Thursday, January 27, 2011

Matters of Life and Death

The Washington Post asked its On Faith panel this week to reflect on a Catholic hospital's decision to not offer sterilizations and the excommunication of a nun who had courageously helped a woman who was dying having an abortion that saved her life.

You can read my response and other panel member's reactions here:

Most of the comments that follow my blog are predictably anti-abortion and feel to me that they miss the point of my column. I support the rights of individual providers to not perform services that they find morally objectionable as long as they refer women to the safe and legal services they need. Supporting reproductive justice is not just about legal services, it's also about safe services as illustrated so dramatically about the news of an unregulated provider in Pennsylvania.

I'd love you to leave a comment at the Washington Post blog to support women's rights to legal, safe, and accessible reproductive health services, regardless of where they live.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Honoring Roe v. Wade, Abortion Providers, and Women's Lives

Saturday is the 38th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade Decision.

I had the good fortune to attend the Connecticut Coalition for Choice dinner last night, marking the Roe anniversary and honoring the doctors who perform safe and legal abortions to women in Connecticut.

The dinner included an award to Dr. Leroy Carhart, one of the nation's few doctors who perform abortions in later pregnancies. Dr. Carhart worked closely with Dr. George Tiller, the doctor who was murdered as he attended church in 2009, and told us that they had promised each other that if something happened, the other would continue the work. Dr. Carhart shared some of the heartbreaking stories of the women he serves. He told us that yes, he is cautious about his security, but he is not afraid, and that he believes in saving women's lives and futures, he is doing God's work.

I think so too.

The Reverend Maria LaSala, minister at the First Presbyterian Church in New Haven, offered the Benediction. I was deeply moved by her words, and asked her for permission to share them with you. She prayed,

"Let us remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that women of all ages, races, and economic realities, have the right to legal, safe, and affordable abortion.

Let us remain steadfast in our support of the doctors, nurses, and health center staff who, morning by morning and day by day, affirm women’s choices to terminate a pregnancy and provide the necessary medical procedures to keep women healthy and strong.

Let us remain steadfast in our commitment to honor the choices that women who face unwanted and unplanned pregnancies make, knowing that any decision concerning women’s reproductive health is never easy.

On this night, let us remember Dr. George Tiller, Dr. Bernard Slepian, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Dr. David Gunn, Dr. John Britton, James Barrett and John Sanderson, and all those who lost their lives or were injured due to abortion related violence. On this night we give thanks for Dr. Carhart, whose perseverance and commitment to proving abortions in the face of ongoing threats and dangers, is ever a blessing. We ask that God watch over all those who work in women’s health care centers, that no harm might come to them.

And now, may the love and compassion of the Holiest of Holies surround us. May the strength of all that is holy be with us."

On this 38th anniversary of Roe, may it indeed be so.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Moment of Silence for Arizona Victims -- Perhaps A Few Days

At 11:00 am today, I will heed President Obama's call, light a candle and invite the Religious Institute staff into a moment of silence and then an opportunity to talk about their feelings about the shootings this weekend in Arizona.

We are all collectively reeling from the horror of 20 people being shot on a Saturday morning at the grocery store. And our hearts go out to Congresswoman Gifford as she struggles for her life, the families of those who were killed and wounded, those who witnessed the event, and the family of the young man who for reasons yet unknown killed and maimed them.

Yes, reasons yet unknown. The airways, the blogosphere, and our inboxes are overflowing with people who are using this tragedy to further their own interests and points of view. I'm guessing you've received many of the emails from organizations expressing their sympathy AND going one step further to capitalize on the situation. I've received e-cards from civil rights, mental health, Jewish, Christian, and political organizations and a wealth of commentators on the left and the right with their particular points of view. The posts on my facebook page from gay organizations on the heroism of the intern - who happens t0 be gay -- made me shake my head. (Interestingly, the only organizations I have yet to receive something from are the handgun control groups, which to my mind are the organizations which have something to say now regardless of what we learn about the shootings.) Some of the organizations have included DONATE buttons on their e-cards.

The experts and and people getting their 15 minutes of fame are all out in force. In the first hour of the Today show, we met two men who helped sit on the gunman and a woman who took a class with him last spring. REALLY?

I understand that we are all seeking to make meaning out of this senseless tragedy and that it raises intense fears for the safety of our leaders -- and ourselves. We need to talk about it -- with our loved ones and in our religious communities and in our places of work.

But I can't help but wish that all the experts, the talking heads, the organizations would take not just a moment of silence, but the next few days to pray, to think, to understand and resist the urge to use this moment as an opportunity for promotion.