Photo: Donna Church wipes a tear as Rev. Horace Griffin at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta talks about the abortion ruling. Miguel Martinez.
Georgia Episcopalians reacted with words of grief and calls for action to news on Friday that the United States Supreme Court had nullified abortion rights.
Georgia’s Episcopal Bishops issued a same-day joint statement in response to the Supreme Court overturning the 39-year-old federal decision granting the right to an abortion.
The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, and The Right Rev. Frank Logue, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia wrote:
We, the Episcopal Bishops of Georgia, join with leaders of faith traditions, and many others around the State of Georgia, in lamenting the US Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. We hurt with all who are grieved and angered by the court’s action.
Since 1967, the Episcopal Church, acting through its General Convention, has been on the record for upholding legal abortions with the crucial nuance that comes from the lived experiences of our parishioners and clergy.
We will continue in prayer for all impacted by this decision and will work, when appropriate, to advocate for legislation that reflects these principles.”
The Supreme Court’s decision overturned both prior decisions guaranteeing the right to have an abortion – the 1973 Roe v Wade decision and the 1992 decision that upheld Roe, Planned Parenthood v Casey.
The decision, which handed power to ban or allow and regulate abortions to state governments, drew a variety of responses.
Terry Franzen, who attends Church of the Holy Family in Jasper said she was “devastated” by the news.
“I have received texts from my daughter and many women friends who are devastated by this decision, as am I,” Franzen said.
“We are returning to 50 years ago when women died because of lack of access to healthcare for an abortion for an unplanned and unwarranted pregnancy,” she said.
“I vividly remember when a junior high classmate was sent off to a “home” for several months when she became pregnant. Of course, the father of the baby remained in school and continued his life. What was her choice then? That is where we are now.”
Even those not in favor of abortion reacted with sadness at the ruling’s implications for women.
“I’m not a fan of abortion, but I’m grieving because I fear today’s decision was actually overall, a loss for life,” said The Rev. Grace Burton-Edwards, the rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Columbus. “Jesus said he came ‘that they may have life and have it more abundantly.’ We are going to have to work really hard to help truly abundant life win in other ways.”
The Rev. Dr. Angela Shepard, rector of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, said she teared up when she first heard the news.
“St. Bart’s Music and Arts Camp for children concluded this afternoon. Participants totaled 16 and included seven girls. My eyes filled with tears as I looked at each girl knowing that today’s Supreme Court decision changed a constitutional right that was there just a few hours ago. Those girls along with others will one day become adolescents and then women who, for a plethora of circumstances, may need, but not be able to have a safe abortion.
“Where do we go from here? Guided by our Baptismal Covenant may we choose to work toward preserving and expanding safe options within our state. As Episcopalians, we strive for the via media and with God’s help, persevere with the Holy Spirit, always hopeful for better days.”
With states now in the driver’s seat on abortion, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Archdeacon Carole Maddux said it is vital that individuals become knowledgeable about proposed regulations in Georgia.
“This decision makes knowing how to advocate at the state level even more critical,” said Maddux, who is Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Public Policy Center.
“People can go to our website and sign up for updates and information, including ongoing educational workshops at www.gippc.org,” Maddux said.
Friday’s service of lament and healing at St. Luke’s in Atlanta was for anyone shaken and grieving about the loss of a Constitutional guarantee of the right to abortion.
The Rev. Lauren Holder, the Canon for Community and Education at The Cathedral of St. Philip, in Atlanta, came to the service with her husband, daughter, and son.
“This is an important time for us to pray together and to be with one another and to prepare for the days and weeks and months ahead.”
Holder said she doesn’t know what challenges may come. “But I know that I will need prayer, so I’m here to pray with my friends.”
All Saints’ Atlanta parishioner Stacey Fox said she attended the service because she needed to be with people of faith.
“I felt like the place I had to be tonight was with my faith community and I was looking for peace and I knew I would find it here,” Fox said following the service. “It is a sad day and I appreciate today that we made space for everyone’s sadness.”
Emily Walker-Cornetta also said she needed to be with others concerned about the decision. But Walker-Cornetta, who is a ministry intern at St. Luke said she needed time for personal prayers for strength and courage and clarity to be able to “step up, to rise up and to step out and to proclaim the Gospel and live the Gospel in relation to reproductive justice in ways that we might not have before. And I need God’s strength to do that.”
The decision also has some Christian ministers rejoicing that “life won.” In response, Rev. Burton-Edwards of Columbus posted to her Facebook page a list of what “life winning” would include:
Life wins when mothers and children have access to affordable healthcare.
Life wins when contraception is freely available.
Life wins when no child goes to bed hungry.
Life wins when families can afford quality childcare.
Life wins when parents don’t have to work three jobs to make ends meet.
Life wins when schools have what they need to provide high-quality education to all children.
Life wins when we are as concerned about children in other countries as we are about our own.
Life wins when we abolish the death penalty.
Life wins when civilians don’t have to worry about encountering military-style weapons in our homes and streets.
Life wins when people are free to be who they are and love who they love.
Life wins when we protect the planet that gives us all life.
Burton-Edwards ended her list with the question:
What would you add to the list?
The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations offered an action alert link for those wishing to contact their national representatives and to receive updates on future federal actions regarding abortion.
Check for updates about this issue on The Diocese of Atlanta News Page.