Allow me to surprise some of you. I’m a deeply religious person, and I’m pro-choice. So are many others in my Presbyterian congregation in suburban Upper Arlington, Ohio. So are many other deeply religious people and clergy (men and women) who I work with across Ohio through the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. We come from Judaic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, and Lutheran faiths. Yes, you read that right. Religion and Choice. In fact, when the Ohio legislature writes laws that restrict our access to abortion, they are restricting our religious freedom.
We share common ground with our brothers and sisters who are proposing seven anti-choice bills at the Ohio state house (two up for vote on Wednesday, March 16). Our common ground is the goal to reduce the number of abortions. Our difference lies in the methods we seek to reach that goal. We at the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice back Ohio's “Prevention First” bill (defeated for several years now, but to be reintroduced again this year) which offers comprehensive sexuality education for our kids, to prevent unintended pregnancies. We back programs like universal health care and other programs to address addiction, poverty, abuse, and sickness… social conditions which lead to women to choose abortion. In contrast, the anti-choice bills before the Ohio legislature will return us to the days of back-alley abortions, and would not keep abortions from happening. Is the coat-hanger what God would want for a beloved daughter?
Here’s where we come from: God is a compassionate, forgiving God. God’s love extends to everyone. Even people who are sick, who have been raped, who have suffered abuse, who are addicted, who have no support system. Even people who cannot complete their pregnancy for whatever complex reason. God loves these people. And as religious people, we are called to love these people, too. If we do not offer them a safe, legal, insurable option of abortion, then these people, these people God loves, will resort to unsafe, illegal, cheap options for abortion. Think coat hangers. Think back-alleys. Think dumpsters. Suffering will increase, and the rate of abortion will not change. Our organization’s roots extend back to the days before Roe vs. Wade, when a large group of rabbis and ministers (all men back then) networked to refer women to safe abortions in other states and countries. They risked prosecution when making these referrals, but they did it to alleviate the suffering of these women.
Please don’t call us pro-abortion. Our clergy counsel women facing problem pregnancies with all options on the table: parenthood, adoption and abortion. In some very tough circumstances, abortion is the best of several bad options. Life is hard. Life is complicated. People who are anti-choice seem to see only the life of the unborn as being worth fighting for, but it is more complicated than that. There is the life of the mother and her family at stake. To ban abortion would lead to desperate measures by women. Abortion would still occur. In a perfect world, there will be no poverty, no rape, no addiction, no sickness, no pain. In a perfect world, no woman would ever choose abortion. But we’re not in a perfect world yet. Let’s not pretend we are.
Please stop these anti-choice bills.
Cathy Levy, Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
P.S. Here are the seven proposed Ohio bills that restrict access to abortion. The seventh virtually outlaws it.
1. House Bill 7 – Bans abortion at 24 weeks and requires viability testing at 22 weeks – the bill lacks adequate exceptions for the physical and mental health of the woman.
2. House Bill 63 - Adds additional burden of proof to any minor asking a judge for permission to obtain an abortion. Requires the judge to ask the minor if she is aware of physical and mental complications that are possible after the abortion and if she is prepared to handle them. This implies that such problems are likely and evidence proves that such problems are unlikely. Also requires the judge to ask if the minor has had coaching regarding the trial, which violates lawyer/client privilege.
3. Senate Bill 8 – Similar to HB 63
4. Not introduced yet – Mandatory Permission Slip Bill – Would require that the woman get a permission slip from her partner for the abortion. Has inadequate exceptions in the case of rape (must prove it), incest (must get paternity test), or unknown partner (must get paternity test of all possible partners). Has inadequate physical and mental health exceptions.
5. House Bill 78 – Similar to HB 7, Bans abortion at 24 weeks and requires viability testing at 20 weeks. The bill lacks adequate exceptions for the physical and mental health of the woman.
6. House Bill 79 - Prohibits women from using their own money to buy insurance that covers abortion care if that plan passed through a public exchange. The majority of women in Ohio currently have health insurance for abortion; with health care reform, this would prohibit Ohio women from purchasing insurance even with their own money through an exchange.
7. House Bill 125 – “The Heartbeat Bill”. Bans abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected. This varies with the pregnancy but can be detected very early in the first trimester. With the time required to determine that one is pregnant, to make a thoughtful decision about how to handle the pregnancy including undergoing counseling, to gather funds for an abortion, and to go through required waiting periods, a fetal heartbeat could be detected. This bill would effectively outlaw abortion.
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