Marlyn Batista: Legislators must stop and search their conscience

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Abortion is often packaged as a women’s rights issue as it relates to women’s reproductive healthcare, explained Marlyn Batista. She added that those who advocate for such policies deem the Catholic Church’s position on abortion to be anti-woman.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Mother Teresa once noted that it is actually abortion that is profoundly anti-woman, for three quarters of its victims are women, half the babies and all of the mothers. The Church understands this, and so because of her great love and respect for women, the Church must stand against policies that work against women,” she said. Batista serves as coordinator of Outreach Ministries at St. Patrick Church, which includes Mary House a ministry that helps to feed the hungry and homeless and assist individuals and families in their time of need.

She feels that abortion, and greater access to it, is not a women’s rights issue.

“Abortion is not about health care, it is about personal convenience and organizations working to exploit moments of vulnerability in the lives of women,” she said. “Those who advocate for ‘choice’ insist that women need access to abortion for their survival. But to say that women need access to abortion is to not think enough about who a woman is and what she is capable of. I am proud to stand with a Church that believes that the things that make me uniquely woman do not need to be stifled, but rather need to be honored and treated with the utmost respect.”

Batista knows that education is key in helping to encourage other people to become more active in supporting life. Sharing her great concern regarding the Reproductive Health Care Act bills currently under consideration on Smith Hill, Batista is encouraging legislators to stop and search their conscience before casting their vote on either of the bills that would guarantee abortion would remain legal in Rhode Island if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that declared abortion to be a constitutional right.

According to Rhode Island Right to Life, both H 5127 (Ajello) / S 152 (Goldin) and H 5125 (Williams) would: eliminate any constitutional restrictions on late-term abortions; eliminate any constitutional restrictions on methods of abortion, e.g., partial birth abortion; eliminate any penalties for engaging in experimentation on human fetuses; undermine the authority of the State and the Department of Health from enacting and adopting constitutional restrictions on the conduct of abortions at facilities where abortions are performed.

If passed, the bills would require Rhode Island taxpayers to pay for all abortions sought by Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and women covered by the “Payer of last Resort” program. Neither bill preserves existing limitations regarding who may perform abortions, thus opening the door to non-physicians performing surgical abortions.

In addition, H 5127 / S 152 would repeal existing constitutional protection for a viable unborn child whose mother is criminally assaulted and arguably abrogate the parental consent statute by not retaining the provision of state law (§ 23-4.6-1) that disqualifies a pregnant minor from consenting to an abortion. H 5125 would substantially erode the state’s parental consent statute by allowing consent to be obtained from persons who have no constitutional right to give consent .

“This is a dark time in our nation’s history and in the history of the state of Rhode Island,” Batista said. “And yet, times of great adversity are also times of great opportunity. History has taught us that merely recognizing something as evil or wrong is not enough. We must learn to actively work against evil otherwise by virtue of our silence, we too cooperate with the evil being done.”

She says that in all circumstances Christians must remember who they represent: Christ.

“The message that we bring ought to never be tainted by the way that we deliver that message,” said Batista. “Christ has called us not to win arguments, but to love radically, and so love must be evident in all that we do and say. All truth must be spoken and communicated with compassionate love.”

“Additionally, I think it is important for us to both listen and lovingly challenge those who oppose us. While doing so, it is important to focus on the issue. I’ve noticed that a common tactic used by the opposition in this debate is to change the subject, and to speak about things that are not necessarily related to the issue at hand. This is a distraction that we must resist. We must help everyone involved to focus on what is truly at stake here: the lives of women and their unborn children.”

As she thinks about how to engage with those in favor of abortion bills, Batista has found Dr. Martin Luther King’s principles of nonviolent resistance to be incredibly helpful. She reminds others that Dr. King taught:

— That one can resist evil without resorting to violence.

— Nonviolence seeks to win the “friendship and understanding” of the opponent, not to humiliate him (King, Stride, 84).

— Evil itself, not the people committing evil acts, should be opposed.

In a recent letter to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Batista called out his recent “confusing and contradicting” testimony before the House Judiciary Committee to advocate for abortion rights while holding his baby boy in his lap, on January 29.

“On three occasions during your testimony on Tuesday you claimed to be speaking on behalf of ‘your community,’ and more specifically, you referred to those minorities of lower income in Providence; in other words, you claimed to be speaking for me. And yet Mr. Mayor, you did not represent me at all. Nor did you represent anyone in my family or circle of friends. Rather all you did was expose what you truly believe about the people who in good faith elected you into office,” Batista wrote in her letter.

“The most ironic thing about your testimony is that you were holding your own son while advocating for a policy that would have failed to protect him just months ago.”

In her interview with Rhode Island Catholic, Batista further explained that public officials have a special responsibility to care for all in society.

“If those officials are falling short of this responsibility it is our duty to keep them accountable,” she said. “If we do not, we not only do our public officials a disservice, but we also cooperate with the injustices being brought forth. Those who bear the name of Christian have a special responsibility towards their neighbor, as Christ charged us to not only love our neighbors as ourselves, but to love our enemies. To allow someone to speak untruths, without correcting them, is not loving. To love means to be willing to do the hard thing; to speak out when it would be easier to stay silent.”

Leading Ladies is an exclusive Rhode Island Catholic series featuring local women — wonderfully pro-life — active in advocacy, peaceful and compassionate dialogue, all with a strong feminine voice in a culture that does not always speak for them.