Links, Politics

Thoughts on single-issue voting

Yes, it’s election season in the U.S. And, as they have since the 1980s, anti-abortion activists are busy trying to convince many religious Americans that only one issue should determine their vote: ending access to abortion.

Like the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion before it, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice supports reproductive freedom and has long fought the notion that all people of faith condemn abortion. In fact, most people of faith do not.

And the horrors of the past four years–mistreatment of immigrants and separation of small children from their families, police killings of black people, administration support for white supremacists, withholding of universal health care during a pandemic–have brought out dramatic reminders to “moral-grounds” voters that there are many other issues to consider in an election.

David E. DeCosse, director of religious and Catholic ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, reminds Catholics that “No Catholic is bound to vote on the basis of abortion alone.” In “Catholics, Voting, and Abortion: Time to Correct the Record,” in the National Catholic Reporter, he writes, “. . . Catholics should take abortion seriously but also consider the full range of serious issues at stake. (In other words, for the sake of the common good, it’s generally better not to vote on the basis of a single issue.) In this election, these issues certainly include the character of the candidates, the management of the pandemic, racism, the economy, climate change, immigration, domestic and international peace and more.”

Rev. Carl Kline reflects on his experience as a member of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in an article for the Brookings (South Dakota) Register, “Christians Should Not Focus on a Single Moral Issue.” He wonders why so many Christians focus on abortion–about which Jesus said nothing–and overlook his actual teachings. “It pains me to think Christians can be so focused on a single moral issue that they ignore all the others. Take the issue of killing. Does the command of Jesus include not killing killers, as our president has resumed the death penalty in federal cases in this country; six dead so far? What does Jesus say about 35 bullets sprayed around and into Breonna Taylor; or a knee on a neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until all breath is gone? Or what about southern neighbors, dying in detention centers or sent back to sure death in their own country? Are these the ones Jesus would have us love, as ourself?”

If the Republican senate rushes to approve an anti-choice appointment to the Supreme Court, will anti-abortion voters feel satisfied and turn their election attention to other issues–issues that their religious teachings actually call them to consider? We’ll see.

abortion law, Links

Abortion Law in the Time of Pandemic

Since early spring, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a horrific toll on Americans in ways direct and indirect. Across the country, lawmakers almost immediately seized on the pandemic as an excuse to label abortion a “non-essential” service and attempted either to close down providers or to place further limits on abortion services.

Well, it’s August, and some of the resulting lawsuits have now had a chance to play out. B. Jessie Hill, Judge Ben C. Green Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, has been at the center of the legal battle, arguing successfully to keep the Preterm clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, open. Hill offers a summary of the pandemic-era cases in the Virginia Law Review, in “Essentially Elective: The Law and Ideology of Restricting Abortion During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” She concludes that “for long-term protection of abortion rights, abortion must be reframed as a medically necessary and appropriate treatment, and it must be rhetorically re-incorporated into health care more generally.” The article is well worth a read.

Links

How does abortion affect women? Now there’s data.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that some state lawmakers have exploited, trying to label abortion providers “non-essential services.” Wherever they have succeeded–as in Texas–women have had to travel long distances to be treated, during a time when they were supposed to be quarantining at home. It’s one more example of lawmakers oppressing and hurting people in the name of “protecting” them.

Opponents of abortion, reluctant anymore to call abortion “murder,” long ago turned to  claiming that abortion has terrible effects on the recipient. Claims that abortion causes physical ill effects (e.g., breast cancer, infertility), mental health problems (depression, anxiety), or lifelong moral regret continue to be used in legislatures and courtrooms as a reason to ban or restrict abortion. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruling in Gonzales vs. Carhart (2007) said, “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.”

Diana Greene Foster, the principal investigator and author of The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, A Thousand Women, And the Consequences of Having – Or Being Denied – An Abortion, now provides the reliable data that was lacking in 2007. Foster studied people who had obtained abortions close to the gestational limit imposed in their locality, and people who had been refused abortions for having just exceeded that limit. Investigators  interviewed subjects one week later, then every six months for five years. As Foster told Terry Gross in a Fresh Air interview, “We were interested in their mental health, their physical health, their family’s economic well-being, how they were caring for the children they already have and whether they were having more children over the course of the five years.”

In the first six months, people who had been turned away did worse than those who had had abortions–they had greater anxiety, lower self-esteem, and less life satisfaction. Over the longer term, those who had had abortions were better off financially, were less likely to suffer domestic abuse, formed better maternal bonds with subsequent children, and were rarely regretful. Foster told Gross, “We find that 95% of women who receive an abortion later report that it was the right decision for them. So I think it’s a surprising fact people assume that women feel regret. And I think it’s not that they don’t realize that there are moral questions involved, but they’re weighing their whole life responsibilities and plans and decide this is the right decision for them. . . . I think the most important idea that I would like to convey is to correct the idea that abortion is always a hard decision and that women need more time to think about it and that they can’t be trusted to make a decision that’s best for themselves.”

In the interview, Foster goes on to speak movingly about her two grandmothers, both of whom had abortions at a time when it was illegal. We recommend a listen.

Abortion Access Today, Links

Remembering what we’re going back to: Testimony from a CCS client

The escalating state-by-state attacks on reproductive rights these past few days, weeks, and months have us in a momentary state of shocked paralysis. It was one thing to write last year about where things were headed in theory; the reality, now that it is arriving on a daily basis, is still a horrific surprise. While we gather our wits and energy, we are so grateful to all the activists and organizations who have not paused for a second and are already deep in the fray, bringing lawsuits, protesting, forming help networks, donating to abortion access funds, and, yes, writing. We were especially touched to read the personal story of Carla Nordstrom in Huffpost Personal today. Ms. Nordstrom was a client of the Clergy Consultation Service who obtained an abortion in Pittsburgh–though this doctor certainly would have been removed from their referral list if anyone reported his dirty instruments. Thank you to the author and to all who are finding the strength to share their abortion stories, whether at length or in a #YouKnowMe tweet. For resources and ways to help, we recommend Robin Marty’s very practical Handbook for a Post-Roe America (Seven Stories Press, 2019), and we will be back in the fight by Monday morning, we promise.

Abortion Access Today, Links

Opinion: Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill a Throwback to the Bad Old Days

Ohio’s legislature has passed a bill to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Well, that’s at about 6 weeks, before many women even know that they are pregnant, so the effect is that abortion will be banned in Ohio. As we all know, that doesn’t mean that people won’t seek and find abortions however they can . . . it just makes those abortions much more dangerous.

New governor Mike DeWine has already vowed to sign the legislation.

Our opinion piece on the subject, with a short but instructive history of the Clergy Consultation Service’s experience, appears in the Cincinnati Enquirer today.

Links

Rev. Donna Schaper on the CCS and Jane

Rev. Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York, is featured in a new, short video interview by Tracy Thompson for Jezebel. Rev. Schaper talks about the formation of the Clergy Consultation Service and her own work with the group, and about the Chicago women’s abortion group Jane. She also speaks of the current situation regarding abortion in the U.S.–and what may need to happen if the law changes. (Oh, and the video includes a couple of wonderful archival photos of Howard Moody and Arlene Carmen.)

Links

Preparing for life after Roe

This collection of three short essays is sobering but essential reading: How to Prepare for a Post-Roe America from In These Times. Journalist and author Robin Marty, lawyer Farah Diaz-Tello, and activist, author, and scholar Loretta J. Ross offer warnings and recommendations for dealing with a United States where abortion is again illegal–or at least inaccessible for most of the country. It’s not a happy picture, but there are things we can do.

Abortion Access Today, Links

Clergy uphold full “religious freedom” at Bethesda abortion clinic

“Religious Freedom” is a catchphrase beloved by social conservatives, usually as a way to claim a right to refuse to care for or serve gay or trans people, or to refuse to provide legal medical services such as abortion. But real religious freedom must include the rights of people of any or no religion both to provide any legal service and to receive services and care to which they are entitled.

A reminder of this: The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports that area clergy recently gathered outside a Bethesda, Maryland, abortion clinic–one of the few remaining places where women can obtain a late-term abortion–to pray in support of the clinic’s patients and care providers. Rev. Carlton Veazey, a Baptist minister and past president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, said, “The Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to choose an abortion. But before the Supreme Court did it, God had already done it, because it affirms a woman’s moral agency.”

The positive support of these ministers and rabbis is uplifting. But Zauzmer’s article ends with a dark reminder of the violence that abortion providers, supporters, and patients face from terrorists claiming to be “pro-life”: Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the physician who runs the Bethesda clinic, is a person of faith who has been forced to stop attending regular church services. Zausmer writes, “Carhart said he believes in God ‘very strongly,’ but he stopped going to his Methodist church when his pastor told him he was risking his safety by predictably appearing in the pews every week. . . . But even without church, he feels he is living out his faith by helping women through what is often the worst time of their lives — the illness or other devastating circumstance that leads them to his office. ‘I think in itself, that’s religious,’ he said. Most days, though, he doesn’t have a clinic full of clergy in their vestments to back up his viewpoint.” #ReligiousFreedom?

Links

Another 50th anniversary: Shirley Chisholm’s run for congress

Vanessa Williams, in the Washington Post, reminds us that it was fifty years ago this year that, without the help of the New York Democratic Party’s political machine, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. “Unbought and Unbossed” was her campaign slogan, and it’s also the title of her memoir, which we can’t recommend highly enough. It’s a book that, unfortunately, could have been written yesterday.

Abortion rights were important to Rep. Chisholm. She became honorary president of NARAL and often spoke publicly about abortion. As a result, women from around the country called her congressional office seeking help. Rep. Chisholm provided staffers with a directory for the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion so that they could refer each caller to a CCS chapter in their area.

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first black candidate to seek the nomination of a major political party for president, and she was the first woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination. If only . . .

Links

Coming attractions: A film about ‘Jane’

The television series “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been a hit for Hulu, and won Elisabeth Moss an Emmy award. (Full disclosure: Margaret Atwood’s compelling and frightening book did not make either of us want to relive the experience as a drama . . . but we hear that it’s great.) Now Moss has signed on to a film project about the 1960s women’s abortion collective Jane–a group that began by referring Chicago women to a safe abortion practitioner. When the women discovered that the provider was not actually a physician, they realized that they themselves could learn to perform abortions–and they did. Jane and the Chicago Clergy Consultation Service had a respectful relationship: the clergy had national contacts as well as social and legal standing as clergy; Jane could offer low-cost local abortions, while the CCS generally referred out of state. For the full story, we highly recommend Laura Kaplan’s book The Story of Jane.