Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Reverend's View on Abortion Rights

Written by Brenda Fletchall

As a reverend, I want nothing more than respect, equality, safety and spiritual integrity for women. However, the current climate has horrified and worried me. Here is a brief glimpse into my decision to support choice options that include abortion, as I believe that women have decision-making power and are fully competent.

In addition to my own personal experiences, when I observe the following (among other factors) I am troubled and horrified at the state of women's rights:

- Increased risk of domestic violence and murder for pregnant women.
- 12% of female high school students in Oklahoma have been forced to engage in intercourse or sexual activity.
- Male abusers often sabotage birth control with partner

In response to these and other needs surrounding the vulnerability of women in our culture, I work to increase the power of personal agency and decision-making power of women and to support non-stigmatized and un-harassed access to reproductive health, including the choice of legal abortions according to the decision women want to make as fully competent adults.

I suspect that when folks are unable or unwilling to grasp abortion as a medical procedure and respect women as fully competent adults, they'll continue to be locked in a battle that fears and denigrates the decision-making power of women over their bodies and their reproductive health.
The belief that a fetus is "ensouled" or is a “person” is a religious belief to which not everyone adheres (for a glimpse into “how communities and individuals throughout history were able to address the question of when human life begins,” see “When Does Human Life Begin?”). The religious belief that a fetus is a “person” is used in ways that tramples over the personal agency of women as competent adults who are fully able and empowered to make decisions about legal medical procedures such as abortion. Because I do not subscribe to the theoretical claims that a fetus is a full, complete human at some instantaneous point in the pregnancy (such as at conception/fertilization), there is no ethical dilemma for me to support a woman’s own choice to have an abortion.

I hold to the belief that the onset of human personhood is a non-discrete, ambiguous, and complex process about which there are (and always have been) a myriad of belief perspectives. For a resource into historic religious and philosophical thoughts, see “When Does Human Life Begin?” in Developmental Biology by Scott F. Gilbert and Susan R. Singer.

I also hold to the belief of the necessity for religious liberty (including freedom from religion) which precludes the imposition of one religious belief onto an entire population. I do not support impositions of forced sterilizations, mandated abortions, nor prevention or impediments to access to abortion options. Therefore, in the ambiguities of life’s process, I prioritize an advocacy for the personal agency of women as fully competent adults empowered to choose (or not) to pursue the option of abortion in response to their own pregnancy.

I support work that removes the stigma from both women's personal agency and their decision to choose abortion. And so I am glad to serve on the board with Faith Aloud. I realize that others hold to a different perspective than I do on this topic and I respect your need to be faithful to the values you hold dear. My words are not an attempt to impose my perspective on others, but an attempt to provide a glimpse into my need to be faithful to the values I hold dear as a Christian.

I support the decision-making power of women as fully competent adults, which includes their choice of abortion.

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