Negative Effects of U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

On a matter that impacts on women more than the men who are responsible for their state of unwanted pregnancy, the U.S. Supreme Court (whose membership was largely appointed during the recent Trump Republican Presidency) has just overturned an historic ruling that allowed women free access to the termination of their unwanted pregnancy. This means that abortion in many of the States in the U.S.A. is now subject to legal prohibition – a situation that, for the poor who do not have access to travel to a state that allows for funded facilities, could prove very difficult if not catastrophic. To have to return to the prospect of illegal back-street abortions is something no first-world nation ought to have in mind for its citizens.

Further, it is now possibile – in the light of this conservative Supreme Court ruling – that other human rights which have been enabled for minority groups in the US could now also be overturned by new legislation that would disenfranchise the rights of the LGBT+ community; existing legislation for same-sex marriage; and the public funding of contraception – all made available through previous U.S. government legislation – and by most individual state rulings.

The Presiding Bishop of T.E.C. (the Episcopal Church in North America) – Bishop Michael Curry – has issued a Statement on behalf of T.E.C., deploring the action of the Supreme Court, which has set back the cause of common Human Rights in North America to revert to a time when women and minorities were poorly served by state and national government agencies – to the point where successive elected Democratic Party governments were empowered to bring about changes to the U.S. Justice system that sought to bring relief to the hitherto marginalised and poor. How these new restrictions have been brought about is almost certainly due to the appointment by former President Donald Trump of ultra-conservative members of the Supreme Court.

What Presiding Bishop Michael is concerned about is the loss of freedom for women to have a say in their own decision about whether or not, to go through with a full-term pregnancy. It is women who have to deal with the consequencies of any unwanted pregnancy – a fact which Supreme Court members (largely male and mostly unconnected with the problems of women’s mental and physical health) may never have to deal with on a personal level. However, those who have to deal with the ongoing complications of unwanted pregnancy in the lives of the women involved, will now have to deny the help that has been made available for decades by the country’s health and social service organisations.

Such a draconian denial of publicly funded termination services will have most impact upon the poor – a factor which Bishop Michael takes pains to describe – in his own experience of ministry in deprived communities, where women were the victims of unwanted pregnancies, with no public resources available to access a service that the more wealthy in society were privy to in such circumstances.

Children are a blessing, and their arrival should be an occasion for celebration and joy. however, there are certain situations – known best to the women concerned – that do not augur well for the well-being of either the woman or the unborn fetus. In such instances, it may be best for both the woman and the fetus-in-utero for the termination of an early pregnancy that could be dangerous for either the fetus or the expectant mother. Very few women would choose to access termination in the normal circumstances of a stable family life. But there are certain circumstances that might call for an end to further gestation. This is an issue that is more suitable for the prospective mother to have to decide upon – rather than the hard face of an outdated legislative ruling with the prospect of criminal proceedings to follow.

Below is the Statement made by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of T.E.C.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

________________________________________________

Statement on Supreme Court Dobbs decision by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry 

June 24, 2022 – T.S.C. Office of Public Affairs

Today the Supreme Court released its decision in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court has overturned the constitutional right to abortion that was recognized in the seminal 1973 case Roe v. Wade.  

While I, like many, anticipated this decision, I am deeply grieved by it. I have been ordained more than 40 years, and I have served as a pastor in poor communities; I have witnessed firsthand the negative impact this decision will have.

We as a church have tried carefully to be responsive both to the moral value of women having the right to determine their healthcare choices as well as the moral value of all life. Today’s decision institutionalizes inequality because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in ways that women without the same resources will not.

This is a pivotal day for our nation, and I acknowledge the pain, fear, and hurt that so many feel right now. As a church, we stand with those who will feel the effects of this decision—and in the weeks, months, and years to come.  

The Episcopal Church maintains that access to equitable health care, including reproductive health care and reproductive procedures, is “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being” (2018-D032). The church holds that “reproductive health procedures should be treated as all other medical procedures, and not singled out or omitted by or because of gender” (2018-D032). The Episcopal Church sustains its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them” (2018-D032). As stated in the 1994 Act of Convention, the church also opposes any “executive or judicial action to abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision…or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision” (1994-A054).   

The court’s decision eliminates federal protections for abortion and leaves the regulation of abortion to the states. The impact will be particularly acute for those who are impoverished or lack consistent access to health care services. As Episcopalians, we pray for those who may be harmed by this decision, especially for women and other people who need these reproductive services. We pray for the poor and vulnerable who may not have other options for access. We urge you to make your voice heard in the way you feel called but always to do so peacefully and with respect and love of neighbor.  

Read summary of Episcopal Church General Convention statements.

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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