“Sometimes I think the only real division into two is between people who divide everything into two, and those who don’t.” Gloria Steinem, “My Life on the Road” (2015)
Unitarian Universalists understand that nothing in this world can be divided into two distinct parts or opinions. But one issue, high profile in Wichita always but especially this summer, is too often seen as an either/or question. That issue is reproductive choice.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The operative word is “choice,” but too many for too long have framed reproductive freedom as only “for abortion—against abortion.”
Many choices are available to women who consider becoming a parent. Avoiding pregnancy is a first option, whether by abstinence or contraception.
Abstinence. Just saying “no” should be an adequate form of birth control, including in committed relationships, but that is not always the case. Worse, in the fervor of this political summer some presidential candidates espoused the belief that babies conceived as a result of rape are an “act of God” and termination should be illegal and even that the woman be punished.
Contraception. Multiple methods are available, ranging from the “rhythm” method favored by the Roman Catholic church to the “day after” pill.
Should the woman become pregnant, but determine that being a parent is not the best option, she has choices. Adoption is an appropriate choice for some. Another choice is termination of the pregnancy, preferably a legal and safe medical abortion.
Parenting is an appropriate choice, but sadly not always the stuff of “happily ever after” endings. The choice works well when the child is wanted and the parent(s) are able to provide the basics—food, shelter, clothing, love. That is not always the case.
Even if the child is wanted, too often our laws seem to support birth, but make it quite difficult for some to raise healthy children in an environment that works to punish people for being poor, but does nothing to erase the causes of poverty. It’s hypocrisy to claim to be “pro-life” by protecting a fetus while denying basic services and support to the living– the infant, the toddler, the school child. Women of Color living in poverty are particularly affected, facing marginalization due to racism, classism, and sexism on a daily basis.
Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, makes the clear case for reproductive justice being within the Black Lives Matter movement. “…. It’s not just about the right for women to be able to determine when and how and where they want to start families, to be able to raise children to become adults….And that is being hindered by state violence in many different forms. One form being violence by law enforcement or other state forces, and the other form of crisis through poverty and lack of access to resources and lack of access to health communities are are safe and sustainable..So we certainly understand that BLM and reproductive justice go hand in hand.”
Far right political and religious entities are doing their best to move the country back to the days before Roe v. Wade made abortion a legal medical choice Their efforts to make reproductive choice all about abortion and calling it “pro life” is just plain wrong. It’s not just anti-woman, it’s anti-children, it’s anti-family.
I am of an age to know exactly what Roe v. Wade meant to women. The message we got was that women can be trusted to know what’s best for them and their families. It meant legal abortion was now just one of the choices available to women and their doctors when pregnancy was a consideration.
Reproductive freedom MUST mean choice. It’s all about women being able to make the right decision for themselves and their families.
My Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice shirt says it all. Unitarian Universalist Association and 39 other religious organizations make up the membership of RCRC. Those organizations include Catholics for Choice, a spectrum of Jewish organizations and groups, Episcopalians, Disciples, Lutherans, Methodists, Metropolitan Church, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, and United Methodists.
Top – Corey Swertfager and I staff a table at First UU when Julie Burkhart, Founder and CEO of Trust Women was in the pulpit. (2014).