The Supreme Court of the U.S. declared that there is not a constitutional right to abortion in its June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing each state to enact its own laws regulating abortion.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion, was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Thomas and Kavanaugh also filed concurring opinions.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Describing Roe as “egregiously wrong from the start,” the majority opinion asserted that “it is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. … That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.”
“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority,” Alito and the majority concluded. “We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Chief Justice John Roberts concurred only in judgment with the majority, agreeing that the viability rule from Roe and Casey “should be discarded,” but citing his adherence to the principles of stare decisis and “judicial restraint” in explaining why he disagreed with “the dramatic step of altogether eliminating the abortion right first recognized in Roe.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion that observed, in part: “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
“The majority has no good reason for the upheaval in law and society it sets off. Roe and Casey have been the law of the land for decades, shaping women’s expectations of their choices when an unplanned pregnancy occurs,” the dissenting justices wrote. “The Court reverses course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this Court has changed. … Today, the proclivities of individuals rule. The Court departs from its obligation to faithfully and impartially apply the law. We dissent.”
Several states passed so-called “trigger laws” that were written in such a manner as to go into effect at some point after the SCOTUS ruling in Dobbs if the court overturned Roe. POLITICO reports that abortion is now illegal in five states, potentially illegal (or soon to be illegal) in 11 states, and remains legal for now in 35 states.
Reactions and responses from U.S. faith leaders and faith-based organizations emerged quickly after the ruling was announced. Here are some of the statements that have been published:
Calling the ruling “an attack on the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans,” Katy Joseph, director of policy and advocacy at Interfaith Alliance, stated: “The Religious Right would have you believe that this decision is a victory for religious freedom, but they are dead wrong. True religious freedom means that people seeking essential care are able to make decisions based on their own beliefs and circumstances, not the religious views of politicians.”
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said SCOTUS has “abolished the constitutional right to abortion in an opinion that is a direct attack on the separation of church and state.”
“Religious freedom demands the right to an abortion so people can make their own reproductive decisions according to their own principles,” the AU statement asserted. “Abortion bans undermine religious freedom by attempting to impose one religious viewpoint on all of us.”
In a tweet expressing opposition to both the Dobbs ruling and the “warped, dangerous, and violent Christian theology that undergirds it,” the Alliance of Baptists linked to its May 3 statement that affirmed the organization’s stance that “bodily autonomy and equal access to the full range of reproductive health care services — including safe and legal abortion services — is an essential human right.”
In a series of tweets, Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty), described the ruling as “devastating,” noting her fear that this could “sow more political discord over religion, particularly as some states pursue anti-abortion laws reflecting an explicitly religious agenda.”
“Religion does not speak with one voice on abortion rights,” Tyler said. “But the right to abortion has existed for nearly 50 years, and for many, that right serves a vital religious freedom interest.”
“This ruling will become notorious as an enormous step back in our nation’s progress towards realizing the justice, equity, and liberty to which all Americans are entitled,” the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington stated. “In more immediate terms, it will imperil the health and lives of women across the United States, with the heaviest suffering borne by Black, Brown, low-income, and disabled populations.”
The National Council of Jewish Women called the ruling “a moral failure,” adding: “This egregious decision is a direct violation of both our American values and our Jewish tradition. Reversing the protections of Roe defies logic, morality, compassion and the fundamental right of all Americans to practice their religious beliefs without interference from the government.”
Describing the Dobbs ruling as “one of the most extreme instances of governmental overreach in our lifetime,” the Rabbinical Assembly, an international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, said it was “outraged by the decision of the Supreme Court.” Citing the assembly’s March 2021 resolution affirming the right to legal and accessible abortion under certain circumstances, the statement emphasized that its position is “based on our members’ understanding of relevant biblical and rabbinic sources, which compel us to cherish the sanctity of life, including the potential of life during pregnancy, and does not indicate that personhood and human rights begin with conception, but rather with birth as indicated by Exodus 21:22-23.”
Farah Brelvi and Asifa Quraishi-Landes, interim co-executive directors at Muslim Advocates, described the ruling as “a dangerous Christian nationalization of American law,” which “kicks open the door to future reversals of the right to contraception, the right to marry whomever you want and even the right to teach your children a language of your choice.” Muslim Advocates joined more than 50 faith-based organization in submitting an amici curiae brief urging the court not to overturn Roe.
“Overturning Roe v. Wade and placing decisions about abortion regulation at the state level encumbers and endangers the lives of all persons who need to make decisions about unexpected pregnancies,” said Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in a pastoral letter.
“Our social teaching is complex and does not hew to clear categories or labels such as ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘anti-abortion,’” Eaton wrote. “Our church teaching holds that there are no exclusive rights in pregnancy. A pregnant person does not have an exclusive right to abort a fetus at all points during the pregnancy. A developing life does not have an exclusive right to be born. This church does not support abortion as a normative form of birth control but rather understands it as necessary in some morally responsible circumstances.”
Calling June 24 “a historic day … that stirs our thoughts, emotions and prayers,” a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, authored by USCCB President José H. Gomez and USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities chair William E. Lori, lamented “the little ones whose lives have been taken since 1973” and gave thanks for the decades of work Catholics have invested in efforts to overturn Roe.
“Their work for the cause of life 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,” their joint statement said.
In comments published by Catholic Review, Lori called the decision “good news for our nation” and “good news for the cause of life.”
“And I also think it is a moment for us as Catholics, as believers, as people of goodwill, now to redouble our efforts to surround women in difficult pregnancies with love and care and services,” he said. “So, it is both a victory but also a day of challenge.”
In a lengthy statement, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s Life Ministry said it “applauds” the ruling and “encourages each state government to follow suit by passing and administering laws that protect human life.”
Multiple Southern Baptist Convention leaders took to Twitter to express their approval of the Dobbs ruling.
Brent Leatherhead, acting president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a tweet, “The day we have all been waiting for has arrived. #Dobbs is here. Roe and Casey are overruled. More lives are now protected today than yesterday as a new chapter for the #prolife movement begins.” A longer statement was later posted to the ERLC website.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, tweeted that he was “thankful to God for this historic day,” and Paul Chitwood, president of the SBC’s International Mission Board, tweeted, “Praise God!” with a link to a Fox News article on the ruling.