In the United States, much of the conversation around faith is dominated by conservative voices. Progressive Voices of Faith is a new series where we seek to share an opposing but spiritually-rooted perspective. Each month we reach out to the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) community to get their perspective on important, often polarizing issues. In September we asked PSR alumnx, faculty, and students about reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.
In their responses, the PSR community was united in opposing the court’s decision. Rev. Joelle Henneman summed up the consensus by calling the decision a, “tragic restriction of bodily autonomy and human rights.”
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care, Spirituality, and Political Theology, Leonard McMahon lamented the decision as, “yet another instance of the combatative, zero-sum game nature of our current politics.” And warned that it may be, “the first in a series of backsliding efforts to undo the social progress of the last half-century.”
Rev. Loey Powell, a PSR alumnx and one of the first out lesbians ordained in a mainline denomination laid some of the blame on progressives. “Did we look away after Roe and not notice the slow, ongoing organizing of the right? Did we assume all would be well now that SCOTUS decided this? Yes, we often did, and we often failed to sustain an intersectional approach to organizing around reproductive justice with communities across all identities whose own lives would be most impacted by a lack of full access to maternal health, abortion, and economic stability.”
However, Powell also sees hope in the aftermath adding, “I am encouraged by the voices of many who are now organizing and protesting the Dobbs decision and who are getting people to register to vote and be engaged.”
While many agreed that the decision has energized their progressive communities to political action, current MDiv student Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke, reminded us that while we work towards change people’s lives are being impacted right now, “In BIPOC communities [the decision] has been devastating.”
While views on when life begins were split among respondents with 25% saying ‘at conception,’ 37% choosing, ‘when the fetus can survive outside the womb,’ and an equal percentage saying, ‘at birth,’ 100% of respondents agreed that everyone has the right to make their own healthcare decisions, including abortion.
Alumnx Rev. Debra W. Halfner took issue with the question itself saying, “This question concerns me. We can hold differing positions about when a human life begins while still agreeing that the mother’s life has precedence.”
Elizabeth Preston, a current PSR student, suggested the wrong issues are being debated when we discuss reproductive justice. “I don’t think that the debate about when life begins is appropriate for the political arena. I would like to see every state within the USA do a better job taking care of foster children as well as increase addiction treatment and improve access to mental health care.”
Alumnx Rev. Christine Haider-Winnett, founder of Via Sophia Ministry, an inclusive Catholic Ministry, summed up the view of many by saying, “To think that you’d know better than someone else what they can handle, what they need, what they should do at such an intensely personal moment is among the absolute worse ways to play God.”
“No one is telling you to feel comfortable with abortion. What I am telling you is that your discomfort is your own personal business, and you need to keep it to yourself. Because other peoples’ healthcare is always THEIR personal business. And making sure everyone has the freedom to make their own medical decisions should be everyone’s business.”
Below is a list of further resources and stories shared by our community
Reproductive Justice and Black Queer Bodies: An Online CLGS Lavender Lunch with Sylvia Rhue and Roland Stringfellow – Oct 11th, 2022 @ 12:30 pm PT