Faithfully Supporting Access to Abortion Services

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear the most important abortion case in almost twenty-five years. I fear that once again the media stories will leave the impression that those who would deny women access to abortion services have a monopoly on faith; nothing could be further from the truth.

A majority of people of faith in America support the legal right to abortion. Millions of people ground their moral commitment to this right in their religious beliefs. According to a recent Pew Research poll, a majority of respondents from every religious affiliation but one - white evangelicals - said they believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Surprisingly, even almost one in three white evangelicals think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Last month I joined more than 1,200 individual religious leaders and pastoral counselors in signing a friend of the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Texas state law designed to cut off women's access to abortion by forcing clinics to close. I signed on as one of the leaders of that brief because I felt it was essential for the justices to hear from those of us in the faith community who steadfastly support that women must have access to safe and legal abortion services.

There is nothing new about religious support for reproductive health, rights, and justice. Clergy were a driving force in the movement to legalize abortion in the 1960s, and even conservative denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention supported legislation allowing abortion under some circumstances in the years before Roe. More than a dozen major religious denominations have passed policies -- some as many as fifty years ago -- supporting access to legal abortion. Clergy opened one of the first abortion clinics in the U.S. and fought for the repeal of abortion laws.

As a person of faith, I believe that abortion is always a moral decision, and we cannot allow those who would deny people their reproductive rights to claim that theirs is the moral response. The sin is not abortion but forced childbearing. The sin is denying people contraception, reproductive health care, and sexuality education. The sin is denying poor women, women of color, women in rural communities the same access to safe, accessible medical services that more privileged women have. The sins are poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. The sin is ignoring the lives and needs of children who are already born for food, clean water, housing, health care, good education, and for their parents, support and good paying jobs.

Measure like the Texas law that limit women's access to abortion services will do nothing to promote moral decision-making, harm women and their families, and effectively result in coercive childbearing. If this law is allowed to go into full effect, restrictions on access to abortion could spread throughout the country. Low-income women and communities of color will be disproportionately affected.

This coming weekend, more than 80 congregations from almost 20 faith traditions across the U.S. will join in a National Weekend of Prayer. We will be praying for the justices of the Supreme Court to have the spirit of wisdom and understanding that they may discern how to best support women's moral agency. We will pray that the attorneys have skill in their arguments, that they may inspire justice. We will pray that the plaintiffs have courage, strength and perseverance. More than 10,000 voices of the faithful will affirm access to safe and legal abortion services.

We will end our prayers with these words: "Bless us as we seek to create a more just world where all people have the right to make their own private reproductive decisions and obtain safe, legal, and accessible abortion services. Amen."

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