The bishop of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese is urging southwest Iowa Catholics to be a “cascading voice of opposition” to a Nebraska doctor’s plan to open an abortion clinic in Council Bluffs. Dr. Leroy Carhart has said he’ll open clinics in western Iowa and in Maryland to perform late term abortions now that a new Nebraska law prohibits the procedure. Bishop Richard Pates says the doctor is trying to set up a “terminal enterprise to kill unborn children.”
“Either the individual who is in the mother’s womb will be viable and come to a fullness of life or if they go through with it with the individual like this Carhart, the individual’s life will end,” Pates says. “So I think it’s pretty clear that it’s a matter of life or death.” Current Iowa law allows abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy if the mother’s life or health are endangered. Pates says he’ll leave it up to like-minded legislators to decide how best to change the law so the Nebraska doctor can’t find “refuge” in Iowa for his abortion practice.
“There’s a growing number of people who regard abortion as something that they really don’t want to see transpire because they really do regard it as a matter of life or death,” the bishop says. Bishop Pates asked priests in eight parishes in the Council Bluffs area to distribute a note to parishoners the weekend after Thanksgiving. Pates asked Catholics to exercice their “public responsibility of protecting the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.”
“After 20 months of gestation, the individual there obviously feels pain and there is the necessity to really give credence to the emerging life there and to protect it as much as possible,” Pates says. There are 82 parishes in the Des Moines Catholic Diocese, which covers 23 counties in southwest and central Iowa.
There are three other Catholic Dioceses in Iowa and Pates expects the Iowa Catholic Conference, which represents Catholics statewide, to issue a statement calling for changes in Iowa’s late term abortion law. Governor-elect Terry Branstad, a Catholic, said he didn’t know enough about the controversy surrounding the Nebraska doctor to comment. Abortion rights groups have declined to comment as well.