White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged a reporter’s question on Monday whether President Joe Biden believes a 15-week-old unborn baby is a living person.
‘Does the president believe that a 15-week-old unborn baby is a human being?’ the reporter asked, a possible reference to arguments the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear in the fall on Mississippi’s ban on abortions past the 15-week mark of pregnancy.
Psaki replied: ‘Are you asking me if the president supports a woman’s right to choose? He does.’
The exchange took place after an overwhelming vote by the US conference of Catholic bishops on Friday to draft a teaching document barring Biden and any other US politician, from receiving communion as a rebuke for their stances on abortion.
White House press secretary declined to answer a reporters’ question on Monday whether President Joe Biden believed 15-week-old unborn baby was a human being. Biden has been under pressure from US Catholics after a series of executive actions he has taken hailed by abortion-rights activists
In a separate question, Psaki was asked for Biden‘s reaction to the news.
‘Well, Joe Biden is a strong man of faith, and as he noted, just a couple of days ago, it’s personal,’ she replied.
‘It’s something that has helped guide him through some challenging moments in his life. And that’s how many Americans see their faith as well, not through a political prism. So I would suspect he will continue to attend church, as he has for many, many years,’ Psaki said, declining to answer the question further.
Despite being a devout Catholic whose faith vehemently opposes abortion, Biden has long taken a pro-choice stance.
In January, he reversed a Trump-era order that bars international nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion counseling from receiving US funding.
And more recently, he included provisions in his executive budget late last month that repeals a prohibition on using federal funding for abortions.
Officially the Catholic Church believes that life begins at conception, and is opposed to abortion of any kind.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden attended Mass at St Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church near their Delaware home on Saturday. A row is brewing within the American Church over his stance on abortion as bishops take an increasingly hardline stance, including a vote by US bishops on Friday to bar him from receiving communion
As Psaki referenced, Biden dismissed the bishops’ move, and could be seen attending mass on Saturday near his home in Wilmington Delaware.
‘That’s a private matter, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ he told reporters at the White House when asked the possibility that he and other politicians could be denied Communion.
It would not be the first time Biden had received backlash from Catholics for his current stance on abortions.
In 2019, he was denied communion at a church in South Carolina.
‘Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of church teaching,’ the Rev. Robert Morey, pastor of the church in Florence, told the Florence Morning News.
Biden reacted similarly to the rebuke, saying it was a personal matter.
‘I’m not going to discuss that. That is just my personal life,’ he told MSNBC.
Friday’s vote by the bishops – 168 in favor, 55 against with six abstentions – was announced by the Most Reverend Allen H Vigneron followed three hours of debate.
‘That’s a private matter, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ Biden told reporters Friday at the White House when asked about a document drafted by the US Council of Bishops that could rebuke him and Democrat politicians that support access to abortion
Supporters of the measure believe a clear rebuke of Biden is needed to curb a series of measures that protect and expand abortion access.
Opponents, such as the Most Rev Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, fear it is a polarizing move that could lead to the ‘weaponization’ of the Eucharist – a more formal name name for Holy Communion.
As a result of the vote, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops doctrine committee will draft a statement on the meaning of Communion in the life of the Church that will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, likely to be in November.
The document will act as a statement of policy but will not be binding. Each bishop has the right to decide who can or cannot take Communion in his diocese.
The Vatican has already tried to intervene, fearing a breakdown in unity.
The result of the vote – 168 in favor and 55 against – was announced Friday by the Most Reverend Allen H Vigneron (pictured, left) near the end of a three-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles (right) also addressed the Catholic conference on Wednesday
Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s theological watchdog, asked the USBC to delay the debate.
He wrote to the conference saying it would be ‘misleading’ to suggest abortion and euthanasia were ‘the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching’ that require ‘the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics.’
In so doing, he signaled how the liberal Catholicism of Pope Francis – with a focus on poverty, racial inequality, climate change – is increasingly at odds with the U.S. Church.
One section of the document is intended to include a specific admonition to Catholic politicians and other public figures who disobey church teaching on abortion and other doctrinal issues.
Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, said during Thursday’s debate that he speaks with many people who are confused by a Catholic president who advances ‘the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history,’ and action from the bishops´ conference is needed.
‘They´re looking for direction,’ Hying said.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego countered that the USCCB would suffer ‘destructive consequences’ from a document targeting Catholic politicians.
‘It would be impossible to prevent the weaponization of the Eucharist,’ McElroy said.
Biden, who attends Mass regularly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn´t think he should impose that position on Americans who feel otherwise. He´s taken several executive actions during his presidency that were hailed by abortion-rights advocates.
The chairman of the USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, said no decisions have been made on the final contents of the proposed document. He said bishops who are not on the committee will have chances to offer input, and the final draft will be subject to amendments before it is put up to a vote.
In this photo taken from video, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., head of the doctrine committee for the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses the body’s virtual assembly
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese
Rhoades also said the document would not mention Biden or other individuals by name and would offer guidelines rather than imposing a mandatory national policy.
That would leave decisions about Communion for specific churchgoers up to individual bishops and archbishops. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.