By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Retired orthopedic surgeon Tim Millea says it is “all-hands-on-deck time” to demonstrate commitment to families in need before, during and after the birth of children in a post-Roe America. That commitment is necessary at the individual and parish level, he believes.
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, ruling that the U.S. Constitution does not provide a fundamental right to abortion. The High Court sent the issue back to the states to determine their own abortion laws.
“For 49 years we’ve been waiting for this and now that we have it, it’s not time to rest on our laurels,” said Millea, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. He is working with his parish to develop a plan to accompany pregnant and new moms in need, as well as the dads and their children.
At Millea’s request, Sara Eide, associate director of the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) gave a presentation July 20 to the St. Thomas Aquinas Guild of the Quad Cities to focus on next steps in a post-Roe America. Millea is the guild’s president and his parish hosted the presentation.
Abortion remains legal in Iowa up to the 20th week of pregnancy, as Eide pointed out. However, Gov. Kim Reynolds filed a motion Aug. 11 requesting the Polk County District Court to lift the injunction against Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law, which prohibits abortion after detection of a heartbeat. In a statement, Gov. Reynolds said, “The historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe has given us a new hope and pathway forward to challenge the Iowa court’s previous decision.”
Gov. Reynolds, pro-life legislators and the Iowa Catholic Conference also seek passage of a Protect Life Amendment, which states that the Iowa Constitution does not recognize, grant or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion. Legislation supporting the amendment passed in 2021 but needs to pass in the next General Assembly in 2023 or 2024 before advancing to a referendum for Iowa’s voters to decide, Eide said.
The historic Supreme Court decision has galvanized both pro-life advocates and abortion advocates. Those who advocate for abortion unfairly portray pro-life advocates as caring for the unborn child but doing nothing after the child is born, Millea said.
Eide’s presentation, he added, concisely laid out the current abortion landscape and underscored the importance of ensuring that vulnerable moms and dads have the resources they need to bring their children into the world and to provide for them.
She explained the new Iowa MOMS (More Options for Maternal Supports) law to support pregnant women, new moms and new families. The bill provides $500,000 for the current fiscal year for MOMS. Another state appropriation will be necessary in 2023, and on an annual basis.
MOMS aims to support pregnancy resource centers (crisis pregnancy centers) and provide resources for material goods such as diapers, formula, car seats and strollers. It will provide funding for counseling services and case management, support maternity homes and housing for pregnant women and new moms, promote policies that strengthen families and make childcare affordable.
The law also aims to expand accountability in child support, encourage fathers to more actively parent, provide maternity and paternity leave, streamline foster care and adoption and promote policies that support pregnant women and new moms. Eide emphasized the importance of “working side by side to materially, financially and otherwise support women.” Expansion of MOMS and extension of Medicaid post-partum coverage remain priorities of the ICC.
Eide also discussed the Protect Life Amendment, whose introduction was a response to the 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that the Iowa Constitution provides a right to abortion. The current Iowa Supreme Court ruled in June that the Iowa Constitution does not provide a fundamental right to abortion in Iowa. Supporters say the amendment would strengthen the permanency of that decision.
Millea applauds the Iowa MOMS program and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Walking with Moms in Need initiative, a process through which Catholic parishes and communities accompany pregnant and parenting women locally. Millea believes a grassroots approach is most beneficial. “Walking With Moms is a very good ‘Do It Yourself’ program.”
“We’re going to try to kick off a program at St. Paul’s after Labor Day to really motivate and enlist parish members to ask, ‘What are we going to do to help these women, these babies, these dads?’” Millea said. “What are we going to do from a vocational standpoint, a social standpoint, a financial standpoint, a housing standpoint?”
He believes human resources are available within parishes — such as educators, counselors, healthcare professionals, employers and Realtors — to accompany moms, dads and families in need as they journey toward self-sufficiency. He hears of a growing number of maternity homes around the country and says, “Parishes could get together to establish a maternity home.”
A post-Roe America challenges Catholics “to raise our expectations for ourselves,” Millea says. “If we are a Church with open doors and open windows and then treat others as if we are insulated from them, we are not authentically Catholic. People need to be aware that they can be of help, whether directly, indirectly, financially or in prayer.”