On the solemnity of the Sacred Heart June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the fulfillment of 50 years of prayers to end the federal legalization of abortion in the United States.
“It’s a happy day,” said Catherine Phillips, respect life director of the Diocese of Little Rock. “Happy day in that a bad ruling was overturned, finally, after 50 years; finally. Happy day in Arkansas that we hope to see the end of legal abortion very soon, but there’s lots of work to do here to support women that are unexpectedly pregnant, to support families in need.”
The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, which related to a 2018 law in Mississippi that banned abortion at less than 15 weeks, challenged Roe. The court overturned the ruling in a 6-to-3 vote, with Justice Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion, stating, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and (1992 Planned Parenthood vs.) Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.”
The ruling kicks the issue of abortion back to the states, with some states set to ban abortion entirely, while others will make access to abortions easier.
In 2019, Arkansas was the fifth state to pass a “trigger law,” which would put forth a total ban on abortion in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned. During a 2 p.m. press conference June 24, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge certified the law, making abortion illegal in Arkansas.
With the ruling, abortion will be illegal in 20 other states.
Throughout the years, Arkansas Right to Life, a nonprofit that works to end abortion, has been putting forth legislation to chip away at abortion laws and lessen its prevelance in the state.
Executive Director Rose Mimms, who is Catholic, spoke to Arkansas Catholic following the announcement while at the National Right to Life Convention in Atlanta. She said there was crying and cheering at the convention when it was announced during a general session.
“That so-called right is over in Arkansas,” Mimms said, adding how fitting it was that the ruling came down on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart. “God knew what he was doing, he always knows what he is doing. To him be the glory and honor and praise.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement June 24 acknowledging the “historic day,” while mourning the lives lost to abortion and looking to the road ahead, stating in part: “Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”
While Phillips said she was thrilled with the ruling, she also had a deep “awareness of the gravity of the situation” that women in crisis pregnancies face. Those challenges, like poverty, health and safety, do not vanish now that Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“When I’ve encountered women here in Arkansas that were considering abortion, struggling with an unexpected pregnancy or had an abortion, their struggle is real. Their circumstances of feeling overwhelmed, alone, not having the resources available to deal with the circumstances — those are real and very challenging,” Phillips said. “We as Catholics of good will need to step up and be there with accompaniment, with our faith communities and churches to work together to really provide a network of support, care and service to support women. It’s nice when the government helps, but we can do it ourselves too.”
She emphasized the time is now to “double down on those efforts” through continued support of pregnancy resource centers and parishes being places where a mother or family can “come and find accompaniment, the joy of life and support.”
Though there are strong voices in society that speak out for and against abortion in language and tone that promotes division, Phillips said it’s a chance for the Catholic Church to “present a message of a consistent ethic of life, which means every person’s life has immense value and worth.”
It’s also a moment to emphasize the Church does not support “forcing any woman to parent if she is unable,” instead supporting adoption, Phillips said.
“There are safe haven laws that allow women to surrender children without legal consequence. But we stand ready to help women, and dads, who choose to parent,” she said.
It’s also a time that while people are celebrating, words matter and some comments spoken in a less than merciful way can cause a post-abortive woman to be hesitant to seek healing.
“As we all rejoice it is illegal, words can further drive the shame and fear that can prevent someone reaching out to find God’s love and mercy. It can further isolate people and make people feel they have to hold this deep dark secret. … We always have to talk about abortion with God’s love and mercy,” Phillips said.
Reflecting on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Phillips said it’s a time for mercy.
“We have been wounded by the sin of aboriton, all of us have, and as part of our reparation we can continue to fast and pray, but continue to be what the USCCB says are bridges of mercy for those that have been wounded by abortion,” she said.
For more information and resources from the diocesan Respect Life Office, visit dolr.org/respect-life.
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