A Statement on the Supreme Court Decision Dobbs v Jackson

The news today from the Supreme Court is not unexpected, but it is very hard for many. While the issue of abortion has been understood by Episcopalians as a moral decision, often left to the individual, the Episcopal Church is “unequivocally” pro-access to abortion and health care services. This decision will make that access impossible for some Americans.

As for our state, the Rhode Island Attorney General has released a statement that he intends to defend the state’s present Reproductive Privacy Act:

“I want to reassure Rhode Islanders that the right to an abortion remains protected here in Rhode Island. In 2019, Rhode Island codified Roe v. Wade and its progeny under our state’s Reproductive Privacy Act, ensuring that Rhode Island will not return to the days of illegal and unsafe abortions that endanger lives and create criminal liability for physicians.

“My Office has successfully defended our Reproductive Privacy Act from a legal challenge before and we stand ready to defend it in the future.”

I commend all of the Presiding Bishop’s statement on the decision to you, particularly these two paragraphs:

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.

In all things, I am mindful of St. Paul’s admonition that we will read this weekend that the Christians are to love one another and so witness to the truth of the Gospel to the World.

Finally, the Presiding Bishop’s office has sent a notice to the bishops that they have received an alert that there is credible evidence of violence planned against churches and clergy who are outspoken advocates of abortion access. Please be especially alert in the coming days to anything that causes you concern and do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement if you need to do so. Please also let me or my staff know of any such concerns that you might have.

We pray for one another in this moment. We pray for those for whom this is hard news, and for those for whom it is welcome news. We pray in particular for those who will be most directly impacted by this decision across this country.

In the service of the Gospel;