Document 31: Agnes Mary Mansour, RSM, "Position Paper on Abortion and Legislation," July 1982, Mansour Case Papers, Box 1/News Statements, etc., Archives of the Sisters of Mercy Detroit Province, Detroit, Michigan.

Document 31: Agnes Mary Mansour, RSM, "Position Paper on Abortion and Legislation," July 1982, Mansour Case Papers, Box 1/News Statements, etc., Archives of the Sisters of Mercy Detroit Province, Detroit, Michigan.


   Theresa Kane's welcome was not the last time a feminist Sister of Mercy would clash with the international Catholic hierarchy. In late 1982 Agnes Mary Mansour, a Sister of Mercy, was tapped to head Michigan's Department of Social Services. While Mansour's community was supportive, her Archbishop was hesitant because a director of DSS would disperse funds for abortions. Mansour developed a careful position on the question of abortion rights, as stated in this document. While she, like Margaret Ellen Traxler, proclaimed herself "morally opposed to abortion," she refused to make that decision for others, particularly for women in poverty. Mansour pursued the DSS position despite the Archbishop's opposition, and soon Mansour and the Sisters of Mercy found themselves in a battle with the Vatican. By the summer of 1983, Mansour was called to a meeting with a Vatican representative and told that she had a few hours to decide between her position at DSS and her vocation as a woman religious, despite the fact that her congregation had no desire to dismiss her. Mansour chose to stay at DSS, and she left the Sisters of Mercy. Mansour's case demonstrates the Vatican's opposition to self-determination for women religious.



   I am morally opposed to abortion. To me, it is taking a life and leads to a loss of respect for life.

   However, I recognize that we live in a pluralistic society where my morality may not be someone else's morality. I do not believe those selecting abortion could do so if they felt it was taking a human life. I also feel that legislation and morality are two different things and that it is possible at times to do more harm than good in trying to outlaw practices not considered by some to be immoral. This is especially true when there is no widespread agreement on the morality of a particular action.

   Although I am continuing to study the legislative alternatives, my current position on legislation in regard to abortion is:

  1. Individual consciences must be respected and laws restricting personal behavior must be based on a greater consensus than presently exists on abortion. Because of this and the current status of controversy over abortion, I do not think it wise at this point in American history to support a Human Life Amendment. Such a law would be difficult to pass and probably unenforceable if passed.
  2. On the other hand, laws do have a socializing impact. They do educate by what is allowed. The permissive atmosphere regarding abortions has no doubt led Americans to accept abortion, some without seriously considering its morality. Legislators and the public should continue to ask whether the present permissive situation should continue to exist, therefore, I could support legislation such as the Hatch amendment that moves the decision making and guidelines regarding abortion from the courts to legislative bodies. This at least provides a necessary platform conscientious citizens are calling for and a broad-based opportunity to hopefully change hearts, minds and wills to recognize that abortion is a violent solution and should be unthinkable not simply illegal. Until abortion is unthinkable restrictive laws will be unenforceable.
  3. As long as abortion is legal — I do not believe it appropriate to have a double standard allowing one economic class to more easily obtain abortions over another. I would support the use of federal funds for abortion because I do not feel the evil of abortion is realistically or justly attacked by this route. This for me would be a vote for the poor rather than a vote for abortions. Having said this, I would fight for alternatives to abortion and support systems that would encourage and assist an individual to personally reject abortion.


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