Faith Leaders Open Letter to the 57th Legislature of the 2019 Session
Dear Oklahoma Lawmakers,
We are leaders in our places of worship and we support abortion rights because of our faith, not in spite of it. As people of faith, we are guided by our values and commitment to live God’s word. We have come together to implore you to trust and respect Oklahomans faced with personal, life-altering decisions.
The Oklahoma Legislature has fast tracked several anti-choice measures, so now is a good time to remind ourselves that abortion, like becoming a parent, is a personal choice that many of our friends, family, and neighbors face as part of life. As a lawmaker you may hold the power to speak for Oklahomans, but please remember that you cannot possibly know what God has spoken to the hearts of people who seek abortion care.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. One out of four women will have an abortion before reaching age 45 and two-thirds of those who seek abortion care already have at least one child. More than half identify as religious. Contrary to the stereotypes propagated by anti-abortion extremists, people who have abortions have children, love their families, and attend a house of worship. Like most of us, they turn to God and faith for guidance in making decisions, including decisions about starting a family or ending a pregnancy.
As diverse faith leaders, we believe that people making these decisions are all children of God. In nearly every major faith tradition there are circumstances when abortion is an accepted and respected choice. Just as some faithful people may choose not to end a pregnancy based on an understanding of faith and God, others may choose abortion consistent with the teachings of faith and under the guidance of a loving relationship with God.
When individuals seek to universally end or limit abortion care based on a particular understanding of God, faith, or religion, people suffer--often for a lifetime. Evidence shows that those who are forced to carry unplanned pregnancies to term because of abortion restrictions are four times more likely to experience poverty. As faith leaders we are called to help those who suffer, and we believe protecting abortion access is a part of that mission of compassion.
In Oklahoma there are numerous restrictions on abortion that hurt families. When people of faith seek to impose the mandates of their traditions on others by having them written into law across the country, it adds insult to grave injury. Faithful people hold a wide range of views on whether abortion is right for them, and all of their viewpoints must be respected and protected under state and federal law in accordance with our right to free exercise of religion.
We support abortion rights because of our faith, not in spite of it. People who have had abortions are valued and cherished members of our congregations. They are leaders in our churches and our synagogues. They are our neighbors, our friends, our mothers, and our daughters.
We must trust all people to make important reproductive decisions for themselves and their families without judgment or punishment. Our faith makes us accountable to a higher power for respecting, loving, and standing together, to support our neighbors in their access to medical care. That’s why we’re advocating for a future where every individuals’ reproductive rights and decisions are protected by law and all people have access to the health care they need and desire, including abortion.
We want people to know that no matter their faith, we offer our unrelenting support and the love of God in all of their reproductive health care decisions. Please reject legislative measures that limit reproductive choice. Thank you for your consideration.
Rev. Kayla Bonewell, reverend at Church of the Open Arms and Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City
Rev. Dr. Diana K. Davies, lead minister at First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City
Rev. Sheri Dickerson, reverend at The Table Ministries in Oklahoma City.
Rabbi Vered Harris, rabbi at Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City
Rabbi Abby Jacobson, rabbi at Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City
Rev. Robin R. Meyers, Ph.D, is a senior minister at Mayflower Congregational UCC Church in Oklahoma City and a distinguished professor of Social Justice Emeritus in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University.
Rev. Chris Moore, minister at Fellowship Congregational UCC in Tulsa
Rev. Lori Walke, minister at Mayflower Congregational UCC Church in Oklahoma City
Rev. David R. Wheeler, minister at the Federated Church of Weatherford, OK, and First Congregational Church of Norman, OK (UCC)