Many evangelical leaders praised the Supreme Court’s historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, while urging faith communities to provide more support for pregnant mothers.
In a 6-3 decision today, the Supreme Court overruled both Roe, decided in 1973, and a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed a constitutional right to abortion. The ruling came in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law that imposed strict restrictions on abortion.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question,” the Supreme Court ruled. “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
The Dobbs decision has been anticipated since May, when an early draft of the ruling was leaked to Politico. Friday’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion was met with both rejoicing and dismay by faith leaders, who have been loud voices on either side of the abortion debate since before Roe.
Evangelicals, who largely oppose abortion, responded positively to today’s decision. According to Pew Research, 74% of white evangelicals say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. More than half of Americans (61%) overall say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
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Texas pastor Bart Barber, newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that Southern Baptists rejoiced at today’s ruling and they support laws that would ban abortion, “except in cases wherein the life of the mother is endangered by carrying the baby to term.”
Barber also said that “expectant mothers facing difficult circumstances deserve the love and support of the church, the community, and society.”
Many evangelical churches have for years made pregnancy care a key part of their outreach programs. Jentezen Franklin, senior pastor of multi-site megachurch Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia, which helps support a local pregnancy care center, called the ruling “a remarkable answer to the prayers of millions of people for decades.”
He continued: “We do not gloat or dare say anything but praise to our God for this courageous and just decision by the Supreme Court. Now we must support, love, and demonstrate God’s grace and goodness to would-be mothers and the precious children this decision has rescued.”
Rolland Slade, lead pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, and outgoing chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, said the Dobbs ruling is “a call to the Church to care.”
He explained: “As I celebrate the ruling of the Supreme Court, I take into account the words of Micah 6:8. We must humbly step into this space of care with loving kindness and compassion as we walk in the power of our faith in God.” He noted the importance of “meaningful and tangible” outreaches to families in need, and partnerships with local pregnancy care clinics that must continue for “months and years.”
Similarly, Karen Swallow Prior, an evangelical author and pro-life advocate, urged people of faith to think about the circumstances facing a woman who’s unexpectedly pregnant and what she might need.
Prior stated: “We can’t assume that a woman or girl who is scared and uncertain will not feel too scared and uncertain to reach out for help. She needs to know ahead of time that such help and love is there for her. So while many churches, like mine, offer housing and other means of support for moms in crisis, making visible bridges to that help is crucial. We need to be able to imagine together—before a crisis occurs—what it will look like to choose life together.”
Known for speaking out often on issues of life and abortion, Prior concluded: “The church ought also to re-examine how we can support pro-life policies more broadly through our tax dollars, ensuring access to health care and support systems for families in need. We can help those whose lives come into contact with the church. But we need to help those we have yet to reach, too.”
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Heartbeat International helps resource more than 2,250 pregnancy help centers nationwide, most supported by local churches. The group’s vice president of mission advancement, Cindi Boston, graduated from Assemblies of God-affiliated Evangel University.
“Our work is not over, and in fact, in many ways, is just beginning,” Boston said in a statement. “Women still need compassionate care and support, and we continue to be here to offer practical resources and life-affirming options throughout our network of pregnancy help, as we have been doing for more than 50 years.”
The National Association of Evangelicals, which filed a brief in the Dobbs case, welcomed the news that Roe was overturned.
“God is the author of life, and every human life from conception to death has inestimable worth,” said Walter Kim, NAE president. “Under Roe v. Wade, our ability to consider policies that safeguard life at the most vulnerable stage was severely limited. While the Dobbs decision doesn’t resolve all the questions on abortion policy, it does remove an impediment to considering pro-life concerns.”
Other evangelicals pastors who take a public pro-life stance urged substantive action over political messaging.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, pastor of New Season Church in Sacramento, California, and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, stated: “The Church must come alongside mothers and provide the necessary economic support that government cannot provide.”
“If we are celebrating this victory, we must likewise double down in providing services of compassion and outreach and support for the mother and the child not just in the womb, but after a baby is born,” he added.
Similarly, Ron Citlau, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Orland Park, Illinois, stated: “The church’s calling isn’t to bring about political change and the overturning of Roe doesn’t change that; we are called to love.”
“Now we have a chance to shine and break through stereotypes,” he continued. “We must do all we can to love and support pregnant women in crisis and those who have had abortions seeking grace.”
As leader of a network of approximately 60 evangelical churches nationwide, Pastor Mike Hayes of Churches in Covenant stated this is an “opportunity to provide spiritual and practical help.”
“If every church responds with love in action, we can minister healing to many,” said Hayes. “This is the time to be creative and driven with programs for mother and child for love, support, care, and counsel for the challenge of giving birth and mother and child be cared for.”
Ecumenical Texas-based nonprofit group 40 Days for Life mobilizes thousands of Christians—from a cross-section of Catholic and Protestant churches—who pray outside of abortion facilities in prayer vigils. Volunteers offer to pray with women they meet.
The group’s president, Shawn Carney, stated in response to Dobbs: “Churches are more important now than ever, as we prepare for an outpouring of mercy for those who have had an abortion and regret it. This decision will have a very profound impact on many hearts and souls who have been through the tragedy of an abortion.”
Some leading evangelical voices urged Christians to consider their public witness.
Scott Sauls, an author and pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, published a 3,500-word post about the sanctity of life and abortion issues on his popular blog to pastors. He included some stats rarely discussed in pro-life circles: “More than 60% of women seeking elective abortion live alone and below the poverty line. Some are afraid because they lack adequate healthcare, they lack support from spouses, partners, or loved ones, or they are facing an at-risk pregnancy that threatens the viability of mother, child, or both.”
He added: “If pro-life people seem ambivalent about showing up for and helping solve these and other, complicated forms of crisis-pregnancy-related distress, their advocacy for unborn life loses credibility in the eyes of many.”
Lina Abujamra, an author, Bible teacher, and longtime pediatric ER physician, stated “I’m extremely happy because this decision will save lives — especially the lives of those who have no voice.”
In responding to pro-choice advocates, she cautioned: “What is needed is compassion and patience with those who might see the decision as the worst thing that could happen to our culture.”
As a medical professional, Abujamra added that it’s “hard work” to save lives. She called the ending of Roe “a lot like a resuscitation. It’s exciting to see that life has been preserved, but the real work of saving lives happens in the aftermath, in the ICU, and takes the help of every member of the team. It’s costly work, but if we truly believe in saving lives, it’s mandatory work. Every one of us who calls ourselves ‘pro-life’ must ask the questions: What’s my part now? What can I do to help in the continuing process of saving lives?'”
Nashville pastor Sauls concluded that faith communities must become places “where any mother, married or unmarried, would feel welcomed and loved and known that her needs and the needs of her child would be attended to. If the Church does what the Church is called to do, then there will be no poor or disregarded or demeaned in our midst.”
Bob Smietana contributed to this report.
Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.