The 2019 Utah legislative session will open on the fourth Monday of January. As we do every year, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City will be one of the voices speaking up on legislation throughout the session, striving to protect the dignity and sanctity of all life in the process.
Though not always well understood, the diocese consistently represents an authentic pro-life point of view at the Legislature. Most people recognize that the Catholic Church will promote legislation to protect the unborn and repeal the death penalty. However, our church focuses on the whole person, which means we recognize that protecting life isn’t just about banning actions that end it prematurely, but about protecting the dignity of each person so that each may lead a life worthy of the Creator who gave us this gift.
Thus, while no bills have yet been introduced this session to ban abortion outright, we have many other important opportunities to preserve the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.
For example, over the course of the last several years legislators and Governor Herbert have become far more focused on resolving Utah’s significant air quality issues. One of the many known impacts of the excessive particulate concentrations during inversions is a heightened risk of miscarriage as well as fetal abnormalities, not to mention the impacts on people with respiratory illnesses. Yes, Utah, air quality is a sanctity of life issue. We can protect the unborn and born through legislation that promotes renewable energy, clean fuel cars and buses, and related measures designed to lessen the pollution in the valley that puts so many people at risk.
Similarly, we can protect children in the womb by ensuring better educational and employment opportunities for their mothers. Roughly 70 percent of abortions in this state involve women who already have more than one child and are on a limited income. These moms seek out the extreme solution of terminating life because they feel they have no means to raise another child. Women with higher education tend to have better-paying jobs that also provide health care benefits, ensuring that they have the resources needed to carry and raise a child. Even without an advanced degree, women who make a just wage and have paid family leave are also more likely to feel they have the support they need to care for their children.
Similarly, protecting the recently passed Medicaid expansion is a priority for the diocese during the 2019 session. Access to health care before a woman becomes pregnant will have a positive impact on the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy, and beyond. Caps on enrollment, unnecessary work requirements and other restrictions on access must be opposed.
Of course, women and men in poverty who lack stable housing are also less likely to feel they can care for a child. Legislators are already prepared to make significant investments in affordable housing this session, and the diocese will be one of many voices supporting those efforts.
As Catholics, we have known for generations that people fare better when they have just wages, access to health care, stable housing and education. Our Catechism has long recognized all of these elements as necessary to preserve the dignity and sanctity of life. By addressing the needs of the whole person, not just at the time of pregnancy, we not only protect life, we promote the authentic truth of our faith which asks us to care for the poor and the vulnerable and preserve the dignity of life for all, born and unborn, innocent or guilty.
Jean Hill is the government liaison for the Diocese of Salt Lake City.