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Catholic Scholars React to Supreme Court’s Dobbs Ruling


Friday, June 24, 2022


Austin Schuler, aschuler@faithinpubliclife.org, 540-280-3393

Catholic Scholars React to Supreme Court’s Dobbs Ruling

Catholic mother, scholars warn that criminalizing abortion will hurt low-income women of color

Washington, DC — The Supreme Court today ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Catholic scholars reacted to the decision, warning that criminalizing abortion will hurt low-income women of color and endanger lives. 

“Catholic leaders have spent decades fighting to end abortion, and insisting all the time that they were fighting for the good of women and babies alike. But they didn’t prepare, we didn’t prepare, for the reality of how taking away access to reproductive care would put women’s lives in danger,” said Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, a Catholic mother and Commonweal magazine editor-at-large. “And the anti-abortion movement didn’t advocate consistently for the kinds of policies that would make it easier for women in difficult circumstances to carry their pregnancies to term. Now women will suffer and women will die as a result of this decision, and I’m really afraid our Church leaders will just keep on ignoring that reality.”

“A majority of Catholics recognize that criminalizing abortion does not help the poor and vulnerable in our society,” said Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. “This ruling will endanger lives, especially those of poor women of color. We can trust women to make moral decisions about their lives.” 

“This ruling makes it clear that the ‘pro-life’ movement’s goal all along has more to do with revoking women’s agency,” said Therese Lysaught, a professor at the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Care Leadership and the Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago. “It has never truly been about life: it has simply sought to overturn Roe with little attempt to practically address the root causes of abortion. It has never been about creating a context where children are cared for and nurtured as part of the common good. Poor women, women of color and their babies continue to die at a rate of three times that of white women and children. This decision will exacerbate those realities while providing one more tool for criminalizing and disenfranchising poor women of color. Catholic leadership in the United States has fomented a deeply problematic either-or understanding of a very complex issue. In their idolatrous focus on this one legal decision, they have supported astonishingly shoddy legal and historical reasoning. What they didn’t realize—or maybe they did—was that Catholic anti-Roe activists have been complicit in the wider neoliberal project of dismantling governmental institutions. The Dobbs decision is not about human life; it’s one tactic in a broader strategy of hijacking established constitutional, judicial processes that are necessary for sustaining a robust, democratic polity and the common good.”

“The Court’s decision falls hardest on poor women who can’t afford to travel and young women, especially from communities of color, without options or access to pregnancy care while still others who can get abortions will get abortions,” said Steven P. Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and author of Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. “This Constitution is meant to be shared by a diverse people who hold different views, including about when life begins. It doesn’t belong only to Catholics or other Christians. With this decision, the Court sacrifices precedent and the integrity of a legal system that protects the common good to reward a 50-year-long pressure campaign’s single-minded, single-issue culture war. Now partisanship has won in the Supreme Court, the brakes are off the wheels, and no one is better off.” 

“The impact of this decision on vulnerable populations of people who can become pregnant will be extensive,” said M.T. Davila, a visiting associate professor of practice at Merrimack College and a past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. “Reproductive health care, which includes a range of care besides the termination of a viable pregnancy, will be significantly reduced in geographic areas where access and public attitudes toward women’s and other gender minorities’ health, especially for Black and Brown persons, follows the dehumanizing ideologies of our racist and sexist past. I encourage Catholics, and all people of faith on different sides of this issue, to engage in the hard work of establishing relationships, alliances and coalitions across diverse perspectives for the benefit of all persons who can become pregnant and every child born. Reproductive justice can’t be divorced from racial, gender, economic, migrant and other forms of justice. As we work to serve the common good, let’s move beyond the simplistic binary of ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ labels. Now is the time to reject that binary, work across divides, and focus on communities most impacted by this harmful ruling.”

Faith in Public Life is a national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. Together, with a network of over 50,000 leaders, they are leading the fight to advance just policies at the state and federal level that affirm our values and the human dignity of all.

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