“I don’t know that I ever really believed that I would see (Roe v. Wade) overturned in my lifetime,” said Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the Respect Life Office of the archdiocese.
She shared her reaction about the “magnitude of the decision” three days after the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks.
In affirming the law 6-3, the high court also voted 5-4 to overturn 1973’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide, and 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood ruling, which affirmed Roe.
“It’s a time for praise and prayer—praise in thanksgiving to God for this step in recognizing the sanctity of human life and prayer for all those who don’t welcome this decision and who are fearful in some ways for the nation that’s so divided,” Sister Virginia Joy said.
There’s a somber reality as well, she said. “We welcome the decision but we realize that really the battle continues, and the spiritual reality that not everyone does recognize life as sacred, not everyone recognizes the dignity of the unborn.”
Although “the law now has been overturned,” she continued, “we know that not all hearts have been overturned.”
“We certainly pray for the day that everyone is able to recognize human life is always a gift,” Sister Virginia Joy said.
“As we’re praying, there’s a lot of work to be done, obviously, to walk with women who are still fearful or don’t have the support or feeling pressured in their pregnancies.”
In New York, Sister Virginia Joy continued, that work includes reassuring women of the resources available to them for housing, employment, medical and material needs, as well as spiritual, mental and physical needs.
She noted the numerous resources cited on the websites of the New York State Catholic Conference and the archdiocesan Respect Life Office.
It is imperative “to be communicators to women and men and families that we as a Church want to help and can help and provide for the needs of women and families who are facing a pregnancy that is unplanned or is an adverse prenatal diagnosis or a family feels is a hardship at this time.”
Being informed of the law in New York state is also crucial, as is knowing what bills are going before the legislature, she said. “Being informed and being able to communicate the information is really what we need Catholics to be doing.”
Sister Virginia Joy is certain there are many women and families who would choose life if they had the support or knew of the support available.
“There’s a gap between people who have a need and figuring out what the resources are and connecting those resources to the people who really need them the most.”
Chris Bell is a founder and the president and executive director of Good Counsel Homes, a nonprofit organization that assists expectant and new mothers with locations in New York and New Jersey. Since its founding in 1985, Good Counsel Homes has helped more than 8,000 homeless women and children.
Bell believes overruling Roe v. Wade is a start and is encouraged some states immediately outlawed abortions, but it’s not enough.
“It’s great to overrule Roe v. Wade, but it allows state governments to decide whether a child shall live or die, and that is just not right,” he said. “It’s terrible to allow any government body—local, state, regional, national—to decide whether a human being is valuable enough to be protected, cherished and respected in the law as well as in life.
“The great hope is the entire nation will come to the realization that we will recognize every conceived child to be valued, cherished, respected and given the dignity and protection of law.”
Bell is hopeful women will call the national hotline of Good Counsel Homes at (800) 723-8331 and visit the website, goodcounselhomes.org, for a listing of national maternity homes where women could receive help.
Bell said Good Counsel Homes also offers post-abortion healing through its Lumina program and added it’s important for all women to understand that “God does and can forgive an abortion.”
Bell remains hopeful more will be done to protect women and their children.
“I live in hope,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen. It will take a tremendous effort. I know many, many good people working on that effort in New York and New Jersey to try to turn the government around to elect pro-life legislators and support our values.”
He added, “Unfortunately in New York and New Jersey where state governments are paying for anyone’s abortion up until the moment of birth and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a resident of the state or not, we are going to continue to have to fight to protect women.”