In a world where Congress is trying to defund the largest provider of women’s healthcare in the nation over debunked propaganda, and restrictions on access to reproductive healthcare are reaching perilous highs, it’s always nice to see a group standing up for a woman’s right to choose, even if that support is coming from unlikely corners.
How unlikely? Well, how about a group of religious leaders in Ohio? As Think Progress reports:
When Reverend Laura Young sees women entering an abortion clinic, she sees misguided faith. But it’s not of the women who actually trying to access care. It’s the faith of the protesters who’ve become a staple outside many clinics in her home state of Ohio.
“Christianity, like most faiths, is founded on love. Watching protesters shouting judgement and hate based on what they call religion is horrible,” Young said. “Is that loving God? Is that loving your neighbor as yourself?”
Watching protesters shouting judgment and hate based on what they call religion is horrible.
On Thursday, Rev. Young and other religious leaders plan on blessing Preterm, a local abortion clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. While many states face contentious anti-abortion legislation, Ohio is especially threatened by measures that could shutter clinics and essentially “regulate abortion out of existence,” according to local reproductive rights advocates.
The group hopes their blessing will protect the facility against the kind of abuse stemming from preachy protesters, as well as encourage the strength and bravery of those providing and relying on its services. If it’s a success, Young said the group will go on to bless other state clinics.
Now, it’s not like their blessing is going to actually provide any kind of magical protection, but it’s a heartening gesture. The faithful are almost always cast as anti-choice, largely by religious leaders. In reality, the majority of the faithful support legal abortion, and 7 in 10 women who seek an abortion claim some sort of religious affiliation. To see a representation of those mainstream beliefs in public advocacy warms the heart.
But it also drives home the fact that this is one arena of policy debate inextricably intertwined with religion, and faith’s dominance in the world of reproductive rights comes with major consequences. Our Patheos colleague Adam Lee wrote in The Guardian:
Atheists’ hugely lopsided support for choice is a simple reflection that opposition to abortion is inherently a religious position, just like creationism or opposition to LGBT rights. Anti-choice ideology is founded on the belief that a single-celled zygote possesses a supernatural appendage called a soul that makes it the moral equal of an adult human.
Still, it’s hard to recall a worse time for reproductive choice in an increasingly secular America. In the wake of deceptively edited “sting” videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit, multiple state investigations have cleared the reproductive health provider of any wrongdoing — yet congressional Republicans threatened to shut down the government anyway to punish them. Then they summoned the group’s president, Cecile Richards, for hectoring, accusatory questions as if her organization had been caught doing something illegal or unethical and not providing women with legal abortions.
Meanwhile, religious hospitals, especially Catholic ones, are gobbling up their secular counterparts and then imposing bishop-decreed restrictions on abortion care and birth control. Conservative, limited-government Republicans (particularly John Kasich, the alleged moderate) continue to enact Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (Trap laws), legislation cynically designed to be impossible with which to comply, so that clinics will be forced to close. And when none of those tactics work, there’s straightforward terrorism: Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington, California and elsewhere have been targeted by arson attacks.
So while seeing religious groups support a woman’s right to choose in the current climate is enough to bring a smile to the faces of the pro-choice crowd, it’s important to remember that this is far from the norm. More to the point, it shouldn’t be relevant. We’re a nation that’s supposed to respect the separation between church and state, and when it comes to women’s reproductive health care, that line in the sand has been all but obliterated.
I’m thrilled to see the religious leaders’ gesture in Ohio. But I’d be a whole lot happier if their bibles and our government would stay the hell out of my uterus.