Of Abortion and Religious Freedom in America


As a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, I believe that reproductive freedom is an essential element of religious liberty, a founding principle of our nation. As an ordained minister of Christ's gospel, I am committed to both religion and liberty. As an American patriot, I am "Jeffersonian" in my commitment to keeping our American government true to the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. All of these combine in me to support women's reproductive freedom.

Because of the wide range of religious beliefs on this sensitive issue in American society, I am among the millions of people of faith in this nation who believe reproductive decisions must remain with the pregnant woman, to be made in keeping with her religious principles. For me, this is clearly "what Jesus would do," because, ultimately, she alone is to be held responsible by God our Creator – not the rest of us.

But, most of all, she has an inalienable human right – bestowed by God – to self-determine her reproduction. The Bible tells me so.

This is why I do not refer to "choice." Instead, we are discussing an issue of an essential freedom – to have control over one's own body and whether or not to give birth. This freedom is as intrinsic, as inalienable to a woman as her free will bestowed by our Creator God. No earthly authority can ever justifiably deny her this freedom without violating God's Will – just as much as if we enslaved or imprisoned her.

The "right-to-life" folks (impassioned, sincere, and devoted people) have a deeply held belief that a fertilized egg is a person – plainly and simply, because that zygote is a living organism with human DNA and it is God's Will that she or he be born; as nothing happens that is not God's Will.

We must acknowledge that some Christians believe that life begins at fertilization and therefore believe abortion is always killing a human person, and therefore always a moral wrong.

However, I believe that they are tragically misguided and dangerously wrong.

As a Christian minister, I believe that no one has a God-given right to be born. Life is a gift – not an entitlement. This is the truth revealed in the Bible.

Most fertilized human zygotes each year are naturally aborted in what would be termed miscarriages. If you believe that everything that happens is "the Will of God," then you have every reason to conclude that God is okay with this. It is better for some fetuses, if they are not born. Again, the Bible makes this abundantly clear. There are fates worse than not being born. If this were not so, then Jesus would not have said of Judas Iscariot: "It would be better for that one if he had never been born."

My ultimate point is this:

Thanks to religious freedom in America, religious believers are allowed to believe differently – for themselves. We each are entitled to our own religious belief – only for ourselves.

This is an issue of religious belief, and the U.S. Constitution has guaranteed legitimate pluralism in matters of religious belief ever since Thomas Jefferson. Religious liberty – the underlying bedrock of our free society – provides a basis for people with competing beliefs to live together in one society, assured that government will not choose sides on issues of religious belief and its freedoms.

All of us, regardless of our particular religion, have an interest in protecting the integrity of the First Amendment – the guarantee of religious freedom. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

We can never let our religious freedom be undermined.

Visit RH Reality Check throughout December to read about the ways in which individuals, both clergy and lay people, connect their religion or spirituality to their commitment to reproductive rights. The other pieces in this series can be found here.

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  • invalid-0

    1. This poor chap needs to remind us he’s a Christian minister over and over. Perhaps because what he says doesn’t jive with Scripture?
    2. He references the God, the bible and religion:
    “she has an inalienable human right – bestowed by God – to self-determine her reproduction. The Bible tells me so.” And that would be where is reproduction identified an as “inalienable right.”

    “God is okay with this. It is better for some fetuses, if they are not born. Again, the Bible makes this abundantly clear” – and the texts for that are?

    “We each are entitled to our own religious belief – only for ourselves.” what about “I am the way the truth and the light”? Seems to me it’s beyond my own beliefs (and interpretation)

    Sad in Advent

  • invalid-0

    I have problems with this, too.

    He is right that freedom is an essential right and that this freedom to choose is intrinsic and inalienable to women. He is also right that this is partly an issue of religious freedom (it’s an issue of a lot of different things) and that everyone has a right to have their own beleifs, but not to force them on others.

    However, his statement that human rights, including the rights bestowed in the U.S. constitution, are God-given is incorrect. Human rights come from secular ideas, such as the idea of a social contract. They come from a mutual agreement that we all treat each other with respect. The United States is not a theocracy. He may see human rights as God-given, but they are technically not.

    Also, as a previous poster has said, it’s a little unnerving that he keeps reminding us of his authority and that all he has to back up his beliefs is scripture. That’s exactly what a lot of pro-life ministers do! After all, the bible can be twisted by either side to justify or condemn almost anything.

    I think it’s important to include religious voices in this discussion and debate, but this one is… a little disappointing, in my opinion.

  • invalid-0

    “she has an inalienable human right – bestowed by God – to self-determine her reproduction. The Bible tells me so.”

    I may not be religious, but it’s always nice when I find the occasional person gleaning wise lessons from the Bible, rather than citing it for oppressive purposes.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for the reminder that people of faith are on the pro-choice side too. This fact is often ignored, further skewing the perception that religion is opposed to reproductive freedom. Instead, many mainline Christian denominations and other faiths do uphold the dignity of women to decide in this matter.

  • invalid-0

    I’ve always felt that the attempt to outlaw abortion was, first and foremost, unconstitutional because it seeks to establish a peculiar religious view of when life or person-hood begins, or when the fetus is ‘ensouled’. Different religions espouse different views on this, and therefore any effort to enshrine one view into law is by definition, an establishment of religion and unconstitutional.

  • invalid-0

    When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”
    – Luke 1:41-44

  • invalid-0

    He says the Bible proves a woman’s right to have control over her own body, yet quotes no scripture. As a committed Christian myself, I can tell you that killing a pre-born baby is NOT what God supports. In fact, he says in I Corinthians, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” I don’t know what “god” this man speaks of but the Jehovah God of the Bible does NOT support “a woman’s right to choose” death for her innocent baby.
    Furthermore, inalienable rights are outlined in the Declaration of Independence, which is not our governing document, and one written by men, and not inspired of God. God gives no inalienable rights – men invented that. In addition, if one is to use the “inalienable rights” argument, I would like to point out that the first of these rights is LIFE.
    How could the author of life support the reckless ending of it? This is appalling. In the book of Proverbs God writes, “Children are an heritage of the LORD, and the gruit of the womb is his reward.” Then later Jesus himself said, “Suffer ye the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.” (emphasis mine) The LITTLE children, he says. Explain to me how the same God supports killing little children.

    Abortion is murder. See the pictures of ten week old babies in the womb and try to explain how that’s not a person. I will never compromise, back down, or give in until every child is safe in its mother’s womb in America. I will fight the good fight, and in the meantime, stop telling people you’re a Christian. Christian means “Christ-like” and supporting the mass murder of innocents makes you the farthest thing from that. This holocaust must stop.

  • invalid-0

    The first one is taking the bible literally. I don’t use it to justify reproductive freedom and it is equally unwise to try to use it to justify reproductive oppression.
    The second mistake is simply dismissing the Constitution because its not “inspired by God”. That is a fact in FAVOR of the the Constitution. America is a nation of (mostly) Christians, but it is NOT a “Christian nation”. The “creator” spoken of in the Constitution isn’t necessarily the God of the bible. And the second inalienable right mentioned is LIBERTY. Plus, a right to decide when to become a mom can be covered by the unenumerated rights clause.
    Mistake three is calling abortion “murder” without any evidence to back it up. Although human, a fetus is not a person and it doesn’t have any right to be born. Codifying such a right would trample on the rights of women to privacy, and to decide their own reproductive destinies.
    Mistake four: Abortion isn’t a holocaust. Trying to compare it with the Holocaust which took the lives of millions of sentient humans in Europe is an insult to their memory.
    Finally, I’m not going to compromise or back down either. I will fight to make sure every woman and girl in Amerca is safe to make the decision that is right for them without outside interference.

  • invalid-0

    Ruthless, you never responded to my last posting, so I’ll post it here instead:

    You say that abortion (the taking of an innocent life) is a responsible choice. Is partial-birth abortion also a responsible choice? What about infanticide? I mean, if a person really feels that the child growing inside of them is unwanted (but only by them, not by prospective adoptive couples), what about giving birth to the child and then letting it starve to death (as opposed to dismembering it inside the womb – go to http://www.silentscream.org to see an example of this being done to a 12-week old “fetus” who you deem to be a “non-sentient” human being).

    Your use of euphemisms is also very effective. You call a baby a “fetus” and the killing of a baby a “reproductive right.” By dehumanizing human beings, it makes it that much easier to kill them. This technique has been used for years by people calling those they don’t like or respect derogatory names. During wars, American soldiers, for example, have found it easier to kill their enemies in combat by calling them gooks or chinks or commies or Japs, just to name a few. The accidental killing of innocent civilians has been labeled “collateral damage.” It’s a coping method for avoiding reality.

    And to say that I’m pointing fingers at women who face unwanted pregnancies and judging them as less worthy than the fetuses they are carrying, it’s like you’re saying that I’m pointing fingers at women who face unwanted cancers and judging them as less worthy than the tumors they are carrying. You really don’t get the fact that a “fetus” is a human being worthy of the same respect and dignity that you would give an infant, toddler, child, teenager, adult or elderly person. And yet, the elderly and handicapped are fast becoming the “unwanted” because of the burden they pose to society.

    I hope that by expounding on my position further I helped you to see why abortion isn’t a responsible choice. If you still aren’t convinced, then I would like you to expound on your position as to why you think abortion IS a responsible choice.

  • invalid-0

    Sorry? What last posting? You may have noticed “anonymous” is rather a large clan here. I don’t which was your last post.But, between your attempts to conflate unrelated subjects, put words into my mouth, and the general warmed over rhetoric, it’s hard to decide where to start. Perhaps you need to start with a dictionary. There, you will find “fetus”, “non sentient”, and “reproductive rights” are real words, not euphemisms.

  • invalid-0

    My last posting was on Dec. 14th in response to your Dec. 13th posting here: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2007/11/19/over-her-dead-body#comment-1634

    Also, let me define “euphemism” for you from the dictionary: it is the substitution of an agreeable or less offensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the listener.

    I never said that “fetus”, “non sentient”, and “reproductive rights” weren’t real words, just that “killing a baby” sounds more offensive than “aborting a fetus,” and that is why pro-choicers like to use the nicer-sounding expression. It’s more palatable that way.

    I also asked that you view http://www.silentscream.org and then tell me whether or not you think the 12-week old fetus being aborted really doesn’t “feel” any pain (and is therefore non-sentient).

    “Warmed over rhetoric?” Good use of name-calling, but poor use of an argument. Tell me, in your mind, when is it NOT okay to “abort a fetus?” I mean, I assume you’re fine with partial-birth abortion, where the body of the baby is delivered before the head, and then the base of the head is stabbed with scissors and then widened so the brains can be sucked out of the skull. With the body being delivered first, it’s not considered murder.

    I look forward to your responses! Hopefully, I’ve made it easier for you to decide where to start this time.

  • invalid-0

    not attempts to escape reality. Abortion isn’t “taking an innocent life” or “killing a baby”. It is what it is: the removal of an embryo or fetus from a uterus. (Source: http://www.dictionary.com)

    Why would I go to a slanted pro life site for information? They are not credible sources. I checked with Guttmacher, a far more credible source of medical information and found this quote about fetal pain

    A recent review of the literature published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the necessary physical structures to perceive pain develop between 23 and 30 weeks’ gestation. However, the review also concluded that the limited data available suggest that a fetus is unlikely to have the ability to transmit and interpret sensory information until at least 29 weeks’ gestation.

    URL:http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/10/4/gpr100406.html

    You don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word “sentient” either. http://www.dictionary.com defines it “as having the power of perception of the senses”. The fetus is not conscious of things around it, that is why I say it is “non sentient”, it’s not an attempt to “dehumanize” the fetus – I know that – it is medical FACT.

    Finally,”warmed over rhetoric” is a very good argument. If a OB/GYN [as opposed to a legislator, or a pro life activist]has determined the fetus has a condition with is “not comptabile with life” or going to term would cause irreperable harm [or death] to the woman, then I am fine with what you like to call “partial birth” abortion.
    But infanticide? The killing of an already born baby can’t be compared with abortion.

  • invalid-0

    I am grateful to Rev. Luallen for speaking up for the rights of women. Throughout history, women have frequently not been allowed to make decisions about their lives and bodies, sometimes because of teachings of certain religious groups. Despite enormous gains in recent decades in the U.S., it appears that women’s rights are once again in jeopardy. The other day I overheard a woman who was seeking financial assistance at the social service agency where I work say, “After my 4th child, I decided to get my tubes tied, but my doctor refused to do it because he didn’t “believe” in it. So I found another doctor, but HE insisted that I bring in written permission from my husband!” We need more people of faith like Rev. Luallen to proclaim the message that the lives of women are sacred and that they should be respected and allowed to make their own decisions. Pres Indiana RCRC, http://www.ircrc.org

  • invalid-0

    “ruthless,” you obviously have no concept of human development, or you would realize that the “fetus” is indeed a person, with fully developed emotions, in fact. And what exactly is the difference between being human and being a person? You sound like the slave owners of the 19th century South. Furthermore, you say, “Abortion isn’t a holocaust. Trying to compare it with the Holocaust which took the lives of millions of sentient humans in Europe is an insult to their memory.” I’d wager you can’t name the appalling number of Americans lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade. It’s more than all American lives lost in all our wars COMBINED. Over seven times as many children have been slaughtered in abortion mills as Jews were killed in the Holocaust. You say this isn’t just as bad? And don’t preach to me about insulting the memory of the Holocaust victims – I’m a descendant of them.

    Just food for thought…why is it that the only ones that are pro-choice are the ones who weren’t aborted?

  • harry834

    you're also considering the thousands of women who died in illegal, unsafe abortion before Roe because the government denied them access to safe, legal abortion which is 10 times safer than childbirth itself.

    And whether or not that was the intention of the government, and the people who supported it, they are still responsible for the effect of those women dieing from the laws that they created.

  • harry834

    And we'll say it again:

    contraception,

    condoms,

    the education that teaches contraception,

    the education that teaches what is and isn't coercive sex,

    emergency contraception

    investment in creating new birth control methods that are reversible, like the hoped-for male pill (if its possible)

    public funding for this education, and refusal of public funding for the ignorance-based "education" known as abstinence-only education.

    And finally, the destigmatization and end to lies about all the above.

    One such lie is that abstinence educationalists claim they do teach about contraception. Really? Oh yes — only about exaggerated failure rates.

    That's the prescription for reducing abortions. Anything else requires controling women's bodies, either through intent or unintentional effect, which are equally damaging to women's lives as human beings.

  • harry834

    If a woman can't decide the fate of her body, she is less than equal to a man.

    Thousands of cheers to feminism, and to every male feminist out there.

    Calling your name, Scott Swenson!!

    Brothers unite,

    Peace.

  • invalid-0

    Ugh, this isn’t all about whether or not a fetus has a meaningful life.

    Let’s run through a scenario.

    John is seven. He has an unfortunate genetic condition that is destroying his kidneys. For now, he’s on dialysis, but, as it stands, he will die unless a suitable donor is soon found.

    Looking through his community, the only possible match that is found is John’s father, Jeff. While the community supports Jeff if he choses to give his son the kidney, they also realize Jeff’s body is his own, and he can not be forced to give the child his kidney, taking on the health risks and complications involved.

    Now, in this same community, a woman, Felice, finds herself facing an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. This invasion of her body threatens her education, her livelihood, and, unfortunately, like Jeff’s potential kidney donation, CAN take her life, should things go badly.

    Why should Felice’s rights to bodily intregrity be less than Jeff’s? Why should the fetus in Felice’s abdomen have rights outweighing those of a living, breathing, pain feeling and dreadfully scared seven year old like John?

    If you can’t answer this, you really have no excuse for being “pro-life.”

  • invalid-0

    So many logical fallacies in your post I can’t begin to count them, Leah. I am amazed you can jump from my support for reproductive rights to “no concept of human development.” You can compare abortion with the truely abhorrent practices of slavery, and the Holocaust all you want, but you can’t make it stick. No, no matter how much you wager, you would lose.

    BTW:Was that a trick question on the end there?