In response to the Supreme Court of the United States issuing its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued the following statement:

This is a historic day in the life of our country, one that stirs our thoughts, emotions and prayers. For nearly fifty years, America has enforced an unjust law that has permitted some to decide whether others can live or die; this policy has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of preborn children, generations that were denied the right to even be born.

America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life. We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision. We pray that our elected officials will now enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us.

Our first thoughts are with the little ones whose lives have been taken since 1973. We mourn their loss, and we entrust their souls to God, who loved them from before all ages and who will love them for all eternity. Our hearts are also with every woman and man who has suffered grievously from abortion; we pray for their healing, and we pledge our continued compassion and support. As a Church, we need to serve those who face difficult pregnancies and surround them with love.

Today’s decision is also the fruit of the prayers, sacrifices, and advocacy of countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. Over these long years, millions of our fellow citizens have worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families. We share their joy today and we are grateful to them. Their work for the cause of life reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation’s history.

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.

As religious leaders, we pledge ourselves to continue our service to God’s great plan of love for the human person, and to work with our fellow citizens to fulfill America’s promise to guarantee the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

This is, indeed, a historic moment for us in America.  As I mentioned in my homily last Sunday, we live in a country founded on hard-fought freedom, and we tend to think of freedom as “freedom from” – from rules, from restraint, from obligations.  We want to be free to do whatever we wish, with no one telling us what to do. The Bible, however, more often speaks of “freedom to” – to serve, to love, to commit, to follow the Gospel, which is a gospel of life and love, especially for the poor and those in need.

 We read throughout the Bible the command: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus made it clear in his Parable of the Good Samaritan who our neighbor is: anyone who is in need.  The mother in distress and the infant in her womb are our neighbors in need when she is unable to care for her child and the child is, for any reason whatever, unable to receive the care he or she needs from his or her mother.  We who follow Jesus have the freedom to love and care for them.  The Catholic Church is the largest provider of safe homes for mothers struggling with unexpected pregnancies as well as foster care and adoption services when mothers are not able to care for their children.  The Catholic Charities of America, that so many of you support so generously, provides these services year-round to anyone who turns to them for help

In the opening paragraph of the opinion of the Court presented by Justice Samuel Alito as the Supreme Court ruled against Roe v. Wade, he wrote of the abortion debate as a “profound moral issue.”  In Catholic moral theology, we follow a principal called tutiorism, which calls for us to take the safest course, especially in matters of human life and death.  In regard to abortion, where there has been endless debate through the centuries as to when life begins and when the infant in the womb is a distinct human individual with his or her unique rights, the Catholic Church has consistently followed the safest course and taught that the life of an innocent human being must always be protected from the moment of conception until natural death.  In recent years, scientific discoveries have made it very evident that once an ovum and a sperm combine, a new, unique human being is created and the women’s privileged role is now to care for that child as it develops in her womb.  Even if the child was conceived through rape or incest, he or she should not have to suffer death as a consequence of the evil that was imposed upon his or her mother.  This is a good example of the freedom that the Sacred Scriptures espouse: freedom to serve, to love a new child created in the image of God.

We firmly believe that God has made us all equal and that women, who have for so long been oppressed in many societies – and, tragically, still are in some societies – have the full right over their bodies.  Once she has conceived a child, however, whose DNA is distinct from hers or the child’s father, she must accept the responsibility to care for that child who enjoys the same rights as all of God’s children.  The argument that the woman has the right to abort her child until the child attains viability is specious because it makes us the arbiters of when a human being receives the right to life.  Catholic moral theology has always taught that only God, the author of life, has the authority to determine when life begins and when it ends

The abortion debate will surely continue despite the recent Supreme Court decision; now, it will, once again return to the state level.  This is a critical moment for each of us to reflect on our position in this very important debate, listen carefully to God’s call to life, recognize that he alone is the author of life who has the right to decide when life begins and when it ends and strive to live in the freedom to serve him, to love equally everyone he has created and commit to following the safest course.  Let us choose life.  The choice isn’t always easy, and not even God can make it for us; after all, he has given us true free will.  But remembering, as Psalm 16 proclaims today, that God is “the path to life,” offering “fullness of joys,” can help us to choose wisely.