Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Religious AND Pro-Choice?

There are so many deeply rooted assumptions about people who are pro-choice, about women who have abortions, and about people who work in reproductive rights that it's truly astounding. I sometimes think we could have a whole blog just dedicated to all the myths and stigma surround abortion. One of my favorites is that you can't be spiritual - or religious - and be pro-choice (or have an abortion).

In fact, most of women who have abortions consider themselves Protestant. You might even be surprised to know that we truly owe many clergy during the 1960s and 1970s our gratitude for helping to pave the way for making abortion legal in the USA. Surprised? Believe it or not, there was a group called the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in New York in the 1960s. The founder was an American Baptist Minister. This set the groundwork for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

A brief list of well-known pro-choice religious organizations/groups include:
- The Episcopal Church (USA)
- The Presybterian Church (USA)
- Unitarian Universalists
- United Church of Christ
- United Methodist Church
- Union of American Hebrew Congregations
- National Council of Jewish Women
- More...

Are you surprised? You might be. I even know Abortioneers who sometimes are unsure of what their religion teaches about abortion and whether, according to their own church, if they are doing "something wrong" by working in Abortionland. Maybe you wonder sometimes, too. If so, hopefully some of the above resources will help put your mind to rest that many mainstream religious are actually pro-choice.

I was raised in a conservative Protestant church that's anti-choice. I struggled, trying to reconcile my personal beliefs with the beliefs I was taught by people I trusted. Eventually, I realized I was my own person, with my own set of beliefs and I simply didn't accept the things I was taught (it wasn't an easy process). I've made the choice not to be religious; but I've thoughtfully learned (throughout the years) about religious groups that more closely shared my pro-choice view: there are plenty out there and that certainly helped me at times when I considered switching churches.

In high school, while I was practicing my religion of origin, Bill Clinton was up for President. I remember confiding in my Catholic friends that I didn't accept Clinton because he was pro-choice (even though I wasn't old enough to vote). My closest friend at the time told me that our favorite teacher confided in her that his family prayed about which candidate to vote for, and prayed, specifically, about the abortion issue. Their answer: that they should support Clinton and support a woman's right to choose. I recoiled at such a notion and believed that no god would send such an answer in a prayer to anyone. I know that to this day, that teacher, whom I'm still in touch with, is very devoted to their religion. The religion just happens to be on the pro-choice list.

Certainly a lot of women I see ask, "I just hope god will forgive me." I always ask, "Well, what do you believe about god? Do you believe your god is a forgiving god?" I've never heard a woman say, "no" (and I want to say that I personally don't believe there's anything to be "forgiven" of!).

...So, I'm just wondering if any of you have had similar struggles and what you've done - or what you're doing - about it. Feel free to share!!


  1. I admit, it is far easier to be an atheist and be pro-choice. I don't have anybody telling me what I should believe and I don't have any threat of hell for picking wrong. I admire your ability to reconcile the two seemingly opposite beliefs.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. You have done a fantastic job of highlighting a point that I believe needs to be discussed more widely in our society. A woman's right to choose need not be in conflict with any religious or spiritual beliefs and I appreciate your informative and personal way of approaching the topic.

  3. I am completely a-religious now, but attended Catholic school for 11 long years (I was even casually anti-abortion for much of my youth, because that was just a given) and still know those teachings through and through! So I contemplate it fairly often -- "that's funny, the Church would have said ____ about this issue, but now I know that's totally irrelevant." And friends from those days are still thrown off by knowing what I do.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.