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AP Photo/David Goldman / Anna Kelley recites the Rosary while praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic as patients arrive for abortion appointments last month in Columbia, S.C.

Chattanooga for nearly three decades has been declared the largest city in the country with no abortion clinic. Whether that remains true today with the decline in abortions and the restrictions put on the process in various states is unclear.

Within days, the United States Supreme Court is expected to rule on a Mississippi case that could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and end the federal constitutional protection of abortion rights, and the subsequent 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that maintained the rights.

With the city's history involving abortion in mind and in expectation of such a ruling, Hamilton Flourishing, Calvary Chapel Chattanooga and other conservative organizations are sponsoring a "Solemn Assembly" on June 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Calvary Chapel Chattanooga, 3415 Broad St.

(All are invited. Seating is available by registering through hamiltonflourishing.org. A live broadcast will be made available through a link provided closer to the event.)

Officials say the gathering is "a time for our nation to join in prayer for The Supreme Court Justices as they deliberate Roe v. Wade" and "take a stand for life and our unborn."

It's become common for those on the left to put down prayer in the light of mass shootings and other national crises, their thought being that any action is better than prayer. But we believe prayer, no matter the topic, is never out of line.

The Bible, after all, offers numerous verses exhorting such prayer.

To cite just three:

> "And this is the confidence that we have toward [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." — 1 John 5:14

> "In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears." — Psalm 18:6

> "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." — Philippians 4:6

Those who gather at the church, undoubtedly, will be praying in expectation of a decision that ends the federal protection of abortion rights (if it is not announced before next Thursday). Perhaps a few will have hate in their hearts for the politicians who have steadfastly stood against the protection of the most innocent and maybe even for the mothers who chose that route.

But we think the great majority also will be in prayer for the women who went down that path in the nearly 50 years since the Roe decision, for those who struggle with an unwanted pregnancy today and for the aftermath of such a court decision.

We like what syndicated columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez said on this page Thursday:

"The pro-life movement is not about judgment. We are about help and hope. [The] choices for life take tremendous courage and should be universally supported, whatever one's view of Roe. If you are pro-choice, please consider supporting places where life is embraced and abortion isn't the predominant option."

We hope those who gather at the "Solemn Assembly" also will pray that there will be no violence following the announcement of the decision. The federal Department of Homeland Security last month announced a heightened alert over the threat of such violence. Already, pro-life groups have said they have experienced dozens of incidents of violence, intimidation and vandalism since a draft of the opinion was leaked in early May. And a man upset over the draft opinion who wanted to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh was arrested outside the justice's home in early June.

We could imagine there also will be prayer for future decisions on the issue. Unless the ruling is substantially different than the leaked version, abortions will continue. However, they will be regulated by the individual states (as we believe they always should have been). Some states will not allow abortions, and officials in some states have said they will make it easier for women to get abortions all the way up to the birth of the child.

We have read several national opinions recently that linked the Roe v. Wade decision to a true coarsening of life in the U.S. It's something we'd never considered. But the thinking went that if the federal government backed the killing of babies in the womb, how much less is life worth generally? One can tick off the horrors we've all seen since Roe was decided — school shootings, terrorist attacks, gang violence, etc. — and can surely point to a lessening of belief in God.

Frankly, we don't see that changing with a new Supreme Court decision, but that's where prayer comes in. A lot of prayer (among other things) went into the decline in U.S. abortions from just over 1 million in 1991 to around 629,000 in 2019.

What can Thursday's prayer do? It could change hearts, it could lessen violence and it could thank God for a moment millions who believe in the sanctity of life thought they'd never see. Indeed, perhaps it would be better to ask: What can't prayer do?

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