The national discourse over abortion access is often polarized along partisan or religious lines — but the diversity of people at the heart of the movement to protect reproductive rights tells a different story.
Despite the politicization of abortion access in mainstream discourse, studies have shown that a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In fact, although we might expect opinions about reproductive rights to fall along partisan lines, the truth is that there are allies working on both sides of the aisle to support a pregnant person’s right to determine their own future without being hindered by the U.S. government.
During a NationSwell Council event, the Reverend Jacqui Lewis, a prominent faith leader and pro-choice advocate, Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, JaTaune Bosby, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, and Charlie Dent, and Charlie Dent, a Republican former member of the United States House of Representatives for Pennsylvania, took a look at how the movement for reproductive rights is a wider tent than many imagine it to be, and how unification across perceived divides is central to the work ahead.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the event:
We’re at the edge of a precipice that underscores the dire need to protect abortion from state to state
Recent abortion restrictions enacted at the state level in Texas and Mississippi have purposefully escalated the threat to abortion access up to the Supreme Court. As we await the Court’s decision, it’s important to remember the possibility that Roe vs. Wade — the decision that upholds a pregnant person’s right to abortion — could be overturned at any moment.
Love is at the center of most religious doctrines
Most religions advocate for a kind of “fierce community love,” as Rev. Lewis puts it — a mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves themselves. Although those who traffic in splitting humankind around economic justice, race, gender, education, and so on have thought to use religion as the cudgel to froth up an anti-abortion community, there is no official religious teaching that condemns reproductive freedom.
“To me as a theologian, the very best way to love our neighbor is to acknowledge their autonomy and freedoms,” Rev. Lewis said.
Abortion access is more broadly supported than its detractors would have you believe
Many people, politicians in particular, frequently use abortion as a wedge issue to advocate for organizations like Planned Parenthood to be stripped of resources of federal funding. But while reproductive rights have been heavily politicized, there are voices on both sides of the aisle who support a woman’s right to choose.
“While many Americans are conflicted on abortion… most want abortion to remain legal under most circumstances,” Dent said.
Use your voice to advocate for reproductive rights
One of the most powerful ways to lend your support to the fight for reproductive justice is to make your support visible in your spheres of influence. A whopping 70% of Americans support abortion access, and the more visible that support is, the better. Whether you’re advocating for abortion access amongst your family members, in your workplace, or at your place of worship, you may be able to have a transformative impact just by sharing your abortion story (if you’ve had one) or cementing your support.
Educate, collaborate, and advocate
If we can do those three things effectively as a collective, we’ll really be able to move forward with imagining a country that’s more inclusive and safe for all. You are a citizen and neighbor, and your neighbor’s life affects your own. Try to do the research necessary to have a well-informed position on abortion, and work to identify and elect politicians who might be sympathetic to your cause.
We don’t live in a Christian nation — we live in a nation
The democracy we want to enjoy is made up of a cacophony of diverse voices. Although Christian activists have become one of the loudest factions advocating against abortion access, there are still some who believe that we can rally around what unites us, including a shared desire for a healthy planet, having enough food on the table, racial equity, and more… striving to be a “world that delights in difference,” rather than a world divided.
The NationSwell Council community brings together a diverse, curated community of bold individuals and organizations leading the way in social, economic, and environmental problem-solving. Learn more about the Council here.