Yale Divinity School Dean made the following statement today.
Today the Supreme Court overturned five decades of federal protection for abortion that sprang from the Roe v. Wade decision. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision returns the issue to states, which undoubtedly will come to reflect the political divide of our country.
The decision culminates a decades-long effort by those who identify as pro-life. But is this decision pro-life or pro a particular ideology? Will those who lobbied for it now lobby for expanded medical support for the women who carry babies to term? Will they lobby for benefits for the unwanted children who are born? Will they lobby for the support of poor people who will not be able to care for additional children? To be pro-life means far more than to oppose abortion.
There are millions of American women who feel violated by today’s decision. They understand that this is not only a decision about abortion, but about women’s rights. The decision is a step backward for human rights. Does it portend the reversal of other rights—as some have already suggested? Is the elimination or suppression of individual freedoms pro-life?
The pro-life stance is often linked to Christianity and there are many people who are genuine in their faith who will support the Supreme Court’s decision, including members of the YDS community. It is, however, a more complex issue than some acknowledge. There is no biblical basis for the ban on abortion. The only text that deals directly with a fetus is Exodus 21:22–25, and it makes a distinction between the penalty levied on someone who causes a pregnant woman to miscarry versus an injury to the woman herself. The former results in a fine; the latter in the lex talionis (an eye for an eye etc.). In other words, it distinguishes between a fetus and a human being. Simplistic appeals to the biblical traditions are just that, simplistic. Christianity is supportive of human life, but we must work through our traditions with care. It is not at all clear that today’s decision reflects a text like Exodus 21:22–25.
This decision will not heal our country. It will only exacerbate the divide that already exists. May we find ways to promote life, not political agendas. May we find ways to discuss our differences, not build higher walls.