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Bishops urge support for pregnant women, reject harassment of pro-life charities in new statement

Maryland’s Catholic bishops called for an outpouring of support for women facing crisis pregnancies and rejected recent proposals to single out pro-life charities that provide them with assistance in a joint statement released this week.

Set Out in Haste: Serving Women, Serving Life is signed by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly. It has been distributed to Maryland’s nearly 280 Catholic parishes and pastors have been asked to include it as a bulletin insert in the next several weeks. The release was timed to coincide with the start of Maryland’s legislative session on January 13 and the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on January 22.

“Among the most powerful testimonies to the culture of life is our outreach to pregnant women in need,” the bishops write, urging the faithful to offer concrete assistance to those women.

The statement goes on to decry a recent campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Planned Parenthood of Maryland to single out pregnancy resource centers, which provide pregnant women with emotional and material assistance, simply because of their pro-life mission.

Since 2008, three proposals have been introduced – one each at the state level, in Baltimore City, and in Montgomery County – that would subject pregnancy resource centers to compelled-speech requirements, regulations, and possible fines because they decline to provide or refer for abortion or contraception. The state bill died in committee in 2008, the Baltimore City bill was signed into law in December, and the Montgomery County proposal is still under consideration.

The bishops state that the proposals send a “disturbing” message: “Failure to provide abortion or contraception… is an activity that merits regulation and, if necessary, punishment.”

Efforts to hinder the good work of charities that assist pregnant women are “unconscionable” in light of Maryland’s tragically high abortion rate, the statement says. The state’s abortion rate is 38 percent higher than the national rate, and has risen even while the national rate has declined.

“At a time when many in the ‘pro-choice’ movement claim to seek common ground on abortion,” the bishops write, “these proposals demonstrate a baffling and aggressive impetus in quite the opposite direction.”

Read the full statement.