Online forum attracts hundreds of religious leaders to counter religious opposition to abortion

(RNS) – A Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Angela Williams, sees it as her calling to minister for reproductive justice – helping places of worship break the stigma around “our sexualities and our reproductive lives”.

This stigma is often driven, she pointed out, by religious people. “A lot of the abortion restrictions we see come from a particular religious lens that doesn’t represent the majority of the country,” Williams said.

That leaves Christians who support abortion rights with work to do, she believes. “Christians have a special responsibility to right this wrong, to resume the public discourse of faith in this country.”

With states across the country pass measures who ban abortions closer to conception, American Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths say the restrictions violate their religious beliefs.

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These issues will take center stage on January 25 and 26, as more than 300 people from 40 states representing more than 30 religious traditions come together virtually to discuss religious support for abortion access and reproductive freedom. .

The “first of its kind” is organized by the national coalition Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignitywhich got its start as a subgroup of the organization Just Texas: Faith Voices for Justice.

Reverend Angela Williams. Courtesy picture

SACReD aims to build a “multi-racial, multi-faith movement of congregations across the country that publicly proclaim their support for reproductive dignity,” and, at the online conference, it is launching a new training program that will empower places of worship to obtain a designation that affirms these values.

“Congregations are really good at working on justice issues, but that work hasn’t extended to the area of ​​reproductive health care and justice,” said SACReD lead organizer Williams.

“The goal is to bring congregations through a designation process to examine their own identity and values, examine their tradition…to dismantle the stigma we have around abortion, sexuality and our bodies” , she said.

RELATED: In Texas, Reproductive Freedom Congregations gain momentum as new abortion law looms

The two-day meeting will include sessions on building a Jewish movement for abortion justice; reproductive justice for black Christian women and for Muslim and Latin American communities; and “exposing anti-abortion pregnancy centers in your community.”

Rabbi Kelly Levy of Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Texas, said the gathering “is an opportunity for faith communities across the country to create a network of support for anyone seeking access to childbearing. “.

Levy, a SACReD organizer, notes that Jewish tradition states “that the life of the mother, above all else, is the priority.”

“Our rabbis define life as beginning with the first breath, which is different from what other religions have defined life. They define it as design, we define it as first breath,” Levy said.

The Reverend Daniel Kanter, senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, which provides pastoral care and private counseling to women when making abortion decisions, will highlight what is being done to help pregnant women access abortion after the Texas abortion law took effect.

The First Unitarian Church of Dallas has a long history of promoting reproductive priorities. The Church Women’s Alliance was an early supporter of Roe v. Wade as he went through the Texas court system. Cecile Richards, who was president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was raised in the church, Kanter said.

Other speakers include Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice; Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author and resident scholar at the National Council of Jewish Women; Reverend Jes Kast, pastor of Faith United Church of Christ at State College, Pennsylvania; Rev. Rebecca Todd Peters, professor of religious studies and director of the poverty and social justice program at Elon University; and Toni M. Bond, academic and one of the founding mothers of the reproductive justice movement.

Williams, who will speak on the morality of abortion and biblical theology, said she looks to the Bible to guide her understanding of reproductive justice. It tells the story of Hagar and Ishmael and “the ways God showed up when reproductive injustice was happening.”

“God disrupts reproductive injustice,” Williams said. “If it’s the God we follow, if it’s the stories that are in our lyrics, how on earth can we put limits on what God can do? »