Today in a 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the United States Supreme Court overruled the decisions in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) and held that “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.” The Court therefore upheld a Mississippi law which banned abortion after twenty weeks’ gestation. In an opinion written by Catholic Justice Samuel Alito, the Court likened the constitutional error in the Roe decision to “the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson,” which upheld racial segregation in 1896, stating: “Roe was egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”
A monumental decision closely followed by Catholics and pro-life advocates, both bishops and pro-life organizations have issued statements in the wake of the decision. They have celebrated the victory for justice for unborn human beings while attending to the work that lies ahead for voters and advocates.
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishops José Gomez of Los Angeles and William E. Lori of Baltimore issued a statement emphasizing the historic nature of the decision and lauding the work of pro-life activists and lobbyists to bring it to fruition: “We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision. We pray that our elected officials will now enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us.”
They continued, pointing to the recent “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative of the USCCB:
Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.
As religious leaders, we pledge ourselves to continue our service to God’s great plan of love for the human person, and to work with our fellow citizens to fulfill America’s promise to guarantee the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.
The Sisters of Life, a women’s religious community dedicated to the protection of human life through service to pregnant women and mothers, issued a statement celebrating the decision and pledging their ongoing support:
Acknowledging that the law teaches, it is our hope that with the Dobbs decision, the truth of the dignity and unique beauty of every human being will begin to transform hearts, relationships, and every aspect of our society; and, result in law that protects the human being at every stage of life.
Today as we renew our commitment to love, we invite all others to step with us into this new era of greater protection for the unborn with even greater generosity, courage and dedication.
Founder of pro-life advocacy group Rehumanize International, Aimee Murphy, released this statement on Twitter, both celebrating the decision and calling for compassion and effort in building a culture of life during heightened pro-life and pro-choice polarization:
Rehumanize International aims to go beyond partisan rhetoric to build a world beyond abortion; the answer to difficult pregnancies is not dehumanization and violence, but meeting the needs of pregnant people and families. This is not a time to gloat, think our work is done, or dehumanize those “on the other side.” Instead, we must stand in a posture of humility, to see the humanity of those lashing out in hurt and anxiety. We must remember that our effort to uphold human dignity doesn’t end at birth. We must listen, roll our sleeves up, and work in diverse political coalitions to make sure that mothers and their children don’t fall through the cracks.
Individual Catholic bishops celebrated the decision as well. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, of San Antonio, Texas—recently in the news ministering to families in Uvalde following the devastating Robb Elementary shooting and advocating for gun control legislation—issued a statement:
We thank God for this decision for life. We offer prayers of gratitude to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart where everyone can find a home filled with love, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we look to a future full of hope, with families flourishing and succeeding.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago called Catholics to welcome the decision:
This moment should serve as a turning point in our dialogue about the place an unborn child holds in our nation, about our responsibility to listen to women and support them through pregnancies and after the birth of their children, and about the need to refocus our national priorities to support families, particularly those in need.
Make no mistake, because this ruling regrettably will have little impact on abortion in Illinois, as there are virtually no restrictions here, we will continue to advocate strongly for legal protections for unborn children. And we will redouble our efforts to work with all to build a culture that values the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
This ruling is not the end of a journey, but rather a fresh start. It underscores the need to understand those who disagree with us, and to inculcate an ethic of dialogue and cooperation. Let us begin by examining our national conscience, taking stock of those dark places in our society and in our hearts that turn to violence and deny the humanity of our brothers and sisters, and get to work building up the common good by choosing life.
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis emphasized the continuity of both the Church’s message and mission in the wake of the Dobbs decision:
Just as before today’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade, the Church will continue servin those who are most vulnerable and bearing witness to the dignity of every human, regardless of religion, race, age or any other factor. […] I urge all the faithful in our Archdiocese of St. Louis, now more than ever, to demonstrate compassion and provide support to those in need, with a special deference to mothers and children in need.
The Catholic bishops of New York expressed gratitude while calling for charity towards those disappointed in the decision. They also pointed to their recent statement which outlined their “vision for a pro-life New York”:
With the entire pro-life community, we are overjoyed with this outcome of the court. However, we acknowledge the wide range of emotions associated with this decision. We call on all Catholics and everyone who supports the right to life for unborn children to be charitable, even as we celebrate an important historical moment and an answer to a prayer.
We must remember that this is a judicial victory, not a cultural one. The culture remains deeply divided on the issue, which will be evidenced by the patchwork of state statutes pertaining to abortion across the country. To change the culture and build a culture of life, we need to enact family-friendly policies that welcome children, support mothers, cherish families and empower them to thrive.
Building a culture of life is not solely the responsibility of the government or those heroic individuals working on the front lines, in crisis pregnancy centers and other ministries. All of us need to respect the dignity and sanctity of human life in everything we do: in how we treat our children, spouses and parents; in the way we behave in our place of work; in sum, how we live Jesus’ two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, emphasized the teaching of Pope Francis in his statement on the ruling:
We join with Pope Francis in noting that “it is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child” (Pope Francis, address to the United Nations, Sept. 25, 2020). Our Holy Father has repeatedly said that abortion is not a religious issue; it’s a human rights issue.
At the Vatican, the Pontifical Academy for Life joined in the USCCB’s statement and pointed towards the need for future dialogue on the dignity of all human life:
After 50 years, it is important to reopen a non-ideological debate on the place that the protection of life has in a civil society to ask ourselves what kind of coexistence and society we want to build…We need solid assistance to mothers, couples and the unborn child that involves the whole community, encouraging the possibility for mothers in difficulty to carry on with the pregnancy and to entrust the child to those who can guarantee the child’s growth.
For past WPI commentary on Dobbs, abortion, and the consistent life ethic, check out our Life Issues page.
[Update 4:35pm EST]
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, has issued a statement:
“Nearly 50 years ago when Roe v. Wade was handed down, our nation became a house divided against itself by pitting freedom of choice before even the inalienable right of life itself. Since then, we have tirelessly prayed and worked for a restoration of the values stated in the Declaration of Independence that have made ours a truly great nation.
Human life is precious and sacred. With the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, now we can begin to heal those divisions that have so diminished us as a people and as a society.
We rejoice in this latest step in our journey, but our work is not done. Locally and nationally, we still have more to do to advance the dignity of human life and to make sure that the full range of life issues are adequately addressed. This includes supporting pregnant women in making life-affirming choices, providing better availability of prenatal and postnatal care for children and their mothers, advocating for affordable child care and safe schools, and advancing policies that support mothers in school and in the workforce.
We must also recognize that a life-affirming ethic should also draw attention to a host of other areas that should be of great concern to humanity. This includes revoking the death penalty and caring for the imprisoned; addressing all forms of injustice, including racism; caring for the poor, the sick, elderly, and vulnerable; and advancing a greater recognition of our calling in the entire spectrum of human relationships to be brothers and sisters to one another.”
Image: United States Supreme Court building. Public domain, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.
Rachel Amiri serves as Production Editor for Where Peter Is and has also appeared as the host of WPI Live. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Theology and Political Science, and was deeply shaped by the thought of Pope Benedict XVI. She has worked in Catholic publishing as well as in healthcare as a FertilityCare Practitioner. Rachel is married to fellow WPI Contributor Daniel Amiri and resides in St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising three children.