Ingrid Delgado, associate for social concerns and respect life at the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaks in the chambers of the Florida House of Representatives. (FLCAN)

All Catholics called to work of public advocacy

ORLANDO  |  The 2020 Culture of Life Conference might have been virtual, but one of its messages was as real as life itself. Advocates do not just want abortion to be illegal, but also unthinkable.

Those were the words spoken by Ingrid Delgado, associate for social concerns and respect life for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, during her presentation revolving around abortion concerns at last month’s 34th annual conference. As member of the conference staff, Delgado explained how the conference works not only to promote legislation to end abortion, but also examines the causes of why women would choose abortion when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

“We instinctively know life has meaning and value and purpose from the moment of conception,” Delgado said. “Unfortunately, Florida is a national outlier with its high number of abortions.”

Offering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (most recently from 2016), Delgado said of the 47 states that report numbers of abortion Florida ranked second in number of abortions — the first being New York state. She added most of those abortions were elective.

Understanding the reasons behind choosing abortion brings forward different issues pro-lifers should consider. While not every woman offers a reason for getting an abortion, when they do, one of the top reasons is financial. Knowing that, displays how support services for moms in need are so important, and Delgado harkened back to the words of Pope Francis in his 2015 Lenten message: “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.”

“That’s such a beautiful quote, and it calls us to be islands of mercy and part of that is to donate to or volunteer at  support service centers for pregnant women,” Delgado said. “We could also build community that ensure workers just wages, that they have access to affordable housing, and access to healthcare. So that all parents can recognize their unborn children as their greatest gift, rather than exacerbating a fear that they may already have about not being able to take care of their children, that their own difficult financial situation will only get harder.”

As abortion is still legal in Florida, the conference works from the public policy perspective to support legislation that limits “the harms of abortion.” Delgado discussed some of the laws in place in Florida that work to that end, including:

• third trimester abortions prohibited, unless endangering the life of the mother; 

• prohibition against post-viability abortions, which is when an abortionist, in his or her judgment, believes that the unborn child could be viable, that abortion would be prohibited;  

• fetal remains must be properly disposed;

• abortionists must receive informed consent from the woman, which means the women have the opportunity to see an ultrasound;

• through the safe haven law, women can give up their child to a hospital, emergency medical station or fire station up to seven days after birth;

• rules around the clinic facilities, themselves, such as the abortion provider or abortion facilities having admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 minutes by emergency vehicle;

• abortion coverage restrictions to affordable healthcare plans

• criminal prosecution if a person causes the death of or injury to an unborn child when a crime is facilitated.

While the 2015  bill encouraging the 24-hour waiting period for abortion is still in the courts on appeal and not in place, Delgado said the movement’s most recent success is the signing of parental consent prior to a minor’s abortion. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed that bill this past summer.

“When we support pro-life bills, we want them to actually make a difference, to actually save lives, we’re not just doing it symbolically,” Delgado said. “So, in addition to our work at the legislature, we monitor the implementation process of state agencies. We have identified concerns with regulatory practices, so there is a possibility that a future session will see a bill about that.”

The best place to read about those concerns are on the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website located at www.flaccb.org. In the “get involved” and “resources” tabs offer a bevy of information on how to get involved and what issues the conference is tackling. Visitors can find out information about:

• the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol, where advocates lobby with legislators in person;

• joining the advocacy network FLCAN that offers alerts about how to engage with state representatives and state senators in supporting and opposing certain bills watched by the conference;

• download brochures (in both English and Spanish) on policy positions on abortion, the death penalty, end-of-life planning, natural family planning, the privacy clause and abortion, immigration and assisted suicide; 

• read public policy priorities sheets that are updated for each legislative session.

Delgado once again quotes Pope Francis, who said in September 2016, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern. … “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good,”

Just as the pope added “I cannot wash my hands, eh?” Delgado agreed that all Catholics have something to give in the forum of politics. 

“This work of public advocacy is not just ours at the conference, but all of us are called to this work,” she said, urging those who were watching the presentation, “How are you involved?”