Pro-life advocates are celebrating today as the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision providing federal protections for abortion.
In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled for the state of Mississippi in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, upholding a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling affirms, in a 5-4 vote, that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion and returns the authority to regulate abortion policy to the states.
Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the decision a “turning point.”
‘More lives protected’
“More lives are now protected today than yesterday. The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Their commitment to uphold human dignity and justice has achieved the most significant victory in the history of the pro-life movement.
“As this chapter comes to a close, we must understand this is not the end of our important work. The issue of abortion has now been turned over to the states, many of which have either implemented or are considering some of the most abhorrently permissive pro-abortion proposals ever. A consistent, convictional pro-life witness is needed now more than ever in state legislatures and local communities. So let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities.”
Baptist leaders respond
SBC President Bart Barber said “Southern Baptists rejoice” at today’s ruling.
“Since 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention has passed more than 20 resolutions on the question of abortion. We have consistently held these principles:
- That from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death all human beings are made in the image of God.
- That every human being is valuable and deserves to be loved and protected, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, socio-economic status, disability, intelligence, or utility to society.
- That elective abortion should be prohibited by law except in cases wherein the life of the mother is endangered by carrying the baby to term.
- That expectant mothers facing difficult circumstances deserve the love and support of the church, the community and society.
These principles have motivated both our consistent support of the pro-life movement and our consistent support of crisis pregnancy centers, ministries to low-income families, foster-care and adoption agencies, and other ministries of mercy to people in need,” Barber said, noting that messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim passed a resolution committing “to stand with and pray for abortion-vulnerable women, to eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion and to oppose Planned Parenthood and other predatory organizations or institutions who exploit vulnerable women for profit.”
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said, “As Alabama Baptists welcome the overturn of Roe v. Wade, let us be good stewards of our influence in responding with grace, civility and concerted prayer for all.
“What we have been praying and working for has now become a reality and is certainly a cause for celebration. It is also a call for us to continue to be salt and light in a culture that does not understand or care to understand our convictions,” Lance said on ricklance.com.
“We rejoice knowing that the overturn of Roe v. Wade has finally happened after almost 50 years. We know the lives of unborn children are precious in God’s sight. Let us also realize that we have much more work to be done and have entered into a new era of ministry in protection of and support of preborn life.”
Authority returned to states
As a result of today’s ruling, more than 20 states will prohibit or restrict abortions, according to The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization affiliated with the abortion-rights movement.
Thirteen states have so-called trigger laws that automatically take effect now that Roe is overturned: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Nine states have pre-Roe abortion bans still on the books: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Some states, including Alabama, have both pre- and post-Roe laws banning abortion.
In a statement following the release of the decision, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said “our prayers have been answered.”
‘Giant step forward’
“Today is a giant step forward for our country as, after decades, Roe is finally overturned,” she said. “Every life is precious and a sacred gift from God. … This is a historic day, and I could not be more proud as a governor, a Christian and a woman to see this misguided and detrimental decision overturned.”
In addition to the states with bans in place, Guttmacher classifies four states — Florida, Indiana, Nebraska and Montana — as likely to ban abortion based on the state’s history and political atmosphere.
Though Dobbs v. Jackson dealt with a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Mississippi, as well as several pro-life organizations, including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, urged the high court not only to uphold the 15-week prohibition contested in the case but to overturn Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion that affirmed that decision.
Under the Roe/Casey framework, the United States had one of the most permissive abortion policies in the world. A 2021 study by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute showed 47 of 50 European countries prohibit elective abortions or restrict them to 15 weeks or earlier. The United States reportedly was one of only six countries, including China and North Korea, to permit elective abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation.
In a statement, the Alabama Policy Institute said the precedents of the Roe and Casey decisions “have been rightfully abandoned” but pointed out today’s decision does not make abortion illegal in the U.S.
“Now the issue is in the hands of the various legislatures in our nation,” the API statement noted. “At any point, the United States Congress could codify Roe as law and therefore force the legal status of abortion on all fifty states. On the other hand, Congress, if it desired, could ban abortion in all fifty states. Neither of these options appear likely in today’s environment. Instead, the issue will sit at the feet of thousands of state legislators across the country.”
Eric Johnston, an attorney and member of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, helped draft the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which bans most abortions in the state, signed into law by Gov. Ivey in 2019.
Johnston praised today’s ruling, but added, “we must now step up to help women who otherwise would have aborted their children.” (Johnston, a boarder member of Alabama Citizens Action Program, will join ALCAP President Greg Davis on his live radio show at 4:05 p.m. today to discuss Alabama’s current pro-life laws and how today’s decision will affect the pro-life movement in our state. Listen in at 101.1FM, prioritytalkradio.com, or at the Priority Talk and ALCAP Facebook pages).
New focus of pro-life movement
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who oversaw Mississippi’s efforts to challenge Roe, agreed, saying today’s ruling represents a shift, not an end, to the pro-life movement.
“Today marks a new era in American history — and a great day for the American people. Roe v. Wade is now behind us, consigned to the list of infamous cases that collapsed under the weight of their errors. …
“Now our work to empower women and promote life truly begins. … The task now falls to us to advocate for the laws that empower women — laws that promote fairness in child support and enhance enforcement of it, laws for child care and workplace policies that support families and laws that improve foster care and adoption.
“We must renew our commitment to weaving a safety net that helps women in challenging circumstances and gives their children life and hope. This is about more than the fundamentals of prenatal vitamins and diapers; it is about helping to connect them to opportunities for education and job training to support their families. And always, it is about love and respect for them through whatever struggles they face. This is what it means to both empower women and promote life.”
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