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Conscience Magazine

Equal Dignity: A Matter of Law and Faith

By Katherine Ragsdale March 2, 2021

BRACING FOR THE POSSIBILITY that the Supreme Court will further weaken, or even overturn, Roe v. Wade—potentially allowing states to ban abortion entirely—legal scholars and activists are preparing for an assault on the Constitution. Similarly, people of faith see an assault on our values, teachings and faith commitments. Julianna Gonnen’s “Equal Dignity – A Way Forward If Roe Falls?” argues that constitutional protection for reproductive freedom may be found not only in Roe’s imperiled privacy sphere, but also in a holistic understanding of equal protection, indicating both a compelling legal strategy and a space that allows shared values of law and faith to intersect.

Most denominations support a woman’s right to choose. This position is rooted in Scriptures that insist we care for the most vulnerable among us and serve as faithful stewards of the talents given us and in our commitment to human dignity. The Episcopal Church’s Baptismal Covenant requires us to “work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.”

As a matter of law and of faith, equal dignity requires respecting the decisionmaker and creates the obligation to right the wrong of terribly unequal access. Today, myriad abortion restrictions impose obstacles on patients that are simply insurmountable for many, particularly for the poor and people of color. Black communities, in particular, face shocking disparities in maternal
mortality and in access to the resources needed to parent in health and dignity.

As faithful people who support access to abortion—not in spite of our faith, but because of it—we are called to seek justice. We have promised to respect the dignity of every person. Whether through advocating policies that protect people’s ability to determine the course of their lives, supporting abortion providers, insisting on universal access to excellent healthcare or voting for candidates who share our values and then holding them accountable, we can make the world reflect our shared belief in human dignity.


Katherine Ragsdale