The U.S. Abortion Fight Continues

The U.S. Abortion Fight Continues August 1, 2022

The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021
Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor
Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

On June 24th, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its ruling of Dobbs v. Jackson. Roe v. Wade had ruled that the Constitution provided that a woman had a legal right to an abortion. This had been a federal law for 49 years. But this Court ruled the opposite, claiming the Constitution does not allow a woman the legal right to an abortion. So, this new ruling reinvigorated the abortion fight and sent it back to individual states to decide. Experts say the result will be even further dividing of the nation over this issue.

How was this law overturned, since polls show that about 65% of America voters believe abortion should be legal? It happened largely because evangelicals had so much to do with Donald Trump becoming president. He had promised them he’d try to get Roe v. Wade overturned by getting conservative justices on the Supreme Court, which he did. The majority opinion of this Court ruling included this statement, “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.” It seems these two different opinions by two majorities of the Court, separated by 49 years, came down to personal opinion, influenced by their own religion, more than actual constitutional law.

The present Supreme Court has three new justices who publicly profess to be Roman Catholic. But the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. (National Catholic Register) claims six of the nine justices are Roman Catholic. That is based largely on the view, “once a Catholic, always a Catholic,” or the fact that they were raised Catholic. Many people object to this, especially former Catholics, which includes Justice Alito. So, to say that evangelicals influenced the Supreme Court can be debated. The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of being more opposed to abortion than evangelicals have been. And the Court doesn’t have any really pure evangelicals, though Justice Barrett has been a Charismatic Roman Catholic, and many people include Pentecostals and Charismatics among their definition of evangelical.

Certain groups are gearing up to fight this in state courts. And one of the main issues will involve freedom of religion. Catholics and evangelicals largely have argued that the Bible indicates that personhood begins at conception, so that many of argue that abortion is murder. But the few Bible texts they cite to support this assertion are not that affirmative to many Bible readers. Here they are:

  • King David said to God, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works” (Psalm 139.13 NRSV).
  • God says to the nation of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb” (Isaiah 44.24).
  • Some also cite this, “When Elizabeth [John the Baptist’s mother] heard Mary’s [Jesus’ mother] greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (Luke 1.41).

But both Jews and some Muslims claim that according to their religion, personhood does not begin at conception but later. Thus for them, making abortion illegal discriminates against their religion. That is why some Jews and Muslims are talking about challenging anti-abortion in state courts.

Jews say that according to their religion, personhood begins when the baby takes its first breath, which occurs soon after birth. Jews base this belief on the creation account in their Bible which says, “then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2.7).

Muslims say that according to their religion, personhood begins 120 days after the conception of a fetus, since at that time God unites a soul with the fetus.

Already, a rabbi who is also a lawyer has sued the State of Florida about this. We likely will see many other such lawsuits in the coming days.

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