Often people have a misperception about faith communities, and especially Christian ones, based only on those that are the most public and outspoken. For example, we see and hear those faith traditions that vehemently oppose a woman’s right to have an abortion based on who is protesting in front of Planned Parenthood. However, many faith traditions, even, and especially, Christian ones, support a woman’s right to choose. The General President and Minister of the United Church of Christ, The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, is a man of deep faith (formerly Catholic) and a prophetic and pastoral presence in our wider church and world. Therefore, in the wake of the recent Texas law banning abortions for pregnancies more than six weeks (before many women even know they are pregnant) and even in the case of rape and incest, Dorhauer’s reflections on the subject of abortion matter to me. Dorhauer recently posted:
“As an abortion rights advocate, trained All Options Counselor who has served on the boards of many abortion rights organizations, General Minister and President of a denomination that supports freedom of conscience and therefore the right of a woman to exercise her agency and autonomy free of either government interference or the watchful eye of self-righteous neighbors, and the father of one very independent woman who ain’t going to let any draconian law impede her free rights — I find the Supreme Court’s decision NOT to block the application of the most restrictive and unconstitutional antiabortion law in the country to be indefensible, unconscionable, and barbaric. If this is a harbinger of things to come, we are in a world of hurt.”
I believe in that which the so-called ‘Pro-Life’ and so-called ‘Pro Choice’ lobbies both have in common: a world where there are less or no abortions because there are less or no women who, for whatever reasons, feel desperately in need of them. The difference lies in how we as a society can create an environment whereby women do not feel compelled to have abortions. There are many highly effective ways to limit abortions: improve access to contraception, improve women’s access to safe and affordable health care, improve men’s accountability when co-creating life, and enabling child care to be more accessible and affordable. These are benevolent (not retributive) ways that enhance the wellbeing of women and limit the number of abortions. What does not limit the number of abortions (at least in a manner that enhances the wellbeing of women) are Texas-Taliban-style bans on women’s right to choose and systems of vigilantly law pitting private citizens against one another. To prohibit abortion even in the case of rape and incest is Talibanesque! If we are the country of freedom of liberty, then oppressive government interference and oversight restricting a woman’s right to make decisions about her body is not the way to go. Bans force women to go elsewhere — be it to another state or another country. If abortion is banned outright, then it forces women to risk their lives by undergoing unsafe procedures. The best way to limit abortions is not to ban them — but to support women (health care and contraception) and children (child care and education) so that they do not feel the need to have abortions.
‘Pro-life’ folks are also pro-choice people — in that they believe in individual liberty. And ‘Pro-choice’ people are also pro-life people — in that they value all life: pre- and post-natal life. How ironic! Let us find one another (politically and morally speaking). Let us support women and children. Let us limit the number of abortions. Let us not do so with Texas Taliban-style bans and punishments. Rather, let us prevent women’s desperate circumstances by enhancing the lives of women and children’s after they are born. And for God sake let us not inflict further trauma and oppression on women who are already victims of rape and incest.
Since its Eighth General Synod in 1971, the United Church of Christ has affirmed a women’s right to choose while seeking to limit the number of abortions carried-out as a response to women’s desperate circumstances (1971, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1987, 1989, 1991). For example:
The 17th General Synod of the United Church of Christ (1989) reaffirms its historic and courageous leadership in support of freedom of choice as legally supported by Roe v. Wade, and urges all parts of the church to work toward a society where a full range of reproductive options are available to all women regardless of economic circumstances and to address the root causes that lead to unplanned pregnancies, ignorance, and lack of life options.”
I personally affirm the work of Planned Parenthood in Brattleboro, Vermont as they have stoically endured protests and objections to their very good work to improve the lives of women by limiting the desperate choices they often must make in circumstances more often than not determined by men. And to all the women of Brattleboro, of all ages, no matter your choices in life, I love you and support you. If you or anyone close to you has ever made a decision that I have never had to make, I affirm you — no matter your choice. May we live in a society where we like Jesus in John 8:1-11 can ask women, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t one of them condemn you?” and we can hear women respond, “No, no one condemned us.”