Priest Who Calls Abortion a ‘Blessing’ Tells Congress She'd Break Law to Help Minor Cross State Line to Get One

Penny Starr | March 8, 2012 | 4:57pm EST
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Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity Church, testified at a House hearing on March 8, 2012 against a bill that would make it a federal crime to transport minor girls without parental consent across state lines to get an abortion. ( Starr)

( – Were Congress to outlaw the transporting of a minor without her parents’ permission across state lines to get an abortion, an abortion- and gay-rights activist testifying on Capitol Hill Thursday she would break the law to continue to help girls end their pregnancies.

Appearing as a Democratic Party witness at a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. recalled the time she took a 15-year-old girl she had never met before to get an abortion.

“Although New Hampshire was closer to that girl’s home than Boston, as it happened, I did not take her across state lines,” Ragsdale said. “Nor did I, to my knowledge, break any laws.

“But if either of those things had been necessary in order to help her, I would have done them,” she continued. “And if helping young women like her should be made illegal I will, nonetheless, continue to do it.”

Ragsdale cited her vows as an Episcopal priest as the reason why she would “have no choice” but to break the law.

Subcommittee chairman Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said a bill introduced in the House last summer – the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (H.R. 2299) – would make it an offense to “circumvent parental consent laws in a state by, without the parents’ knowledge, taking a minor girl across state lines for an abortion.”

He said he found it difficult to believe opposition to the law, like that expressed by the subcommittee’s ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who called it an “assault to the reproductive rights of women.”

“I always find it a little unnerving when people tell me that to say that, you know, that someone taking a minor child of someone else’s across the state lines to perform – or having surgery performed upon them – that somehow, that it’s unconstitutional to recognize parents’ rights in that regard,” Franks said. “It just astonishes me beyond comprehension.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, expressed disbelief that anyone could oppose parents’ right to know if their minor daughter was being taken to another state for a surgical procedure. ( Starr)

As for the witness Democrats picked to testify on the panel, Franks said that as the father of a three year-old daughter he hoped “she will never run into someone with the philosophy of Rev. Ragsdale.”

Ragsdale is well known for her activism for homosexual and abortion rights.

At a Jan. 24, 2010 event organized by the Jane Fund, a Massachusetts-based group that raises funds for abortions, Ragsdale delivered a speech in which she said she was “angry and fed up” at people who had spoken out again her sexuality – Ragsdale is a lesbian – and her radical stance on abortion.

In the speech Ragsdale defended previous remarks she has made stating that “abortion is a blessing.” A verbatim extract follows:

“When a woman gets pregnant against her will and wants an abortion – it’s the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

“When a woman might want to bear and raise a child but fears she can’t afford to because she doesn't have access to healthcare or daycare or enough income to provide a home ---it’s the lack of justice that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

“When a woman has planned and provided for a pregnancy, decorated the nursery and chosen a name, and, in the last weeks, discovers that her fetus will not live to become a baby, that it has anomalies incompatible with life, and that preserving her own life and health, and sparing the fetus suffering, require a late-term abortion – it’s  the loss of her hopes and dreams that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

“And, and here's one that really gets me in trouble, when a woman simply gets pregnant unintentionally and decides this is not a good time for her to bear and care for a child – there is no tragedy. The ability to enjoy healthy sexuality without risking a pregnancy that could derail her education or career, the development or exercise of the gifts God has given her, is a blessing.”

Ragsdale then added, “Now just in case there are any aspiring headline writers listening – let me be clear – motherhood also is a gift and a ministry and a blessing – but not for everyone, and not always right now.”

“Abortion is a blessing – sometimes a joyful relief; sometimes a painful choice – but a blessing still,” she added.

In that same speech, Ragsdale also said that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, gave women “freedom from slavery to our reproductive systems.”

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