Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have recently enacted draconian legislation, intended to remove a woman’s right to make her own best decision about her healthcare choices. These bills seek to make abortion illegal, and in many cases, seek to make abortion a felony, intending to imprison women who choose or need to seek one.
I’m privileged to serve on the Clergy Advocacy Board (CAB) of Planned Parenthood. We were meeting in DC this week when the Stop the Bans Rally was scheduled in front of the Supreme Court.
I was one of the members of the CAB who was able to speak at the rally. I didn’t have time to share my personal remarks (rallies are chaotic things, and Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand were waiting to speak when we were done), but I was able to read a portion of the statement the CAB issued after Alabama passed their ban. Here’s that statement in full:
The Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board condemns the recent Alabama legislation that outlaws abortion and would jail doctors for life for providing women with basic health care. The Alabama legislation is just another tragic example of a national effort to restrict reproductive health care and outlaw safe, legal abortion. As clergy from a wide range of faith communities and perspectives, we remind everyone that many different religious groups affirm the moral goodness in access to abortion care.
The recent abortion bans are yet another effort by religiously motivated policy makers to impose the harshest and most restrictive of faith teachings into our private lives. Laws that truly honor “religious liberty” would, instead, protect each person as they decide whether to become a parent and raise a child, place a child into adoption or foster care, or end their pregnancy as their faith and conscience dictate. What is more, we affirm the moral courage of doctors and health care providers involved in providing abortion services, and reiterate that, through their sacred caregiving work, they uphold the highest of religious and ethical values. Finally, as pastoral counselors to the women, men and families who invite us into their lives as they face medical decisions and receive care, we uplift the lessons of our experience, that there is great wisdom in ensuring that safe and legal abortion remains widely accessible to all.
Here are the remarks I had prepared to make.
My abortion story is about complicated decision making. In a world that tries to reduce the topic to sound bytes and is quick to condemn women who get abortions, I know the decision is rarely that simple. The calculus women face in that decision will not fit on a bumper sticker.
I had an unplanned pregnancy 30 years ago when I was in college. In addition to morning sickness, I had to face the most complicated decision of my young life. Did I have money to get medical care throughout my pregnancy since I didn’t have insurance to cover it? Could I afford to pay hospital bills when my baby was born? Would my family and community support me through a pregnancy, or would I be on my own, or face being shunned? What kind of ‘hit’ would my reputation take in a conservative state and community? Could I stay in school and finish my education or would I be kicked out?
Had I answered any of those questions differently than I was able to that day, I would have chosen abortion.
I will be forever thankful it was my choice to make. And I will forever understand why women make that choice.
I placed my son for adoption, and he knows that I was able to choose for him to be born, he knows I wanted him to be born. Even though it was a complicated decision, and even though it was terribly difficult to go through, it has been a gift and blessing for me.
I will continue to work for communities that have access to affordable health care, contraception, strong early childhood education and public education opportunities, livable minimum wages, and other hallmarks of a flourishing society so that women can make the best decisions for their own lives. I recognize that our nation’s un-explored racism makes these decisions even harder to make for black women, for women of color. Reproductive rights must also work for reproductive justice. (You can read about people doing important work about reproductive justice here.)
The vast majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, even as some also support some regulation of abortion.
I support reproductive justice because of my faith, not in spite of it. i’m grateful I’m able to work for reproductive justice alongside other members of the CAB and in concert with other organizations who are working for the same.