Providence bishop: Catholic congressman's abortion position 'terribly disappointing'

Congressman James Langevin. Congressman James Langevin./ (public domain)

Bishop Tomas Tobin of Providence on Thursday lambasted a local congressman’s newspaper editorial which explains his support for federally codifying abortion rights, despite his Catholic faith and professed personal pro-life views.

“We are so tired of hearing Catholic politicians say, as Jim Langevin does, ‘Although I remain personally opposed to abortion . . .’ and then go on to support abortion,” Bishop Tobin wrote in a Sept. 9 statement. “That pathetic excuse doesn’t fly anymore.”

A Sept. 9 column in the Providence Journal by Rep. James Langevin, a Democrat who represents Rhode Island’s second congressional district, explains how his position on legalized abortion has “evolved.” He says his increased support for abortion rights is the reason he will be voting for the Women’s Health Protection Act when he arrives in Washington D.C. in the coming weeks.

“Although I remain personally opposed to abortion, as a matter of public policy, my position has evolved,” Langevin wrote. “I will join as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act. And when I return to Washington, D.C., in two weeks, I will vote to codify the protections afforded by Roe into federal law.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act would grant women the right to undergo an abortion, and health care workers the right to perform an abortion. It would prohibit states from restricting abortions through laws requiring mandatory ultrasounds or waiting periods before an abortion. It would also block restrictions on pre-viability abortions and on the method of abortions. 

The bill would eliminate the possibility for pro-life riders like the Hyde Amendment, which have protected Americans from paying for abortions with their tax dollars.

Abortion activist politicians have introduced the bill multiple times since 2013, but have had no success in passage. The bill has 48 co-sponsors in the Senate and 205 in the House. 

Bishop Tobin said that “although Congressman Langevin had previously attempted to nuance his pro-life position, his new statement on behalf of the ‘Women’s Health Protection Act’ removes any doubt about where he stands and is terribly disappointing.”

In his column, Langevin criticized Republicans for claiming to be pro-life while “consistently vote against policies that help millions of kids and families across our country.” 

The congressman explained how he has fought to expand access to healthcare and protect the social safety net, as well as “championed initiatives to ensure every child can find their forever home with a safe and loving family.”

He added that he hopes the policies he fought for would continue, but “cannot, in good conscience, sit idly by as the right-wing legislators of Texas — and a soon to be bevy of copycat states — take our country in a very dangerous direction.”

“Nor can I cast a vote against a policy that the people of Rhode Island have already seen fit to enshrine in our state law,” he said.

The congressman said he is “deeply alarmed by the direction the Republican Party and the right-wing Supreme Court are headed,” adding that he believes “the consequences will be disastrous, and the already fraying fabric of our nation will tear even further.”

Bishop Tobin said Langevin’s decision to “reconsider” his position on abortion shows he has joined the “partisan pro-abortion bandwagon.”

“Jim Langevin claims to be a ‘practicing Catholic,’” Bishop Tobin wrote, “but practicing Catholics do not promote the legalization of abortion which the Church clearly teaches is an ‘abominable crime.’” 

Bishop Tobin concluded by acknowledging the obligation to speak the truth: “that every time an abortion takes place, a child dies.”

“Sadly,” he said, “that reality will now be on the heart and soul and conscience of Jim Langevin.”

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