The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a long history of defending immigrant rights and attending to their needs. That is why the conflicts that have arisen in immigrant centers managed by Catholic Churches are such a disappointment. The centers are refusing to give legally-mandated health services, saying that this goes against the organization’s religious freedom.
This is a serious problem that puts immigrant victims of sexual assault in need of reproductive health services ‒ including abortion ‒ in the middle of a national debate regarding moral or religious objections to respecting and abiding by the law.
In a letter sent by Catholic organizations to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the signatories declare that they will not offer certain legal medical services or take victims to other facilities to obtain the necessary care.
It is problematic when a provider hired by the government to perform specific services required by law refuses to do so, especially when their refusal could have severe repercussions on the life of the immigrant.
It is clear from the letter that the providers are more interested in respecting their own religious objections than in taking care of the more earthly emergencies suffered by a young woman who got pregnant due to rape.
It would be pertinent to ask if Catholic Charities, with their extensive experience with refugees, is the best recipient for millions of public funding, particularly if they are going to decide only after cashing in which laws they choose to follow and which services they will refuse to provide. This is a question that would apply for any government contractor.
Beyond the fact that the bishops appear to be concerned, no other details are known. That is why the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested a court order to find out how government contractors are restricting reproductive health services. What we do know is that millions of minors arrive in the country and that most of them have been sexually abused.
The priority should be to look after these young women. That is what this contractor is being paid to do. They should not continue fulfilling that role if they are more concerned about their religious principles ‒ whatever those are ‒ than in helping these women as the law requires.