White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday shut down a reporter who asked her if President Joe Biden agreed with the pope on abortion, namely that it is “murder.”
EWTN Washington Correspondent Owen Jensen asked Psaki during her daily press briefing about Biden’s upcoming meeting with Pope Francis on Friday.
“As you know, millions of Catholics will be watching when the president and Pope Francis meet,” Jensen began.
“The White House has said they will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity. … Will that include the human dignity of the unborn?” he asked.
Psaki asked about Biden's upcoming meeting with Pope Francis: Will they discuss “the human dignity of the unborn?”
PSAKI: “You ask me most often, if not every time, about abortion…you can ask anything you want.” pic.twitter.com/Y52stYGrSh
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) October 27, 2021
After several seconds of back and forth, Psaki responded that “there’s a great deal of agreement and overlap with the president and Pope Francis on a range of issues: poverty, combating the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic. These are all hugely important, impactful issues that will be the centerpiece of what their discussion is when they meet.”
Psaki added that the White House expects a “warm and constructive dialogue,” but said that while the president “stands up for and believes that a woman’s right to choose is important,” the “pope has spoken differently.”
“I have just outlined for you what the focus of the meeting will be. I think we’re going to have to move on,” Psaki said as she attempted to cut Jensen off when he tried to follow up.
“The Pope has said abortion is murder, and it’s like hiring a hitman. Does the president agree or disagree with that?” Jensen pressed.
“You know that the president believes in a woman’s right to choose. You’re very familiar with this issue. We’ve spoken about it many times,” Psaki responded.
Biden, the second Catholic American president, has long been criticized for publicly supporting legal abortion. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is morally wrong and kills the unborn child, whose life begins at conception.
In June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to create a document on the meaning of the sacrament of holy communion, prompting speculation that the document could lead to politicians like Biden, who support abortion, being barred from receiving holy communion.
The president’s papal audience on Friday will be his first official visit to the Vatican since taking office. The visit will come as Biden meets in Rome with world leaders for the G20 summit.
Biden is said to keep a picture of the pope on his desk in the Oval Office.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), another lifelong Roman Catholic and self-described “devout Catholic,” also met with the pope at the Vatican. She was criticized earlier this year by her own bishop in San Francisco over her public support for abortion.
The abortion debate has begun to pick up steam again in the U.S., with the Supreme Court preparing to consider a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In that case, Mississippi is arguing against Roe vs. Wade’s ban on states outlawing abortion before the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually considered around 22 weeks of pregnancy.
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