faith & abortion.

25 Feb

On Tuesday, February 23, I spoke at a rally at the state capital organized by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Though a Unity Prayer was included at the end, I was the only speaker to take a faith-based approach to the current issues facing the state.

Photo by Del Ramey. Proof that not only was I at the rally, I spoke quite expressively!

Photo by Del Ramey. Proof that not only was I at the rally, I spoke quite expressively!

None of the coverage of the event even mentions that there was a faith-based speaker present. I was not quoted. I was not listed among the speakers. And there are no pictures to show I was there, either. Nothing in the Courier Journal. Nothing in the State-Journal. Nothing in the coverage at either WDRB or WHAS. While others have been left out here and there, the teen Planned Parenthood Peer Educators and I are the only ones left out of the coverage entirely.

One might argue that this is coincidence, but I don’t think so. I think that just as people are uncomfortable hearing that teenagers actually have sex (*gasp!*), people are also uncomfortable hearing a religious leader speak frankly about the need for reproductive justice.

Being religious does not mean being against reproductive justice. Far from it. So here I offer my remarks.

Friends, We are under attack these days. Under attack as women, as parents, and as people of faith.

As we heard from the previous speakers, women are under attack. We are being told by politicians that we are neither moral enough nor intelligent enough to make the best healthcare decisions for ourselves, our families, and our communities. How are we still having to fight this fight?

We are also under attack as parents. Our young people are not being given the information they need to make informed decisions. As a mother, I see the onslaught of false messages teens get about sexuality. Where can teens go to find trustworthy information? We know knowledge is power, so Shouldn’t all people be given the opportunity to learn about healthy sexuality?

And as people of faith, we are particularly under attack by a small group of people who claim to lean on their religion when passing legislation around women’s reproductive health, when they impose their faith and values upon others who do not share their minority religious views. This is unjust!

People of faith believe sexuality is a gift. Many of us have been taught that we are made in the image of God. We celebrate the goodness of creation, including our bodies and our sexuality. Our faiths teach us that all persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure. When we celebrate our sexuality with holiness and integrity, we participate in a life-giving and life-fulfilling gift.

And it is important that we understand this gift! This means supporting science-based sexuality education programs that are age-appropriate, accurate, and truthful. Sexuality education that respects and empowers young people has more integrity than education based on incomplete information, fear, and shame.

Because our sexuality is a gift, our faiths teach us that we also deserve the tools to safely engage in it’s healthy expression. This means access to basic reproductive healthcare. But by closing or putting tight restrictions on facilitates, like Planned Parenthood, that provide access to inexpensive reproductive healthcare, politicians are reinforcing the message that our sexuality is something shameful, something that they should control rather than us as individuals.

My faith not only tells me that sexuality is a gift, it also tells me that that a woman is capable of making moral decisions about her sexuality. By taking these decisions out of the hands of women, the state is continuing a patriarchal, misogynistic practice. Once upon a time, religions taught that women were inferior to men, but that viewpoint has been out of touch for generations now and we must never go back. Each of us are created in the divine image, each of us given agency over our own bodies. Women must have the right and the ability to make decisions about our reproductive and sexual health. And abortion can be the best, most moral decision, a woman can make. In these instances, a women should not be shamed, subject to an invasive procedure, or forced to take additional days off work in order to have access to safe healthcare.

These measures are not compassionate. And yet compassion is the foundation for many of the worlds religions! Our legislators must develop Compassion for women in difficult times, making difficult decisions. The cruel, shaming legislation before our state now targets women who already have the least access to medical care. It forces women to schedule travel, take time off from work and pay for child care over the course of multiple days. How is this compassionate?

As people of faith, we stand in opposition to legislation that seeks to impose one small religious minority perspective on to all women in this state.

As people of faith, we affirm the moral agency of women and affirm that sexuality is a gift to be celebrated and cared for.

As people of faith, we affirm that all people should have the opportunity and the power to control their reproductive lives.

As people of faith who hold compassion, and not judgment, to be perhaps the most important religious tenant, we demand laws and policies that protect the rights and abilities of a woman to make decisions according to her own beliefs and conscience. All people must have the economic, social and political power to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. May it be so.

And just to prove that I am not alone, here is the prayer that was delivered before the opening session of the legislature that same day by my friend and colleague, the Rev. Lauren Jones Mayfield:

Come and dwell among us, holy source of vision. We confess that we need you now as much as we have ever needed a stabilizing presence of compassion, empathy, thoughtfulness, and rational discourse. Into this session of legislative activity, I pray for these elected officials as they continue their deliberations. May the business that they conduct, the policies they support, and the notions they follow take steps in the direction of broadening your transformative and inclusive spirit.

Let them not be held hostage by the conventions of Republican or Democrat, but may your spirit of collaboration and gentleness bring them to new understandings of themselves as one body called to protect the vulnerable and uplift the downtrodden.

Come and dwell among us source of peace. When we are afraid or anxious we narrow our definition of your character and claim your presence as our own. Empower these law makers to rise above fear and retaliation. Help all of us to forego the easy road of blame and self-preservation; so that together we can unearth unity. The simplicity of viewing you and Jesus and other prophets sitting on lofty thrones in the heavens, looking down with contempt or joy, wrongly exemplifies the miracle of grace.

Instead, you call us to take seriously your engagement with your beloved children…in the streets of our cities and across the farmlands of our counties. You are living and active, as close as our breath. May these leaders breathe in your love and exhale your expansive and radical presence of generosity and inclusivity.

May these legislators work toward preserving the dignity of women in the quest for reproductive justice; may they honor the needs of those who are wrongly imprisoned.

May they demand equality for all Kentucky residents regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. May they believe that black lives matter. May our work be for those who are unable to be here to lobby and speak for themselves.

Come and dwell among us source of justice so that the democratic activity of today will bring liberation tomorrow. Inspire us to embody courage, wisdom, and empathy. These are qualities that you teach and long to return to us favorably. Amen.

One Response to “faith & abortion.”

  1. Del Ramey February 28, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    My photos of the rally in the capitol Rotunda can be seen here:


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