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The abortion ruling resonates especially with Catholics. Their response is especially complex

 Catholics at an anti-abortion demonstration in Washington D.C. last year.
Jose Luis Magana
Catholics at an anti-abortion demonstration in Washington last year.

Roman Catholic abortion rights opponents say they'll push now to get a complete ban in Florida. But U.S. polls indicate pro-choice Catholics still outnumber them.

Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade resonated especially strongly among Roman Catholics — but the response to it among Catholics in Florida is an especially complicated one.

The Catholic Church opposes abortion under any circumstance. So, many Catholics here are celebrating the Supreme Court decision. But abortion is still legal in Florida; although starting Friday, it’ll be limited to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. And many Catholics say they’ll work hard now to push state legislators to pass a complete ban.

“We’re extremely grateful for this decision, because we strive to protect human life from conception to natural death," said Angela Curatalo, who directs the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami's Respect LifeMinistry.

"So this is going to put the decision back into the hands of the state. And the 15-week ban is just a start in our mind.”

"In the meantime," Curatalo added, "we're going to continue to walk alongside women and provide services to support them to choose life."

Still, reliable polls showmost U.S. Catholics — like most Americans — support abortion rights. (In an AP/University of Chicago survey released this month, 64% of U.S. Catholics said abortion should be legal in most or all cases. A Pew poll in May showed 56%.)

Among them is Gloria Romero Roses, a Miami entrepreneur who’s on the Florida board of the nonprofit Catholics for Choice. She says pro-choice Catholics also will be working hard now — to keep abortion rights intact in Florida.

“I am pro-choice not in spite of my faith but because of it — what we in the Catholic faith have learned as the social justice tradition," Romero Roses said.

"Abortion bans make it harder for those struggling to access reproductive health care to do so.”

"Because we believe we serve the Catholic majority that are pro-choice," Romero Roses added, "we are working with allies in other faith traditions to lead a new chapter in this movement."

Over the weekend, several Catholic priests in South Florida told WLRN they would not bring up the Supreme Court abortion decision in their masses. One said he wanted to “let the public temperature drop first.”

However, many churches in the greater Tampa Bay region did speak up. The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg's website highlights the court ruling, calling it a “major victory for life.”

Bishop Gregory Parkes of the diocese said in a statement that the court ruling wipes out quote "an abortion regime that made our nation one of the most liberal of Western democratic countries on abortion.”

Parkes said his parishes remain committed to ministries to help mothers facing difficult or unintended pregnancies.

The Catholic Diocese of Venice serves parishes in Sarasota and Southwest Florida. It responded to the ruling by releasing information about its Pregnancy Help Centers in 22 locations, which includes nine residential maternity and after-birth homes.

Meantime, Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Tampa's Idlewild Baptist Church. on Sunday morning challenged members to help those who are pregnant.

“This is no time for us as believers to be throwing our shoulders back and spiking some football here,” Whitten said. “This is a time for us - and it is really going to be a test for us - where we show compassion to those mothers. Will we love them through their pregnancy?”

Whiten added that for him, the question about life beginning at conception is a matter of faith.

“Life has never been politics. It's always been spiritual belief, all right,” he said. “This is a spiritual issue This is not a political issue.”

WUSF's Mary Shedden contributed to this report.

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Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.