Statement of Bishop Christopher Coyne on recent abortion decisions

March 2, 2018

As Catholics, we believe abortion is gravely contrary to the moral law and that procured abortion is a moral evil. Over the past month, two significant events have taken place — one national, one local — both connected with the promotion of abortion.

On Jan. 29, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The 20-week ban, named the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was a particularly important piece of legislation for all those who seek to protect human life because more and more children born as early as 20 weeks into gestation are now surviving into full and healthy lives. It is a sad reflection on the state of the issue that the rights of one human being (the mother) supplant the rights of another human life (the child), one that can at that gestational age exist outside of the womb.

The second incident involves the decision of the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington now to provide services for elective abortions.  With other abortion providers throughout Vermont, why is it even necessary for the state’s largest medical facility to offer this service?

There was no public discussion of this change to a long-standing public policy, and there was no consultation with many of the doctors, nurses, caregivers and staff of the medical center about the impact this decision would have on them. At the very least, Covenant Health, the Catholic healthcare system that owns the Fanny Allen Campus (formerly the Catholic Fanny Allen Hospital), which is leased to the UVM Medical Center, should have been made aware of this change given that its lease agreement with UVM prohibits procedures such as abortion. Covenant Health had no knowledge of any change in policy regarding abortions. It was only after my office asked Covenant Health to make an inquiry that we were told elective abortions are now being performed at UVM but none are taking place on the Fanny Allen campus.

If abortion were just one more medical procedure — as pro-choice proponents contend — then it need not require any further administrative action to be offered within the hospital or in a Senate vote than any other procedure.

But abortion is not merely a medical procedure. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”

That is why I was shocked and saddened by the news that the UVM Medical Center is now offering elective abortions. That is why this decision deserved the careful consideration of input given by those who work at and are served by this hospital.

We take this to heart, and we take this to our lawmakers and policymakers. Let our voices be heard as we pray and act to defend life.