Proposed Synod resolution aims to affirm, protect abortion as healthcare
The 2023 General Synod of the United Church of Christ will consider 17 resolutions and several bylaw changes when it meets June 30-July 4 in Indianapolis. This is one in a series of articles about them. Full texts of each of the proposed resolutions are available at the General Synod website.
In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the 50-year precedent of Roe v. Wade that established the right to abortion. A wave of abortions bans followed, with most abortions now banned in 14 states and additional restrictive bills still in process.
A resolution proposed to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ is calling the church to take a stand by affirming abortion as healthcare. It urges settings across the UCC to use nonviolent resistance against these bans, protect legal abortions where they exist and accompany people seeking abortion care.
The stories of those impacted by abortion restrictions are widespread. The proposed resolution highlights some of these, such as the Florida teenager blocked by a court from terminating her pregnancy, even with parental consent, because they deemed her not “sufficiently mature.” There is also the story of a Texas mother who was already struggling to afford raising one child and found out she was pregnant with another just as a Texas law restricting abortions went into effect.
Studies have shown that the long-term adverse effects of unwanted pregnancy on people’s lives include experiencing a greater likelihood for living below the poverty line, unemployment, food insecurity and a higher risk of partner abuse.
Religious voices for reproductive rights
The proposed resolution comes from a group of delegates who wanted to ensure discussion and action on this topic at Synod. They wanted to emphasize the importance of progressive religious voices speaking out in favor of reproductive rights in the wake of this legislation.
“Many people outside the church view Christianity as a monolith on the side of the Christian Right and Christian Nationalism, thinking that we are all anti-choice — I do not call them ‘pro-life’ because they tend also to be pro-gun, which is such a contradiction to being pro-life,” said the Rev. Jess Chancey, staff chaplain at Regions Hospital and a member of Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis. “If we want to claim the voice of justice for all people, we need to distance ourselves from the anti-choice part of the church, proclaiming loudly that we will protect those who need access to full healthcare even when such access is no longer legal.”
“While so many think all religious people are against abortion, that’s just not true,” said the Rev. Daniel Kanter of First Unitarian Church of Dallas. “We are there to support those who have abortion, we believe God loves us all and we shouldn’t be silenced or shamed for the decisions we make about our bodies.”
The proposed resolution emphasizes this issue as one of justice that has greater impact on people of lower socioeconomic status and people of color. “Justice-oriented theology calls for us to place the human narrative of those who suffer oppression as central to our theological claims,” it states.
Expanding Synod commitments
Previous General Synods have passed resolutions affirming universal healthcare, affirming a women’s right to reproductive health choice and reaffirming a commitment to “full legal protection of the civil rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”
This proposed resolution aims to highlight and expand on these commitments. In addition to affirming the right of all people to access full reproductive healthcare and the belovedness of every person seeking an abortion, the proposed resolution calls for actions that include:
- Affirming the resistance of any laws banning abortions through peaceful means, including civil disobedience;
- Calling the UCC National Setting and Conferences to “pursue all avenues for legal challenges to abortion bans;”
- Calling the UCC Board to explore creating a bail fund for UCC members arrested for “civil disobedience or other acts of Christian witness;”
- Calling the Pension Boards to cover travel and expenses for abortions and reproductive healthcare related to UCC medical benefits for recipients living in states with abortion bans;
- Calling local churches to engage with the Our Whole Lives: Sexuality and Our Faith curriculum to promote holistic sexuality education.
The Rev. Noah Brewer-Wallin, who serves on the UCC Board and is assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Southern New England Conference, hopes such measures will amplify the voice of the progressive church and “that we as individuals and as congregations will feel the protection of having the UCC at our backs when we act to protect the rights of those in need of access to healthcare.”
The full text of this resolutions is available here.
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