By Cheryl Magness
On Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case, which stems from a legal challenge to a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, is being closely monitored by people on all sides of the abortion debate for its potential impact on current and future abortion law.
On Nov. 30 at 5 p.m., The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) will host a Prayer Service for Life at the LCMS International Center (IC) in St. Louis. Those who value the preservation of life at all its stages, from conception to natural death, are invited to take part by attending in person, watching via livestream or holding their own prayer service locally. In partnership with Concordia Publishing House, the worship bulletin is available for individual and congregational use.
‘That hearts may be changed’
“In a society that does not cherish all human life, Christians thank and praise our God for the precious gift of life,” said Deaconess Tiffany Manor, director of LCMS Life Ministry. “Christ Jesus gave His life as a ransom, that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. Because we have been given the gift of life, forgiveness and salvation, we seek to share God’s great love and mercy.
“We lament the tragedy of abortion, and we mourn the many lives lost. We pray that those who make, carry out and judge our laws would do so according to the will of God. We pray that hearts may be changed and that all people would come to a knowledge of the truth found only in Christ Jesus.”
The Mississippi law under consideration by the Supreme Court is the Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018. It prohibits abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy except in the case of a medical emergency or “severe” fetal abnormality. The law contains no exception for rape or incest. Within hours after its passage, Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the only abortion clinic in Mississippi — filed a lawsuit challenging it in federal court.
The court ruled in favor of the clinic, and Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appeals court also ruled in favor of the clinic. Dobbs then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which in May 2021 agreed to hear the case. Oral arguments are set to begin on Dec. 1.
The Gestational Age Act’s limitation on abortion before “viability” conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision upholding a woman’s “right” to an abortion, leading many legal analysts to believe that a ruling favorable to the Mississippi law would effectively strike down Roe v. Wade. In the Fall 2021 issue of the Synod’s Free to be Faithful® newsletter, the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, wrote:
“Roe v. Wade claimed that the government’s role, for the first time in American history, was to sanction the taking, not the protecting, of vulnerable, innocent human life. Roe actually argued that the more vulnerable the life, the more it can be aborted out of existence. The Dobbs case rightly challenges that assertion, directing our country back to a basic respect for life for all.”
In an email to Reporter, Seltz added, “I would say that destroying the viability argument is key to whether Roe gets overturned now or later. Many think that the court will engage in a two-step process rather than overturn all the way in this lawsuit. The key for Dobbs is that it finally targets the absurd [vulnerability] argument. … How that premise is dealt with will determine where we truly stand as a culture concerning the sanctity of another person’s life.”
Lament and prayer
The Prayer Service for Life makes use of Vespers from Lutheran Service Book and includes hymns, psalms and the Litany. As noted in the worship bulletin, “Christians address their sorrows and complaints to God in lament. He, not the world around us, is the audience of our prayer. In the face of love grown cold (Matt. 25:12), we do not imagine ourselves a match for sin, death and the devil. We ask the Lord for everything (John 16:24).
“For these reasons, this service features multiple psalms of lament concerning the enemies of life (Psalm 10), the Lord’s own rebuke of proud rulers (Psalm 82), and our confidence in the Lord’s care, recognizing that judgment and repentance must begin at the house of God (Psalm 139).”
The Rev. Sean Daenzer, IC chaplain and director of LCMS Worship, said, “We know that many LCMS congregations already advocate for the defense of life, take part in works of mercy and pray to our heavenly Father for the protection of life. We’re glad to be able to make this complete service bulletin available for those congregations who may find it helpful in holding their own prayer service for life.”
The Nov. 30 Prayer Service for Life will be followed by a free meal at the IC. For those who wish to attend in person, registration is required. Click to register or for more information.
Make your plans now and join your brothers and sisters around the Synod and the world in praying that all life would be respected and preserved as a gift from God and that those who seek to devalue it would repent and turn toward the Creator, who gives and sustains all life.
Posted Nov. 16, 2021