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From Joy to Anger, Faith Leaders React to Roe’s Reversal

Anti-abortion protesters celebrates after the news of Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Religious Americans are deeply divided in their views on abortion, and reactions from faith leaders ranged from elation to anger after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion legal nationwide.

The ruling issued Friday was hailed by leading Catholic bishops, even though a majority of U.S. Catholics support abortion rights.

“I recognize there are people on both sides of the question in the Catholic Church,” said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “What we are finding though is that when people become more aware of what the church is doing to assist women in difficult pregnancies … hearts and minds begin to change.”

The ruling also was welcomed by many evangelical Christian leaders, including Bart Barber, newly elected president of the the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Southern Baptists “rejoice at the ruling,” he said.

However, the decision — expected to lead to sweeping abortion bans in more than 20 states — was decried by some mainline Protestant leaders, including Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. “I am deeply grieved,” he said.

Several Jewish organizations said the decision infringes on 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 dismay: “More than half of American Muslims support safe access to abortion. What we’re seeing here is a very small minority of privileged people who are trying to impose a narrow Christian understanding of when life begins.”

Here are some more reactions from faith leaders:

– “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. … 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.” — Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a statement.

– “Today’s Supreme Court decision … discarding nearly 50 years of precedent, will endanger the lives and well-being of birthing people who do not choose to continue 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 place greater value on the life of the fetus than on the pregnant person, a violation of both Jewish law and tradition and of American religious liberty. Now, it seems only certain people are entitled to religious liberty, which renders the entire concept meaningless.” — Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, 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, it’s criminalizing the plight of the poor. Once a child is born, there are disparities in health care, education, housing and employment. We could care less about a child outside the womb. It’s a sad day in America.” — The Rev. Clinton Stancil, lead pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis, in an interview.

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