring forth children in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. The unitive aspect of sex, in which a husband and wife are united, is also affirmed by the church, but efforts to space children should be done without thwarting God’s designs. To this end the church teaches that couples should employ natural family planning methods to space children, rather than using artificial contraception.
The church also teaches that abortion is a “grave evil.” The teaching has not changed. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”
Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.