Guest Opinion: North Dare Ministerial Association Pastoral Statement – October 2022 – in response to Supreme Court decision (Dobbs/Mississippi vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization)
Published 2:40 pm Thursday, October 6, 2022
The Supreme Court decision ending the federal protections of Roe v Wade was announced earlier this summer. Religious groups, organizations, and institutions are processing the results of the decision, and religious pastors and ministers are dealing with the grief and anger that may be present for some time in our community.
The members of the North Dare Ministerial Association [NDMA] have discussed, grappled with, and prayed over the decision that took away rights that women have held for 50 years. The NDMA is an interfaith association, consisting of religious leaders of parishes and congregations, community ministers, and retired ministers. And, while acknowledging the varying positions that NDMA members and their religious institutions may hold on abortion, as an association we wish humbly and in faith to contribute our voice in pastoral support of all those who are affected by the Supreme Court decision. And we hope that our statement can act as a model for honest and respectful discussion among people of faith.
We wish to affirm the complexity of the issue and the truth of diversity of opinions, teachings, and beliefs needing to be acknowledged in the historical context of religion and reproductive rights, such as the fact that Baptists were pro-choice until the 1970s. People of the Jewish and Unitarian Universalist faiths and others express concern that bans on abortion violate their religious freedoms.
We know that outlawing abortion will not end abortion. Demographics across this country show that one in four women have had abortions, no matter what their religious affiliation. Women will continue to search for safe and accessible reproductive healthcare services. We deplore criminalizing women for attempting to exercise their right to reproductive choice, which is already making suspects of pregnant women who have natural miscarriages. We are concerned that the absence of exceptions for rape or incest in new abortion laws could result in forced birth for victims of violent crimes.
We realize that, even prior to the Supreme Court decision, many people of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities, people from rural areas, undocumented workers, and people with low incomes are most affected by the restrictions or bans on access to abortion care. There are also concerns about the social cost of uncherished children and the potential cost to our community. Opponents of abortion are urged to see a pro-life stance as a commitment to continued quality of life once children are born.
All these points go into our consideration of the compassionate and loving response we, as ministers and religious leaders, want to offer to all those affected by the Supreme Court’s decision. Our key pastoral concern is to let them know that we recognize the suffering in making their decisions about healthcare and that they are not alone.
Our commitment to the worth and dignity of every human being – and our respect for all human life – calls us to respect the autonomy of women and men in determining their own healthcare choices and decisions. In this country, individuals and communities should be able to claim the right to safety, health and sustainability. The well-being of women and pregnant people depends upon comprehensive health care, which includes reproductive care; and, before that, comprehensive sexuality education that endows young people with responsibility and respect for their bodies.
Beyond issues of reproductive health, let us respect the sacred right of discernment for every person in how they live responsible lives. And while we affirm the separation of church and state, we urge citizens of all faiths and none to think about how the Supreme Court decision impacts our lives and what religious communities can do to support persons and families who find themselves having to make difficult decisions about reproductive healthcare.
Members of religious communities can exercise the right to vote, electing those public servants who value health, freedom, and autonomy as central to our democracy.
The members of the North Dare Ministerial Association who sign this statement below do so to encourage faith communities of the Outer Banks to exercise compassion and love when encountering those who are most vulnerable, and to act as people of faith and integrity to protect and support the rights of women and men equally.
Wayne H. Barry
Lewis Spottswood Graves
David A. Morris
Gaye Williams Morris
Craig L. Peel
Frances C. Peel
Thomas E. Wilson