Religious abortion rights advocates fight for access


On the day the Supreme Court hears arguments in a Mississippi abortion ban case, Sheila Katz plans to be at a nearby church.

This is where the Jewish organization she heads helps organize a morning interfaith service in support of abortion rights. This rally and a planned rally outside the courthouse are part of the ways the National Council of Jewish Women and like-minded faith groups are tackling the erosion of abortion access in the United States .

“We’re going to start out together as diverse faith groups, to pray, learn and sing together,” Katz said. “This seems like the right way to send the message that we are doing this work because of our faith and not in spite of it.”

Faith groups with progressive views on abortion rights say access is at a precarious stage as Conservative-majority Supreme Court considers challenges to two state laws, including a single Texas measure which prohibits abortions before some even know they are pregnant. The Dec. 1 arguments in the Mississippi case will be watched closely as the state’s 15-week ban – and possibly nationwide abortion rights – are at stake.

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“Things are dire,” said Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice. “We are truly on the brink of losing a constitutional right that we thought we had guaranteed forever.”

Beyond religious gatherings and services, faith-based groups supporting Access have filed briefs that include defenses of religious freedom in the Mississippi – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. They also launched advocacy campaigns, called on believers to speak out, contacted lawmakers and published opinion columns.

Those on the other side of the fight, including the religious, are also mobilizing. The anti-abortion movement counts Catholic bishops and evangelical pastors among its main leaders.

But Katz and her allies say it’s a misconception that religious Americans in general are anti-abortion. People of faith are among those who support access and obtain abortions, Katz said.

“For too long, we have allowed a small but noisy group of the religious right to dominate the narrative, and it is time for us to pick it up,” Katz said.

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A majority of adult Buddhists, Hindus, historically black Protestants, Jews, Protestants, Muslims and Orthodox Christians support legal abortion in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape study.

According to the study, Catholics are divided on the issue while most evangelical Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say abortion should be illegal in all or most of the cases.

“I believe the God of our understanding is on the side of a woman’s right to self-reliance, free will and fulfillment, and so that means God is on the side of the woman to choose,” said Reverend Erika Forbes, a faith activist director of the Texas Freedom Network, a progressive nonprofit that supports access to abortion.

Forbes is not fighting for herself – she has benefited from advocating for the reproductive rights of others. Forbes said she had two abortions and continued her education to become the parent she wanted to be.

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Forbes organized members of the Texas clergy to march, testify, and write op-eds as well as activities such as escorting people to clinics. Through his private practice, Forbes, who received his ordination as an interfaith minister from One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City, also provided spiritual guidance to those considering their reproductive options.

“These are the children of my children – that they have the capacity to create the life that will allow them the freedom and justice and the human fulfillment that is part of our humanity,” she said.

In August, the Texas Freedom Network launched a Reproductive Freedom Congregation initiative. Interested congregations are invited to publicly affirm three principles, including promising not to judge or humiliate participants for their reproductive choices. More than 30 churches have received the designation and more are starting the process, Forbes said.

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People of faith who support access to abortion is nothing new.

One example is the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The organization has its roots in the Clergy Consultation Service which put women in touch with safe abortion providers before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing the procedure nationwide.

One of their biggest hurdles today is conveying the diversity of theological perspectives on when life begins amid decades of well-funded abortion opponents’ messages, Rev. Katey said. Zeh, CEO of the Religious Coalition for the Choice of Reproduction.

“The idea that a particular theological point of view would be imposed on everyone is a matter of religious freedom,” said Zeh, a minister affiliated with the Baptist Alliance, formed by progressive Baptists who broke with the Southern Baptist Convention in its conservative turn.

Rabbi Joshua Fixler, associate rabbi of the Emanu El congregation in Houston, said his Jewish faith had a different outlook on early life than some Christian traditions, and it was heartbreaking to see Christian beliefs enshrined in law. .

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“Based on a verse from Exodus that Jews and Christians interpret differently, Jewish law says that a woman whose pregnancy is life-threatening may or perhaps even should have an abortion,” he said. he declared.

Fixler, who participated in the National Council of Jewish Women’s Rabbis for Reproduction initiative and previously worked for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, is a longtime advocate for access to abortion. and talk about it during church services.

Courtesy of his grandmother, Fixler shared his abortion story with his congregation and more broadly in a Houston Chronicle column where he discussed how forced shame drives many to keep their choice silent and why he supports the law. to abortion. He wrote that he grew up hearing about her abortion – a decision he said she made and never regretted after contracting rubella while pregnant.

“I think my community is realizing the possibility that Roe v. Wade may be overturned,” Fixler said. “I hope that we can mobilize ourselves before it is too late to guarantee this right which we come to from a deeply religious point of view.

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