Culture, Global, Identity, Politics, Religion, Sex & Gender

Clergy for Right to Choose (and they've been there a while)

Refreshing news from a clergy breakfast and a great history lesson from Neela Banerjee in yesterday’s Times:

But at this breakfast, God was everywhere, easily invoked by believers of various stripes.
“We are here this morning because, through our collective efforts, we are agents in bringing our fragile world ever closer to the promise of redemption,” Rabbi Dennis S. Ross, director of Concerned Clergy for Choice, told the audience. “As clergy from an array of denominations, we say yes to the call before us. Please join me in prayer: We praise you, God, ruler of time and space, for challenging us to bring healing and comfort to your world.”
“Amen,” the audience responded.
The Interfaith Prayer Breakfast has been part of Planned Parenthood’s annual convention for four years. Most ministers and rabbis at the breakfast have known the group far longer.
Margaret Sanger, founder of the organization that became Planned Parenthood, drew clergy members in the early 20th century by relating the suffering of women who endured successive pregnancies that ravaged their health and sought illegal abortions in their desperation, said the Rev. Thomas R. Davis of the United Church of Christ, in his book “Sacred Work, Planned Parenthood and Its Clergy Alliances.”
In the 1930’s, Jewish and mainline Protestant groups began to voice their support for birth control. In 1962, a Maryland clergy coalition successfully pressed the state to permit the disbursal of contraception. In the late 1960’s, some 2,000 ministers and rabbis across the country banded together to give women information about abortion providers and to lobby for the repeal of anti-abortion laws.

The whole story here
It’s tough to see clergy on the wrong side of an issue, especially when it’s my belief in G-d that moves me to do my social justice work. And for the most part, when it comes to a woman’s right to take care of her own body and health, most people would associate religious leaders with supressing a woman’s right to govern her own body (and then discriminating against those who would adopt). Did you know how important religious leaders were in this struggle? Hell, I didn’t know about the pivotal involvement of the religious community during the nexis of the pro choice movement until a few moments ago. Another great reminder that the fascists on the Right do not own G-d or the moral high ground.
Especially great to find out about religious leaders fighting the fight on April 4th, the day Republicans try to tell you the country lost a nice guy, not a man who fought tirelessly against war, poverty, and racism. Remind Bush, Pataki, and Bloomberg when they invoke Dr. King’s name: he was murdered while in Memphis supporting a public sanitation workers strike.

9 thoughts on “Clergy for Right to Choose (and they've been there a while)

  1. A reminder to all of us that a woman’s right to choose is not a secular vs. religious issue. We’ve been through a weird period where we Americans have been listening only to religious voices that come from the most fundamentalist and hating of places. It’s time to recognize the full rainbow of spiritual thought again.

  2. It couldn’t be more obvious that the pro-choice side is so right that it doesn’t even require an argument. Clearly its opponents are nothing but fascists and suppressors of rights that are self-evident.
    But just in case, can anyone answer a nagging little question? Exactly how do we know that the fetus is not a human life? And if we don’t know this, how can we assume it’s simply part of a woman’s body, and that it can be killed (or mangled first, in some procedures) in all circumstances?

  3. J,
    As always, it’s a delicate balancing act, and I don’t think anybody claims that difficult decisions don’t have to be made. But I think the full life of the adult human being takes precedence over the primitive life of an early fetus, of a zygote, of a sperm cell or of an egg. In the same way, I think the full life of an adult (or child) human being who is suffering from disease takes precedence over clusters of stem cells idolized by “religious” fanatics.

  4. EV:
    You say “As always, it’s a delicate balancing act, and I don’t think anybody claims that difficult decisions don’t have to be made. ”
    I appreciate the first half of that sentence, but I don’t think you can read the original post and maintain the second half. But it’s good that YOU acknowledge the difficult decisions.
    “But I think the full life of the adult human being takes precedence over the primitive life of an early fetus, of a zygote, of a sperm cell or of an egg.”
    First, let’s eliminate the sperm cell and the egg. Hardly anyone would call them living beings in and of themselves, and in any case they could hardly be protected in the way a fetus or zygote can. (Further, the fertilization of the egg is the one point in the life creation process where we can make a clear distinction between life and non-life.)
    Next, you haven’t really made the case for choice. I’m pro-life, and I also give precedence to an adult over a fetus (the former, in my veiw, being a definite life, while the latter is a maybe- or probable- life, and a good reason to permit and even encourage an abortion where the mother’s life is in danger). The question is how strong this precedence should be. Where the lives of both fetus and mother are at stake, the needs of each are equal, and so putting the mother first is appropriate. But where less than the life of the mother is up against the fetus’ life, it’s more than just “precedence” to claim that we should allow an abortion. It’s a view that affords the fetus pretty much no status at all. And that brings us back to my question as to how we know the fetus deserves no consideration.
    I also find the notion of a fetus or zygote being described as a “primitive life” to be disturbing. If we’re going to start qualifying the level and status of human life, why stop at fetuses? I can think of some other categories of human life about which an argument can be made as to primitivity. (Come to think of it, the earlier “progressives” made just such arguments.) We give the same punishment for the murder of the severely retarded as for the murder of the intelligent. Is this wrong?
    As to the stem cells, there’s no “idolization” by “fanatics”. There’s a legitimate concern that allowing fetal stem cells to be experimented with devalues human life, reduces it from sacred to just useful matter, and could become a prelude to human harvesting practices. I think this is a much closer call than the case of abortion (because the stem cells come from already aborted fetuses, and because the upside might be the saving of many lives). I hope the issue becomes moot through new technology (other sources of stem cells- seems to be happening). But neither side can justifiably dismiss the other as “fanatic”.

  5. So much for the “progressive” Left. Lots of arrogance and trash-talk about pro-lifers, but only one pro-choicer actually willing to debate the issue. Keep up the empty sloganeering, lefties, and keep wondering why the rest of us won’t take you seriously.

  6. J,
    I can’t tell if you’re flattering or insulting me here. Anyway, I didn’t feel like getting into an argument that has been going on for decades, b/c obviously neither of us can convince the other. I do want to say, though, that in the pro-Choice battle, as with other areas of true liberal thought, what we’re talking about is nuance versus absolutes. Fanatics of all stripes believe in absolutes, they deny the nuances of actual life, and they believe that they know the absolutes (e.g.: believing that a military invasion of Iraq would lead, within days, to a Jeffersonian democracy. That’s an absolutist (and patently absurd) ideology. If you’re going to argue that the planners did not believe that the invasion would lead, within days, to a Jeffersonian democracy, then you’ll have to explain why it was done with too few troops to maintain an occupation and why we did not guard the banks and museums against looting in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. “Stuff happens” will not set you free.)
    Back to the point. Absolutists believe the fetus, and the stem cells, have souls that are sacred and inviolable. But real life, outside the absolutes, is simply too complicated and nuanced. Absolutists insist that people don’t have sex until marriage (hetero marriages, of course). Absolutists insisted on the creation of Bush’s reprehensible Global Gag Rule, for instance, which basically says if you’re going to have sex, we will make sure that you will put yourself and your partner at risk of AIDS. That is absolute extremism, and it’s dangerous whether it comes from the mouth of George W. Bush or from his fraternal, emotional, spiritual and financial cohorts in the House of Saud.
    Oh yeah, back to the point. It’s not that the fetus deserves no consideration. It’s that it’s up to the woman and man who created the fetus to decide whether the considerations of the fetus outweigh their own considerations. It’s up to them, that’s what Choice is about. That’s real life, where absolutes should be striven for but not mandated. Now please don’t reply with something like “Okay, well what if I think murder is okay, who are you to put your absolute prohibition of murder on me?” ‘Cuz then we’re talking past each other. As usual. Because even the supposition that murder and abortion are the same is an exercise in absolutes.
    Re. stem cells, there is only one word in my vocabulary to describe people who insist that discarded cells not be used to save lives and increase the dignity of human life: Fanatics. Okay, two words. “Monsters” works just as well.

  7. J,
    I’ve been sick and away from the computer, and now I find words like “arrogant” being tossed around. For the record, while I think what the “pro life” movement is wrong on this, especially on their inability to connect the dots, I certainly didn’t devote a whole lot of my post to “name calling”.
    I have a lot of issues with the “pro life” movement, with the hypocracy of seeing the same people saying they are pro life then make it harder for loving families. The same people saying they are “pro life” and yet cutting funding from programs that help provide food, health care, housing and education to the same children they claim to want to bring in the world (before they are born). If a person were truly pro life, why would they create societal conditions that are so harsh for the children they want to see born? It never ceases to amaze me that a large contingent of the pro life cares so much about the fetus and yet does not give a shit about the fetus or the mother once the baby is born. Unless, of course, they’re rich, white, and christian.
    Of COURSE difficult decisions have to be made. And I believe they should be made by the woman who’s own body and life is at stake (and her partner, whomever that may be). I know its a lot easier to be pro-life when its not your body or health that hangs in the balance.

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