About the Authors

Dirks and Relf indoors

D. A. Dirks is originally from Candiac, Quebec and grew up in Calgary, Alberta and is the child of immigrants from Germany. D.A. has a B.A. in Art History and an M.A. in History from the University of Calgary; and from Western Michigan University, Ph.D. (ABD) in History, an M.A. in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership (Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership).

D.A. works as contract faculty in the departments of Humanities and General Education at Mount Royal University. They also taught Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University of Calgary. They primarily teach courses that examine diverse genders, sexualities, and identities. D.A. was previously a senior academic planner at the University of Wisconsin System Administration; the coordinator of student organizations for social justice & LGBT Resource Center at Northwestern University; and the coordinator of LBGT Student Services at Western Michigan University.

D.A. served as education chair and co-chair for the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. D.A. was the chair of the Diversity and Equity Committee and the contract faculty representative on the Mount Royal Faculty Association executive board.

D.A. has facilitated workshops on 2STQLBG+ human rights, anti-racism, social justice, and leadership at universities, high schools, and non-profit organizations.

D.A. was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease in 2017 and is navigating the challenges of living with a chronic illness. When not working for liberation, D.A. runs with friends and rescues cats, but not simultaneously.  @Doris_Dirks

Patricia A. Relf is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area. She has written children’s and educational books and software, taught Latin, and worked in publishing. Has lived in England, Canada, New York City, Buffalo, west Michigan, and Cleveland, among other exotic locales. Knits and does the things a grandmother known as “Socky” should do.  Mastodon: @relf  Twitter (for now): @relf

Why we wrote this book

We didn’t plan to write this story. It came to us.

Back in 2002, in a program for a Roe v. Wade observance, Pat read about Rev. Robert Hare, a Presbyterian minister in Cleveland who, in 1969, was charged with a crime for referring a young woman to a doctor in Massachusetts for an abortion. And he wasn’t the only one doing that—Hare was part of a nationwide network of ministers and rabbis referring women to competent doctors for abortions. Though Pat was a board member of the local Planned Parenthood affiliate and old enough to remember the pre-Roe era, she had never heard of the Clergy Consultation Service (CCS).

It was D.A. who, hearing the story, said, “Has anyone written about this?” And that set us on a labor of love that wound up taking 15 years to result in To Offer Compassion: A History of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion.

Why us? Not because of special expertise in the field. D.A. had at least taught women’s studies courses and was then working on a Ph.D. in medieval history. Pat’s work as a freelance writer had been confined mostly to books and software for young children. But we knew that someone should record the story for the historical record and that there was some urgency, since many of the original CCS members must be getting on in years. The story would be a welcome antidote to the impression, then and now, that people of faith necessarily condemn abortion.

Our goal was modest. We set out to record interviews with as many CCS participants as we could find. We didn’t think we’d find many. But at least those interview tapes would exist for posterity, and perhaps from those we could fashion an oral history of the group. We eventually found the names of more than 1,500 CCS members (and continue to learn of more), and did some 70 interviews. We assumed that for legal reasons no one would have kept any papers relating to the group. In fact we found several archives—boxes and boxes of papers retained by the New York and Chicago groups, as well as some smaller private archives that interviewees kindly shared.

That’s how this book crept up on us—and took us 15 years to complete. We are glad to be able to share the story of the CCS at this volatile political time, with abortion access under full assault. It’s a reminder of the appalling situation in which women found themselves when abortion was illegal. It’s evidence of a long history of religious people supporting reproductive rights. And it’s an inspiring story of how the clergy’s direct action not only helped thousands of women but also helped to change laws.