Some religions support abortion rights. Their leaders are speaking up.


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  18 comments

By:   Julianne McShane

Some religions support abortion rights. Their leaders are speaking up.
Some religions support abortion rights, and their leaders are speaking up with Roe v. Wade under threat.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Link copied May 5, 2022, 8:10 AM UTC By Julianne McShane

After an abortion law took effect in Texas last fall that allows private citizens to sue someone who performs an abortion or helps someone obtain one after six weeks of pregnancy, Rabbi Mara Nathan, the senior rabbi at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, knew she wanted to address it in a sermon.

"It definitely felt like a risky sermon to give," she said, "but I felt like I really didn't have a choice."

In the sermon, which she titled "The Right to Choose is a Jewish Value," Nathan took aim at the law, known as S.B. 8, and outlined how, as she put it, "Judaism has always been pro-choice."


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Various streams of Judaism interpret Jewish law differently. Reform Judaism, of which Nathan is an adherent, supports abortion rights.

In response to her sermon, Nathan received a standing ovation, she said, along with angry reactions from "a few people who were upset" that she addressed abortion access from the pulpit. But Nathan saw speaking up as part of her rabbinical responsibility, she said.

"I do think that religious leaders have a unique role to play in getting the word out," she said, "and for getting people to understand that not all religious leaders are against a [person's] right to choose."

Now, in the wake of the leak of the Supreme Court's draft opinion that threatens to roll back constitutional protection of the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade, Nathan is one of many faith leaders across the country gearing up to speak out about abortion rights.

More than a half-dozen major religions and denominations support abortion rights with few or some limits — Conservative and Reform Judaism, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Unitarian Universalist Church and the United Church of Christ, among others — but many leaders of those faiths and religion experts say their positions are often not well-known.

Some faith leaders who support abortion rights said that compels them to disrupt the notion that abortion is inherently antithetical to religious values.

"'Faith' just sort of gets conflated when we're really talking about [the positions of] white conservative evangelicals and Catholics," said the Rev. Katey Zeh, the CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a national interfaith organization.

"There's theological diversity within and among faith traditions — there is no singular point of view" on abortion, she added.

Concept of reproductive justice

Some faiths have openly supported abortion access for decades and grounded their positions in the reproductive justice framework developed by a group of Black feminists in 1994, defined as "the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities."

Unitarian Universalists have the highest level of support for abortion rights among denominations, with 90 percent saying abortion should be legal, according to Pew Research. The Unitarian Universalist Association, its central organization, passed a resolution in 1987 affirming "the right to choose contraception and abortion as a legitimate expression of our constitutional rights." In 2015, it issued a "Statement of Conscience," outlining its support for the reproductive justice framework.

The United Church of Christ, a mainline Protestant denomination, has released statements and passed resolutions supporting abortion rights since the 1970s. It "has supported reproductive justice issues since the 1960s," according to its website, when some of its clergy members joined rabbis, Protestant ministers and dissident Catholic nuns and priests to form the Clergy Consultation Service.

The network of over 2,000 faith leaders helped more than 250,000 women obtain abortions from 1967 to 1973, according to Gillian Frank, a historian of gender and sexuality who is writing a book about the Clergy Consultation Service. According to Pew, 72 percent of adults in the United Church of Christ believe abortion should be legal.

By introducing the concept of reproductive justice, Black feminists "reframed [abortion] within the broader context of a whole lot of moral issues related to reproduction and women's bodies and sexuality," including raising children and dealing with domestic violence, according to the Rev. Rebecca Todd Peters, a professor of religious studies at Elon University in North Carolina and the author of "Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice."

Other religions, including Islam, the Baha'i faith and the United Methodist and Episcopal churches, allow abortion out of medical necessity.

Nathan said support for abortion is found in Jewish holy texts, and in her sermon last fall, she quoted a passage from the Talmud, the main source of Jewish law and theology, that she said establishes the right to terminate a pregnancy if it is endangering a pregnant person's life. She mentioned how the Torah, the Mishnah and other rabbinic texts "consider the woman's physical and emotional health before that of the fetus," she said in the sermon.

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Those choices were intentional, Nathan said: "For me, if I'm going to speak about this, it needs to be grounded in Jewish tradition. … I need to say, 'You need to look at these ancient Jewish texts and understand that our tradition says this, and then I want to connect it to our own lives.'"

Other faith leaders have similarly sought to demonstrate how their religious values undergird their support for abortion rights.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, a scholar-in-residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, helped create Rabbis for Repro, an initiative that launched in 2020 and has led more than 1,600 rabbis, including Nathan, to pledge to use their roles to "speak about reproductive rights." Born out of what Ruttenberg calls a "Jewish education gap" on the topic, the group also provides resources to help rabbis talk about abortion access through a Jewish lens.

Ruttenberg said that framing is crucial to helping Jewish people understand that "we support abortion justice not despite our religious values but because of them."

The Rev. Angela Williams, a pastor ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has supported abortion rights since 1970, is the lead organizer of the Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity, or SACReD, an initiative that trains interfaith leaders in how to support reproductive justice through their congregations.

She said members have a responsibility to "walk with folks throughout all of their reproductive decisions, so we can see times where it's an easy decision, and someone says, 'I'm not going to be pregnant right now,' ... and walk with folks who struggle with infertility and miscarriages and deal with the grief of that."

Zeh, of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said she feels compelled to provide "space for people to talk about their experiences" with reproductive decisions and to offer spiritual guidance on the issue, particularly in the weeks and months to come.

"When I think about my role as a leader in this moment, it's really about continuing to center the people most impacted," she said.

'I'm an ally, I'm a safe space'

While some faith leaders say the principles of their faiths support abortion rights, anti-abortion rights activists argue that their religious values uphold their position.

According to Frank, the historian, that tradition can be traced to the Comstock Laws, the first of which passed in 1873 and made it illegal to distribute information about birth control and abortion. The laws, propagated by Anthony Comstock, who served was the U.S. postal inspector and secretary of the New York Society for Suppression of Vice, originated out of "aggressive Protestantism," said Frank, who co-hosts the "Sexing History" podcast about the history of sexuality and its relevance to contemporary life.

Nathan said she plans to write about the threat to Roe v. Wade in her temple's email newsletter this week. But she is also planning for what may be ahead.

"My guess is this is going to happen, and I'll give another sermon about it," she said. "What's important to me is people know I'm an ally, I'm a safe space, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help people."

Julianne McShane


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Quiet
1  Ozzwald    2 weeks ago
Some Religions Support Abortion Rights. Their Leaders Are Speaking Up.

Some religions do not feel the need to force their beliefs down other people's throats.

Professor Principal
1.1  Gordy327  replied to  Ozzwald @1    2 weeks ago

If only they could all be like that. Then this world might be Heaven (irony alert, lol)

Professor Quiet
1.1.1  Ozzwald  replied to  Gordy327 @1.1    2 weeks ago

If only they could all be like that. Then this world might be Heaven (irony alert, lol)

At the very least, there would be a lot fewer wars.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    2 weeks ago

The United Church of Christ should not be confused with the Church of Christ which is ubiquitous in the South. They are amongst the most conservative denominations, probably more so than the Southern Baptist Church

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3  Sean Treacy    2 weeks ago

Unless you think religions should dictate policy  in this country, who cares?

Funny to see those who bitch about religious involvement  in politics start using religion when it serves them.

Just Jim NC TttH
Masters Principal
3.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    2 weeks ago

Thought the very same thing............

Senior Guide
3.1.1  XXJefferson51  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @3.1    2 weeks ago

Me too!  

Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.2  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    2 weeks ago

You are kind of missing the point. These faiths are not trying to tell people what to do. In other words.... choice and not intervening in anyone's belief.

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.2.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.2    2 weeks ago
These faiths are not trying to tell people what to do. In other words.... choice and not intervening in anyone's belief.

Sure they are. They are intervening in politics and pushing their respective agendas. The whole premise of the article is they are getting politically active in response to the leaked draft.

You can spin it any what you want, but it's obviously mixing religion and politics. No different than when evangelicals do it. . 

Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.2.2  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.2.1    2 weeks ago

Sean read the article:

"There's theological diversity within and among faith traditions — there is no singular point of view" on abortion, she added.

We are supposed to be a country where the is no official faith and all have freedom. 

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.2.3  Sean Treacy  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.2.2    2 weeks ago
We are supposed to be a country where the is no official faith and all have freedom. 

No kidding. I never  so much as hinted otherwise and that avoids what I wrote.

These churches are free to offer their opinions and people who claim to abhor church involvement in politics are free to cite these churches  as authorities if they want.

I'm also free to call people hypocrites.    

Professor Principal
4  TᵢG    2 weeks ago

It does not appear that the supreme creator has weighed in on abortion.   Human beings name-dropping 'God' to support their positions is not very persuasive.

I have more respect for the religions that do not maintain they know the mind of the supreme creator.   And there is a profound difference between someone claiming that their religion is for|against abortion (as in this seed) and the claim that God is for|against abortion.

Professor Quiet
4.1  mocowgirl  replied to  TᵢG @4    2 weeks ago
Human beings name-dropping 'God' to support their positions is not very persuasive.

Question:  If name-dropping 'God" is not persuasive then why are there over 30,000 sects of Christianity?

I googled for info "how cult leaders get followers" and found an article that might be enlightening on how they differentiate between a true religious leader of the supreme creator and a cult leader.  After reading the list, much of this could probably be applied to political leaders/followers or any other group that requires a compliant, malleable herd mentality in order to exist.

13 Phrases Cult Leaders Love to Use |

What are the signs of a cult leader? How can you identify a leader of a cult? And what kind of language will cult leaders use to deceive their loyal cult followers?

Nobody in a cult thinks they are in a cult. Nobody who follows a cult leader thinks their leader is a cult leader. Therefore, be humble enough to at least examine the possibility that your leader could be a cult leader if he or she is saying these phrases.

“God told me to tell you . . .”

Whenever someone starts claiming they are speaking for God, you should realize they are most likely a cult leader. I prefer to stay away from language like, “God told me.” I try to opt for the less definitive statement of “I feel like God told me.”

“The Bible says . . .”

One easy way to deceive gullible people is to just add the phrase, “The Bible says . . .” before any statement you want them to believe.

“God sent me to . . .”

The truest mark of cult leader is the man or woman who claims to be a Christian and yet denies the person and work of Jesus Christ in their words or actions

“God will punish those people for what they did to me . . .”

Another classic sign of a cult leader is the belief that God is their personal executioner.

“Don’t question my authority . . .”

Cult leaders are marked by dogmatic, militant, and authoritative control over their followers.

“This is okay for me to do because . . .”

One sign of a cult leader is a psychotic ability to justify evil in their lives.

“Don’t talk to   those   people because . . .”

One well established trait of all true cults is shunning.

“You need to give me your money because . . .”

Cult leaders get into “ministry” because they are after something they want. Some cult leaders want respect, some cult leaders want sexual control over others, but most cult leaders are after money.

“My church is better than that church because . . .”

Somehow every cult leader is always the pastor at the best church in town, at least in their own minds. Cult leaders have an “us verse them” mentality.  

“A spiritual revolution is coming here . . .”

Cult leaders are always talking about the future. Their past is too sketchy to mention.

“The spiritual revolution is not happening because you people are not . . .”

The most ridiculous part about a cult leader promising “a great move of God” is that when it doesn’t happen, they blame the people who were sitting in the audience listening to that junk.

“Outsiders hate me because . . .”

Another excuse a cult leader is forced to create is why everyone in town dislikes him. A cult leader sometimes even likes when other Christian leaders call him out because this gives him the attention he craves.

 “If you leave us, you are turning your back on God and horrible things will happen to you . . .”

There are so many more common signs of cult leaders, but we will close with this.

Cult leaders always produce a fear in their followers to leave. Whether through making people so dependent on the cult leader the follower can’t imagine life without this person, or whether through brainwashing them into thinking their group is the chosen group in that town and to leave is to leave God’s chosen group, or whether through actual threats of retaliation if they chose to leave like suing for slander or threats of violence – cult leaders make people feel like they will suffer for leaving the cult.

Professor Principal
4.1.1  TᵢG  replied to  mocowgirl @4.1    2 weeks ago
Question:  If name-dropping 'God" is not persuasive then why are there over 30,000 sects of Christianity?

It is not persuasive for me

Clearly it works for most people as evidenced by the continued support for religions.

Professor Quiet
4.1.2  mocowgirl  replied to  TᵢG @4.1.1    2 weeks ago
It is not persuasive for me.

Thanks for the clarification.

I find religious (and other) control to be the result of when persuasion meets gullibility.  

Sophomore Principal
5  Hallux    2 weeks ago

Christians believe the soul 'enters' at conception, Jews at birth, Islamists several months after birth ... and the Abrahamic Derby winner is (?)!

pat wilson
Professor Guide
5.1  pat wilson  replied to  Hallux @5    2 weeks ago

Irritability is the first sign of life. Biology 101. 

Sophomore Principal
5.1.1  Hallux  replied to  pat wilson @5.1    2 weeks ago

And often the last. Psychology 101


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