As many of you know, at the beginning of May, the United States Supreme Court experienced an unprecedented leak of a draft opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson case currently being adjudicated by the Supreme Court. The opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and, if it ends up reflecting the Court’s decision due this month, would overturn nearly 50 years of abortion law under the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which ruled that many then-current restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional, and guaranteed nationwide access to abortion through the first two trimesters of pregnancy. Roe, and the subsequent Casey v. Planned Parenthood have paved the way for laws that in many states, allow abortion very late into pregnancy.
Abortion is a very tricky topic, and a very sensitive one for people on all sides of the issue. But we feel like we have a duty as citizens to become educated on important matters like this, and our faith must have something to say on issues in which life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at stake. Elder Oaks recently stated: “On contested issues we seek to moderate and unify.”
In that spirit, we explored the issue from several angles, starting from a factual perspective — diving into the specifics of what’s going on and what the practical stakes are, then moving into what our faith might be asking of us as we seek to create a world that is just and equitable; one that honors both agency and life. I’m sure we weren’t perfect as we navigated this territory, but we did the best we could to show respect to the values and humanity that inform people of good faith on either side.
This conversation comes in two parts; in the first, we spoke with Sherif Girgis, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, who also clerked for Justice Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court as well as for our friend Thomas B. Griffith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. When we asked Judge Griffith who would be the most qualified voice we could bring on the show, he unhesitatingly recommended Sherif. Sherif earned his J.D. at Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal, and is currently completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton. Sherif helped us understand the current state of abortion law in the US as well as what it could look like after a decision is made on Dobbs.
After speaking with Sherif, we spoke with Latter-day Saint scholars Justin Collings and Jenet Erickson.
Justin Collings is Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum at BYU and a Professor at the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at BYU, where he’s been since 2013. He is a scholar of constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, and constitutional history, and received his law degree and his PhD in History both from Yale.
Jenet Erickson is an associate professor in the Department of Church History and Doctrine in BYU Religious Education. Her research has focused on maternal and child well-being in the context of work and family life, as well as the distinct contributions of mothers and fathers in children’s development. She is a research fellow of both the Wheatley Institution and the Institute for Family Studies and has been a columnist on family issues for the Deseret News since 2013.
Justin and Jenet brought this conversation home in terms of what it means for Latter-day Saints. We found them incredibly insightful and empathetic, and helped us see this issue in new ways — we think they’ll do the same for you. The conversation with Justin and Jenet led to some really spirit-filled and practical takeaways for Latter-day Saints who want to be thoughtful, engaged, and loving on this issue. We’re deeply grateful to them for coming on.