By Christopher Wells
“This is a historic day in the life of our country,” reads a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in response to the decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn controversial rulings on abortion that had effectively permitted abortion on demand throughout the country.
On Friday, the Court released its decision in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, ruling that the US Constitution does not protect a so-called “right” to abortion. Friday’s ruling, which was decided by six judges in favour and three opposed, overturns the decisions in the landmark abortion cases Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey, which had guaranteed “abortion on demand” throughout the country.
Overturning an unjust law
“For nearly fifty years,” says the US Bishops’ statement, “America has enforced an unjust law that has permitted some to decide whether others can live or die; this policy has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of preborn children, generations that were denied the right to even be born.”
The statement, signed by USCCB President Archbishop José Gomez and pro-life Committee chair Archbishop William Lori, goes on to note that Roe v Wade, “which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life,” marked a “grievous” denial of the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Promoting and protecting the most vulnerable
The decision, however, does not make abortion illegal, but merely returns authority to regulate the practice to the American people and their elected representatives.
After thanking God for Friday’s decision, the Bishops appeal to elected officials to “enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us.”
In their statement, the Bishops also mourned the loss of “the little ones whose lives have been taken since 1973,” while expressing their closeness to “every woman and man who has suffered grievously from abortion,” assuring them of their prayers for healing and pledging their compassion and support.
The Bishops go on to praise the work of “millions” of Americans who have “worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families.”
A post-Roe America
Their work for the cause of life, the Bishops continue, “reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation’s history.”
However, the Bishops insist on the need for the work to continue: “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.”
Archbishops Gomez and Lori conclude their statement with a pledge “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.”
Vatican joins US Bishops’ statement
Following Friday’s ruling, the Pontifial Academy for Life also joined the USCCB statement, saying the issue of abortion cannot remain “confined to the exercise of individual rights but instead is a matter of broad social significance.”
The Pontifical Academy for Life said governments should enact policies that “favor life without falling into a priori ideological positions”.
This includes “ensuring adequate sexual education, guaranteeing health care accessible to all and preparing legislative measures to protect the family and motherhood, overcoming existing inequalities.”
The President of the Pontifical Academy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, said: “In the face of Western society that is losing its passion for life, this act is a powerful invitation to reflect together on the serious and urgent issue of human generativity and the conditions that make it possible; by choosing life, our responsibility for the future of humanity is at stake.”