July 1, 2022

Monumental ruling strikes down Roe, heightens call to help moms and children

The front half of an estimated 1,000 participants in the Indiana March for Life in Indianapolis on Jan. 24 head toward the Indiana Statehouse for a pro-life rally. The other half wrap around the south side of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument seen in the background. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

The front half of an estimated 1,000 participants in the Indiana March for Life in Indianapolis on Jan. 24 head toward the Indiana Statehouse for a pro-life rally. The other half wrap around the south side of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument seen in the background. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer and John Shaughnessy

The news that the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on June 24 that there is no constitutional right to abortion in the United States was greeted across the archdiocese with joy for the ruling, hope for state legislation that will protect the lives of unborn children in Indiana, and a continuing commitment to care for women, children and families.

(See all our coverage of the Dobbs decision)

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson issued a statement that includes this emphasis on the ruling that ends nearly 50 years of national legalized abortion:

“The Archdiocese of Indianapolis remains vigilant in its efforts to do all that it can to provide loving support to women before and after the birth of their babies regardless of creed, ethnicity or language, so that no woman ever feels alone.

“We urge all people who care about human life and the common good to prioritize the well-being of women, children and families with both material resources and personal accompaniment so that no woman ever feels forced to choose between improving her circumstances and the life of her child.” (Resources for moms in need)

The statement from the archbishop also calls for providing “legal protection for unborn children, protection which the Catholic Church has advocated since abortion was legalized in 1973.”

“We pray that Indiana’s General Assembly will move quickly to pass legislation to protect the God-given dignity and humanity of all unborn babies and their mothers in our state, and we support all efforts to legally protect human life from the moment of conception until natural death,” the statement notes. (Read the entire statement here | En Espanol)

In comments given to The Criterion, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson expressed the Church’s gratitude for the ruling. But he noted that “we also hold in prayer all those who struggle with life choices, unplanned pregnancies and painful regrets.”

He said the Church “advocates for the dignity of every person, the sacredness of all life, from the moment of conception to natural death,” noting that such advocacy “includes mother and child, before and after birth, families and individuals.

“The ministries of our Church’s accompaniment encompass support, defense, healing and reconciliation in Jesus Christ. No one is beyond the scope of God’s mercy.”

‘We’re here for you’

In the archdiocese’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Archbishop Thompson listed numerous ministries offered by the archdiocese to help moms in need.

Brie Anne Varick oversees some of those efforts as coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity.

“I can’t believe it’s actually happening,” she said of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “You work and pray for something for so long—I’m just in awe to see God working in our country and answering the prayers of those who prayed for so long.

“But I also know this is not the end,” she added. “The Church does a lot of great ministry, but a lot of people don’t know what we do. We need to get the message out that we’re here for you, we won’t abandon you, we’re here to walk with you.”

Catholic Charities is another office of the archdiocese that offers help to pregnant and parenting moms, with locations in Bloomington, Indianapolis, New Albany, Tell City and Terre Haute.

“The pro-life call to care for the poor is the cornerstone of who Catholic Charities is,” said Bill Bickel, associate director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities. “Caring for the poor pregnant mother, low-income married couple, vulnerable elderly and homeless parent with children is not just a pro-life value for Catholic Charities, it is who we are.”

‘It’s the very beginning’

During the reign of Roe v. Wade, myriad prayers were offered for its elimination.

Many of those prayers were said by sidewalk counselors as they offered life-affirming information and compassion to women approaching abortion centers.

“I’m overjoyed that this country has finally come to a point that they see life needs to be protected,” said Sheryl Dye, co-coordinator of Sidewalk Advocates for Life on the north side of Indianapolis. “It’s a time of prayer and thanksgiving.

“I also recognize we have a long way to go,” she added. “It doesn’t end abortion.”

As Dye and other sidewalk counselors continue their ministry, they do so with a heightened awareness of the risk of threats from those opposed to their efforts.

“It’s something we’ve discussed,” she admitted. “But we’ve always known it’s a possibility, and we’ve seen it before. It’s something we can’t dwell on. We put our trust in God, watch our surroundings and keep our phones ready.”

The members of Students for Life of America take the same approach, said Mary Carmen Zakrajsek, the organization’s Indiana regional director. She was attacked from behind at a recent peaceful protest.

“When this happens, we must continue to respond with courage,” she said.

As for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Zakrajsek knew the decision was not an “if,” but “when.”

Students for Life “was founded as a post-Roe organization,” she said. “Even when no one believed it was possible for Roe to fall, we knew that such a great injustice could not continue to stand.”

But the need to protect moms and the unborn is not over, Zakrajsek added.

“It’s the very beginning as we dedicate ourselves to protecting life in law and in service,” she said. “We will most likely see a plethora of lawsuits attacking state pro-life legislation, so our efforts to change public opinion on the issue of abortion is needed now more than ever.”

‘Advocate, advocate, advocate’

Angela Espada, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference—the Church’s lobbying arm in the state—says the state General Assembly will take up pro-life legislation when they begin a special session on July 25. Legislators sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb in early March requesting a special session should Roe v. Wade be overturned in whole or in part.

With laws on the issue now handled at the state level, there are three things Catholics need to do, said Espada: “Advocate, advocate, advocate.”

“Advocate [to legislators] for true Catholic social teaching on pro-life laws, respecting life from natural conception to natural death.

“Advocate for all things that will allow someone to be born healthy and have access to all things they need to be raised to their full potential—including education and medical care.”

Eric Slaughter is grateful that abortion-related legislation will now be handled at the state level. As one who knows the pain and regret associated with losing a child to abortion, he is an active pro-life advocate.

“I feel gratitude, joy, happiness and surprise” at the overturning of Roe v. Wade, said the member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. “To be honest, I wasn’t hopeful it would be entirely overturned.”

With laws made at the state level, “We’ll have more of an opportunity to vote for and support pro-life legislation in Indiana,” said Slaughter. “It takes control out of the hands of a small number of individuals who’ve encouraged abortion for the last 50 years.”

Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita has begun the process of asking courts to lift injunctions against several Indiana abortion laws following the Dobbs ruling.

According to a statement from Rokita’s office, those laws include a ban on discriminatory abortions sought specifically because of the unborn child’s race, sex or disability, and a requirement that parents be notified when a court approves an abortion for a minor child without parental consent (barring extenuating circumstances such as reason to believe such notification could endanger the child.)

“Indiana has a long history of defending life, and the Supreme Court has recognized these contributions,” Rokita said in the statement. “Indeed, the Dobbs decision expressly cited multiple Indiana cases—such as our battles to outlaw discriminatory abortion and require respectful disposition of the bodies of aborted babies.”

‘A great opportunity’

Calling the Dobbs ruling “a tremendous victory,” Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter noted, “It really gives the potential for saving millions of innocent lives across the country. And it also points to the fact that we’ve come really such a long way from the old days of 1973.

“Wrapped into today’s court ruling is the acknowledgment that we know more about unborn babies in the womb than at any other time in human history. And, quite frankly, there are many more services available that weren’t available in states like Indiana back in 1973.

“Thanks to this monumentally historic ruling that we’ve seen today, we now have the opportunity as a state to come together as a loving, compassionate state to really revisit Indiana’s abortion laws and take a look at them.”

Regarding the Indiana state legislature taking up the abortion issue as part of the upcoming special session, Fichter said, “We believe there’s a great opportunity to come together collectively and to affirm that every life has value, including every unborn child’s life.

“But at the same time, and this is critical, we must be a state that shows support and care for pregnant mothers choosing life in Indiana. That’s a key element of caring for babies and caring for moms that is critical at this moment.”

Marc Tuttle echoed that sentiment on the morning of June 25 as he coordinated a prayer gathering of pro-life supporters on the grounds of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

“We’re here to thank God,” said Tuttle, the president of Right to Life of Indianapolis. “We’re also here to pray for strength, and we’re here to pray for God’s providence to watch over us in this process as we go forth.

“This is a tremendous responsibility. God has turned this back to us, and now it’s up to us to come together as Hoosiers to do everything that we can to protect life and to support and be there for pregnant moms.”

(To stay on top of proposed pro-life legislation and to easily identify and contact legislators, sign up for Indiana Catholic Action Network [ICAN] alerts and updates at indianacc.org.)

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