Catholic, pro-life leaders celebrate as Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

An abortion protester in Washington holds a crucifix in front of the U.S. Supreme Court May 5, 2022, following the leaked opinion suggesting the possibility of overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision. (CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

Monumental ruling in Dobbs case 'a cause for praise and thanks to God,' Archbishop Vigneron says, adding 'our work is not over'

DETROIT The U.S. Supreme Court said the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion when it released its 6-3 opinion favoring Mississippi’s abortion ban at 15 weeks of gestation in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

The landmark ruling throws the question of abortion back to the states, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade and 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions, which gave the right to abortion nationwide, but still allowed the states to regulate the procedure.

The overturning of Roe and Casey would mean Michigan would revert to its 1931 abortion ban; however, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued a temporary injunction against the law May 17. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is challenging that statute in the Michigan Supreme Court, asking the court to judge whether a right to abortion is already present in the Michigan constitution.

"While the decision announced today by the U.S. Supreme Court is a cause for praise and thanks to God, it does not mean our work is over," Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in a statement. "I join my brother bishops in Michigan in affirming that the Church must redouble her efforts to ensure every woman, child, and family has the support necessary to thrive in pregnancy, early childhood, and beyond."

Michigan pro-life advocates who have been waiting for Roe v. Wade to be overturned since 1973 expressed elation at the June 24 decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted to overrule Roe are on the right side of history today,” said Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan. “This monumental day gives the states the ability to restore legal rights to the unborn, hopefully, in turn, ceasing the unjust slaughtering of the innocent in our country. We stand by our justices and thank them for their courage and wisdom in overruling a low that has plagued our society for the past 50 years.”

Pro-life demonstrators in Washington celebrate outside the Supreme Court June 24, 2022, as the court overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision. (CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)
Pro-life demonstrators in Washington celebrate outside the Supreme Court June 24, 2022, as the court overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision. (CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

Justice Samuel Alito issued the majority opinion for the court, acknowledging abortion is a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views, and for that reason, the decision on regulating abortion is best left to local legislatures.

“For the first 195 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each State was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens,” Justice Alito wrote. “Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade. Even though the Constitution makes no mention of abortion, the Court held that it confers a broad right to obtain one. It did not claim that American law or the common law had every (sic) recognized such a right.”

Pro-life advocates estimate some 63 million unborn children have been killed since Roe v. Wade was decided — including 1.5 million in Michigan.

Michigan's 11 Catholic bishops released a joint statement shortly after the official ruling was made public.

“Nearly fifty years after the unjust decision in Roe v. Wade, our country draws closer to a society that recognizes the God-given right of life for all persons, at any stage or in any condition,” the bishops said in the statement released through the Michigan Catholic Conference. “While today’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturns Roe is a cause for joy, we must remember that life is and always will be a gift from our Creator; it cannot be given or taken by governmental structures, judges, or elected officials.”

Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas based in Southfield released a written statement rejoicing at the news, which took place on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he said. However, there is still much work to be done, the bishop added.

"As a community, it is our responsibility to advocate, support and care for all mothers and fathers who find themselves in desperate situations or even dealing with ‘unwanted’ pregnancies. We must not let them fall into despair but help them recognize that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, even those who(m) some deem as 'mistakes,' Bishop Kalabat wrote. "Our God-given mission is to protect the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. Let us continue to unite ourselves as one community advancing the mission that God has called us to in order to help and protect all persons."

The Dobbs decision is a watershed moment in the pro-life movement, which has been advocating that abortion policy should be in the hands of state legislatures and in turn, the voters.

"We are grateful this Supreme Court decision returns the legal possibility to protect life in the womb to the states, such as our state of Michigan with its strong laws banning abortion," said Kathleen Wilson, coordinator of pro-life ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit. "Regardless of whether full legal protection is returned to the unborn child, as Catholics, we proclaim the sanctity and dignity of each life. We will continue our work and increase our commitment to protect, to defend and to support each life from conception to natural death."

Ever since a leak was reported in May that the court was considering overturning Roe with its Dobbs decision, there has been an increase in threats of violence and vandalism against Catholic churches and pro-life centers across the country.

Vandals smashed nearly a dozen windows and spray-painted messages on the side of the building at the independent Lennon Pregnancy Center in Dearborn Heights on June 20. One of the messages, which has since been painted over, read, "If abortion isn't safe, neither are you." (Photos courtesy of Lennon Pregnancy Center)
Vandals smashed nearly a dozen windows and spray-painted messages on the side of the building at the independent Lennon Pregnancy Center in Dearborn Heights on June 20. One of the messages, which has since been painted over, read, "If abortion isn't safe, neither are you." (Photos courtesy of Lennon Pregnancy Center)

Locally, an independent, pro-life pregnancy resource center in Dearborn Heights was vandalized on June 20, and pro-abortion rights protestors attempted to disrupt a Mass at St. Veronica Parish in Eastpointe on June 12.

Pro-life leaders asked for calm in the wake of the court’s decision, imploring both sides of the contentious debate to conduct themselves with cordiality and civility.

“We urge the public and pro-abortion activists to accept this decision without violence and retaliation,” Listing said. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade was made possible by working with the legal system and following laws. We know that one day Michigan’s 1931 abortion law will be enforced again, and the unborn will be protected against ableism, sexism and racism. We will continue to peacefully work toward this through the legal system.”

Michigan's bishops also expressed sadness at the threats of violence, calling on Catholics to be respectful in debate and to continue to work for the benefit of all individuals, women, unborn children, the poor and those in need of assistance, as the Church works to develop a whole-life ethic throughout society.

“We are saddened by the fear and anger that has reverberated across our land since a draft of this opinion was leaked to the public,” the bishops said. “In light of these concerns, we wish to make clear that no woman should face pregnancy alone. With safe-delivery laws, adoption, pregnancy resource centers and assistance from Catholic and other agencies that provide necessities for mom and baby, every pregnant woman should know there is a community of compassion and support waiting to help her and her unborn or infant child.”

With parishes preparing to celebrate Masses this weekend, beginning with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 24, the Archdiocese of Detroit is advising parishes and schools to remain vigilant for anyone who may have bad intentions approaching a Catholic site this weekend.

“With this morning’s release of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we anticipate an increase in the potential for protests, vandalism, and violence at churches and other faith-based organizations — including the possibility of this occurring at Catholic churches and affiliated entities,” the archdiocese wrote in an email to parishes. “While we pray that all will respond to the decision with peace and civility, it is prudent to prepare for less-desirable responses.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit asked parishes and schools to review their emergency plans and to be ready to contact law enforcement should a situation arise.

Pro-life demonstrators in Louisville, Ky., gather to pray outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center April 16, 2022. (CNS photo/Jonathan Cherry, Reuters)
Pro-life demonstrators in Louisville, Ky., gather to pray outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center April 16, 2022. (CNS photo/Jonathan Cherry, Reuters)

Now that abortion is set to become a state-by-state issue, the mission for Catholics and pro-lifers is to help pregnant women and young mothers by marshaling the Church's resources to build a culture of life, Wilson said.

"In the Archdiocese of Detroit and across our nation, we are ready for the life-giving opportunities this reversal of Dobbs presents to us as Catholics," Wilson said. "We are ready to increase our already active networks of accompaniment and resources for women and parents who are facing challenging pregnancies, that they may choose life for their unborn child.

"One of the timely Catholic initiatives of the pandemic, 'Walking with Moms in Need,' does just that, inviting all parishes to respond," Wilson continued. "Here in Detroit, we call it an ongoing work of mercy where parishes and ministry groups can partner with pregnancy help centers and other agencies to offer real alternative choices to women seeking an abortion, so that they may come to know the very real love of Christ through our actions."

While overturning Roe v. Wade has been a focal point of the pro-life movement since 1973, spurring decades of political activism, advocating for social services and reaching out to women and children in need, the work of the pro-life movement is far from over, Archbishop Vigneron said.

"In the Archdiocese of Detroit, we have partnered with Catholic Charities of southeast Michigan to launch 'Walking with Moms in Need,' which equips Catholic parishes and parishioners to assist pregnant and parenting mothers," Archbishop Vigneron said. "We seek to address and resolve the struggles women and families face, rather than contributing to the 'throwaway culture' that proposes eliminating people as an acceptable solution. As we renew and redouble our efforts, let us continue to pray unceasingly for all pregnant women and their children, that they know the love of Christ as shared through the witness borne by you, me, and all Catholics. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us."



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