Religious Americans are deeply divided in their views on abortion, and reactions from faith leaders have ranged from elation to anger after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion legal nationwide.
Friday’s ruling was praised by leading Catholic bishops, although a majority of American Catholics support abortion rights.
“I recognize that in the Catholic Church there are people on both sides of the issue,” said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops on Pro-Life Activities. “What we are finding, however, is that as people become more aware of what the Church is doing to help women in difficult pregnancies, hearts and minds begin to change.”
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The ruling was also welcomed by many evangelical Christian leaders, including Bart Barber, the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination. Southern Baptists “rejoice at the verdict,” he said.
However, the decision — which is expected to lead to sweeping abortion bans in more than 20 states — was rejected by some prominent Protestant leaders, including Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. “I am deeply saddened,” he said.
Several Jewish organizations said the decision violates Jewish traditions that accept the need for abortion.
Nadiah Mohajir, co-founder of Heart Women and Girls, a Chicago nonprofit that works with Muslim communities on reproductive rights, expressed his dismay: “More than half of American Muslims support safe access to abortion. What we see here is a very small minority of privileged people trying to impose a narrow Christian understanding of when life begins.”
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Here are some more responses from faith leaders:
“The publication of the Dobbs decision marks a real turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked tirelessly for for 50 years. … As this chapter draws to a close, we must understand that this is not the end of our important work. The issue of abortion has now been handed over to the states, many of which have implemented or are considering the most abhorrent pro-abortion proposals ever.” — Brent Leatherwood, acting chairman of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a statement.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision … which dismisses nearly 50 years of precedent will endanger the lives and well-being of people who come into the world who do not choose to continue with the pregnancy. God loves and cares for people who have abortions, and so does the United Church of Christ.” — General ministers of the United Church of Christ, in a joint statement.
“Abortion bans value the life of the fetus more than the pregnant woman, a violation of Jewish law and tradition as well as American religious freedom. Now it seems that only certain people are entitled to religious freedom, which makes the whole concept meaningless.” — Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, in a statement.
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“This is a historic day in the life of our country, a day that sets our thoughts, emotions and prayers in motion. For nearly fifty years, America has enforced an unjust law that allows some to decide whether others may live or die; this policy has resulted in the death of tens of millions of preborn children. … We mourn their loss and we entrust their souls to God.” — Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, in a joint statement.
“Catholics on the right have for decades reduced the Church’s teaching to a single issue, linking the poor to a conservative movement hostile to the Church’s teaching on a consistent ethic of life and the common good. This statement is the culmination of that misguided campaign.” — John Gehring, Catholic program director at the Washington-based clergy network Faith in Public Life, via Twitter.
“This Supreme Court has abolished the constitutional right to abortion in a view that is a direct attack on the separation of church and state. Religious freedom requires the right to abortion so that people can make their own reproductive decisions according to their own principles. …Americans United is preparing religious freedom lawsuits that will bring this argument to our courts.” — Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group representing secular Americans, in a statement.
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“This landmark Supreme Court decision would not have happened without fifty years of patient, loving and hard work by people of all faiths and none in various fields, including social service, religion, law, medicine, culture, education, policy and politics. But our work has only just begun.”—Salvatore Cordileone, Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, in a statement.
“Today’s ruling is further proof that the far-right’s regressive political agenda has reached the highest court in the country. Physical autonomy and self-determination are deeply ingrained humanistic values that are crucial to the realization of an inclusive, pluralistic and thriving society. The right of access to abortion has long been a culture war issue used by radical evangelical and white Christian nationalist movements to control women and undermine the well-being of our society.” — Nadya Dutchin, executive director of the American Humanist Association, in a statement.
“I support the right to life. … But it’s not my choice. When mostly white legislators pass laws that affect black bodies, the plight of the poor is criminalized. Once a child is born, there are differences in health care, education, housing and employment. We don’t care about a child outside the womb. It’s a sad day in America.” — Rev. Clinton Stancil, head pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis, in an interview.
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“Half of the states will now become abortion-free and millions of innocent lives will be spared from the barbaric practice of abortion. This is a human rights victory that surpasses all others and justifies the decades of tireless work by selfless pro-life individuals and organizations.” — Troy Newman, chairman of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, in a statement.
“I am deeply saddened. … I have been ordained for over 40 years and have served as a minister in poor communities; I have personally experienced the negative consequences of this decision. … Today’s decision institutionalizes inequality because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in a way that women without the same resources cannot.” — Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in a statement.
“More than ever, those who value all human life must show their devotion, not only with their words, but also through their actions. We must urge lawmakers to protect the unborn, and we must provide compassionate support to women who will help them choose life.” — Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a statement.
“This court has no legitimacy. We will not live by this decision.” — The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, via Twitter.
Journalists from the AP religion team Holly Meyer, Luis Andres Henao, Peter Smith and Deepa Bharath contributed to this report.
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