These Are Our Bodies Too: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Explained

On 2nd May 2022, political news outlet Politico published a leaked draft ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If published officially by the Court, the ruling would strike down Roe v Wade and end federal constitutional protection of abortion rights. This is an unprecedented moment in US history, as according to Politico “no draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending.” So, what’s at stake in this case and what could the consequences be for women’s rights in America?  

What is Roe v. Wade? 

Roe v. Wade was a 1970 US Supreme Court case in which a woman under the pseudonym Jane Roe challenged a Texas law criminalizing abortion except by a doctor’s orders to save the mother’s life. Roe claimed that the laws were unconstitutional as they abridged her right to personal privacy. The Court ruled in 1973 that the Texas laws did violate the right to privacy, enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution, that protects a person’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. The ruling meant that people have the right to choose an abortion without excessive government restriction.  

Why might Roe v Wade be overturned?  

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which claims that Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act banning all abortions after 15 weeks is unconstitutional. In a leaked first draft of the Court’s ruling, Justice Samuel Alito writes that Roe v Wade “must be overruled” and that the issue of abortion is to be dealt with by “the people’s elected representatives.” While this is only a first draft after which justices can and sometimes do change their votes, the Court’s majority of conservative justices means that this decision is likely to be officially handed down by the Court later this year.  

What would be the consequences of overturning?  

The first obvious consequence of the Court’s ruling would be the restriction of abortion rights nationwide. Thirteen states already have “trigger bans” on their statute books, meaning that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will automatically be made illegal, while nine other states have abortion bans passed before Roe v. Wade that were never repealed and would therefore be applicable if Roe v. Wade is overturned.  

In turn, the restriction of abortion rights could negatively affect women’s health. According to the Guttmacher Institute, studies show that “unintended pregnancy rates are highest in countries that restrict abortion access and lowest in countries where abortion is broadly legal.” Because of this, abortion rates are similar in countries where abortion is legal and those where it is not – in fact, it is slightly higher in countries that restrict it. Rather than having fewer abortions, women living in countries that restrict abortions therefore resort to unsafe procedures which can lead to serious medical complications and even death. 

Overturning Roe v. Wade could also open the floodgates for other rulings to be struck down. Although Justice Alito says on page 62 of the document that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” several other landmark rulings enshrining fundamental rights for many oppressed groups were argued on the basis of the right to privacy. If the Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization says that the constitution does not endow this right, these key rulings could be reargued in the Court, among them:  

  • Lawrence v. Texas: This 2003 ruling says that Texas statutes criminalizing same-sex intimacy violates the right to privacy enshrined in the Due Process Clause.  
  • Griswold v. Connecticut: The Court ruled in 1965 that states cannot restrict access to contraception for married couples citing the right to privacy in marital relations 
  • Loving v. Virginia: In 1967 the Court decided that Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage were unconstitutional, citing the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  
  • Obergerfell v. Hodges: The Court ruled in 2015 that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ensures the right to marry, and that this fundamental right must be applied to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.   

Where does faith come into it all? 

This is not a blog about the intricate ethics of abortion – and it is certainly not my place as someone without a uterus to wax lyrical about the subject. However, it shouldn’t be controversial to assert that we are all born with bodily autonomy and should be allowed to make decisions about what is best for our bodies and lives. Jesus says, “do not judge” (Matthew 7:1), so it follows that we must not judge others for the choices they make about their own bodies. As Brite Divinity School student Allen Junek says, “If I am expected to believe Christ when he says, “This is my Body,” then I am bound to believe women when they say, “These are our bodies too.””   

In my blog about the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement I mentioned the theological concept of accompaniment: the idea of showing solidarity with asylum seekers. I think the same concept can be applied to the issue of abortion. Whatever side of the debate you may be on, we are called to accompany on their journey those who choose an abortion in the spirit of compassion and respect, prioritizing deep listening and responding to the dignity of people with uteruses as fellow children of God.  

The US Episcopal Church embodies this concept of accompaniment in its views towards abortion. They acknowledge that abortion is a form of healthcare and “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.” Since 1967 the Church has maintained its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.” The Church also urges dioceses and congregations to “give necessary aid and support to all pregnant women” and stresses the importance of unconditional love. The position of the Episcopal Church shows that it is possible to both maintain that all life is sacred and recognize that women have bodily autonomy and should be supported in their decisions.  

The US is set for a possibly tumultuous period in its history. The rolling back of abortion rights would be detrimental to women’s reproductive health and could have implications for other rights that have been won through the Supreme Court. Solidarity, organising, and resistance will be key in the months ahead to safeguard the concept of bodily autonomy and healthcare access in the United States.  

Holy, gracious and loving G_d 

You are wise beyond our knowing 

You have gifted us with 

intelligence, memory, reason, and skill. 

You fill our lives with 

experiences in which we 

may freely use these gifts. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Before we were born, you knew us. 

You know our deepest thoughts, 

our fiercest passions, 

our desperate longings, 

our ancient hurts, 

our wildest dreams and 

our strongest fears. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

When we were being shaped and formed 

in the secrets of our mothers’ womb 

You also knit together in us strong threads of 

liberation and justice, 

will and grace, 

and set us free to live our lives 

as human beings fully alive. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

We are complex beings, 

living complicated lives. 

Give us the courage to 

discern what is right 

and what is good, 

knowing that the two 

may not always be the same. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Help us – and help us help others – 

to respect all of life 

especially the lives of women 

who have been denied justice 

their intelligence questioned 

their choices limited 

their freedom denied. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Inspire our minds 

fire our spirits, and 

strengthen our wills 

that justice and compassion 

may always be our 

companions on this journey 

and we may know your peace. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

  

A Prayer for the Journey toward Reproductive Justice 

by Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton 


Written by Josh Mock. Josh is a trustee of SCM and stands on SCM's General Council as International Liaison. Josh is a BA Arabic and Persian student at SOAS, University of London, and is coming to the end of a year studying abroad in Jordan.


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‘Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion Worldwide’. Guttmacher Institute, 28 May 2020, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide. 

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