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.