Monday, January 22, 2007

34th Anniversary Roe v. Wade

Today is the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I was a college freshman on that January day in 1973. Not yet a feminist or even very politically aware, I remember the sense of relief we all felt. We thought it meant no more women would have illegal abortions in the U.S., putting their very lives as risk. We thought it meant women my age wouldn't drop out of school to get married and have babies they weren't ready for, as had happened several times at my high school. We thought it meant women wouldn't have stories like the one my grandmother had told me of desperately seeking someone to help her end a pregnancy that she couldn't afford.

What we didn't know is that it would mean a personal and political fight that I would be involved in for the rest of my life.

Yesterday, I spoke at the National Advocates for Women conference in Atlanta, a glorious convening of more than 300 very diverse women -- doulas, midwives, gynecologists -- high school student to grandmother. There was not a uniform position on abortion, but I believe there was a commitment to seek common ground with each other. Here is some of what I said -

The Religious Institute is pro-family, pro-child, pro-women's moral agency, and pro-lives. As religious leaders, we affirm that every life is sacred and that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. It is precisely because life is so precious that we must work to assure that it is not created carelessly. It is why our efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies, through comprehensive sexuality education and family planning services, are so important. It’s why we must work together to assure that abortion is safe, legal, accessible and rare. It’s why we must assure that pregnant women have quality prenatal care, and the financial and emotional support to care for those babies after birth. It is why we must reach out to the most marginalized among us, and it is why we must treat everyone with dignity and respect. ..

I have also sat with hundreds, if not thousands of women, as they have struggled with unplanned pregnancies, first as a pregnancy counselor, then as a minister, some times as a friend, some times as a relative. I have tried to offer a listening heart to women whose unplanned pregnancies went on to become wanted children despite less than optimal life circumstances and to those who’s very planned and wanted pregnancies were ended due to a grave medical concern. I have been there for women who have chosen selective abortion after IVF has produced too many fetuses and for women coming to grips with the fact that they would never have their own biological children. Through them all, I have been awed by the glorious resiliency of women and the importance of affirming women’s moral agency to determine her own reproductive future to the extent that biology and indeed technology allow...

We will be posting the entire talk at our web site at the end of the week if you would like to read more.

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