Remarks by Ohio RCRC Executive Director, Rev. Laura Young

Clergy opened the first legal abortion clinic in this country; and now we must work to keep clinics open. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice represents a collaboration of pro-choice religious groups including Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism, Mainline Protestant Churches such as the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women, Lutheran Women’s Caucus, Unitarian Universalist, Catholics for Choice, and the YMCA.

The majority of people of faith are in favor of keeping abortion safe, legal, and accessible to all who need it, not just people who can afford it. We will not stand by while a narrow religious view against abortion, that’s not even based in scripture, gives rise to laws that restrict a woman’s moral autonomy. We will not stand for TRAP laws that close clinics, leaving people without access to critical health care including birth control.

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, before Roe v. Wade, a collaborative of ministers and rabbis helped women find their way to 100,000 safe abortions.

In this movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice, it will take all of us — clergy, people of faith, and people of conscience — to set straight the lawmakers in this building and let them know we will not go back to the days when women had to use passwords, and knock on gates, and be blindfolded and taken to a secret location to find a safe abortion. My own grandmother took a cab by herself and had an illegal abortion in the 1940’s alone on a man’s kitchen table in East Columbus. We will not tolerate that kind of barbarism ever again in this country. We will not abandon women and we will not allow these laws to shame or stigmatize women or keep us from the care we need.

In the early ‘60s, one of the founders of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, which later merged into RCRC, Rev. Finley Schaef was approached by a woman whose teenage daughter was raped by her father. The woman came and asked if he could help her find someone to do an abortion. He said that he couldn’t. He didn’t know what to do. He was young and he didn’t have any connections. As Rev. Schaeff told the story, he choked up, saying he was traumatized by that conversation and that one of his greatest regrets was that he didn’t keep in touch with that woman. That’s how clergy get into abortion counseling.

Today, I receive calls at Ohio RCRC that aren’t much different from that one on our “All Options” Clergy Counseling Hotline. It’s also about access to abortion: women, primarily from impoverished communities and virtually always women of color, need help finding where to go and how to pay for it . While we are thankful for abortion funds that are dispersed by clinics, there is nowhere near enough funding to cover the procedures which can range from $500-$1000 or more.  It is heartbreaking when all I have to offer is a suggestion to borrow money from friends and family or sell their TV.

We must clear the way for Ohio clinics to operate free from harassment by lawmakers. The faith community for choice will continue to fight to make sure that every woman who needs an abortion has access to a safe one.