‘We are just beginning’: Advocates speak out on Supreme Court’s upcoming abortion ruling

Published 9:02 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Ruth Powers of Vidalia said she has thought a lot about the leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision involving a case challenging Mississippi’s strict abortion laws that could topple Roe v. Wade.

Powers, a Catholic and director of religious education at St. Mary Basilica in Natchez, is a long-time, outspoken advocate for the unborn.

“Of course, this is something that the pro-life community has been working on for a very long time. But this is not the end. It’s just the beginning,” Powers said. “What we have to do from this point forward is make certain every child and every pregnant mother gets the medical care they need. We must make sure the mother does not go into debt to deliver her baby. We must make sure the child has the food, shelter and clothing and education it needs.

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“We are just beginning. It’s not enough to simply have a baby born. Once it comes into the world, we as a society have a responsibility to make sure that child has what it needs to grow and develop,” she said.

In Catholic theology, the concept is called the seamless garment.

“Jesus had a garment woven in one piece top to bottom. We call it Pro Life Whole Life. Our responsibility does not end with getting that child born. It’s putting in place every opportunity that the child needs to have,” Powers said. “The important thing is this is not the end of the fight. It’s just the beginning of a bigger fight.”

Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, a former long-time Natchez alderwoman and president of the Natchez Chapter of the NAACP, among many other community responsibilities and involvements, said she thinks a woman has the right to choose what happens with her body. However, she’s worried about what happens in places like Mississippi, which has some of the worst outcomes for mothers and babies in the country, where women will be forced to continue unwanted pregnancies.

“I am a Democrat and I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” Arceneaux-Mathis said. “I personally prayed I would never have to face that decision, and God granted me that. I hope other women pray about it, too.

“We have introduced several bills into the Mississippi legislature to help midwife status and do other things to help pregnant women. Mississippi has the highest average of low birth weight babies in the country. We must do something about a woman’s ability to get good health care and have healthy children. We can’t get good health care in Mississippi, and then we take away their choice? That’s not right. I support a woman’s right to choose.”