More than a Word
Last week the Supreme Court made two rulings that will endanger the lives of many people. The first was to overturn New York's law limiting who was allowed to carry a concealed weapon. This ruling makes it much easier for people to carry weapons under any circumstances, in effect stating that individuals should have the right to choose to carry weapons without interference from the state.
The second was the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This decision removed a woman's right to bodily autonomy and free choice in favor of allowing the state to have control over those choices.
In these two decisions the Supreme Court has ruled the state cannot limit your choice to carry a concealed weapon, while simultaneously ruling the state can limit a woman's bodily choice.
When I heard the ruling on loosening the restrictions for concealed carry, I was extremely disappointed, especially in light of the ongoing gun violence in our nation, our cities, our communities, our churches, and our schools. When I heard the news on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I was heartbroken.
I was heartbroken for the girls and women who will be forced to birth a baby who is the result of rape, either by a stranger or by a family member. I was heartbroken for the girls and women who develop ectopic pregnancies and will be forced to birth a baby whose life-span is measured in weeks, not years. I was heartbroken for those same girls and women whose pregnancies will become life-threatening and now have no means of care other than thoughts and prayers.
I fear for girls, women, and healthcare providers who now may (will) face murder charges in the name of pro-life. I fear for the girls and women living in states considering travel bans as a basis for premeditated murder. I fear for those people who face laws allowing them to be sued for aiding and abetting abortions. I fear for the girls and women who will fall into physical danger at the hands of men who want no part of having to care for another life. Most importantly, I fear for the girls and women who will take matters into their own hands.
To be clear, the Episcopal church for years has “opposed abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.”
While the official church policy states that abortion should never be used for mere convenience, the church recognizes there are instances when that choice must be made. The 2018 General Convention called for “women's reproductive health and reproductive health procedures to be treated as all other medical procedures.” The Convention declared “that equitable access to women's healthcare, including women's reproductive healthcare, is an integral part of a woman's struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.”
Outlawing abortions and punishing women will not end abortions, but it will continue to punish women. It will harm women. It will lead to more deaths, not life. Unfortunately this decision and these laws do nothing to address the role men play in pregnancies and single motherhood, once again laying blame and responsibility on women and girls.
Furthermore, this decision will negatively impact poor and minority women more than others. Girls and women unable to travel for medical care will be forced into any number of bad choices, or have decisions forced upon them, while those who can travel will receive the assistance needed. And those with the right connections will still receive abortions under the cloak of privileged secrecy.
Let's be honest: this ruling is not about pro-life, but about controlling women and establishing forced-birth laws. If this were a pro-life issue, prenatal care would be free. If it were a pro-life issue, the medical fees associated with giving birth would cost $0. If it were a pro-life issue, diapers, formula, baby food, healthcare, and childcare would be free or greatly subsidized. It if were a pro-life issue, 192 Republicans wouldn't have voted against giving financial aid to the FDA to help with the recent baby formula shortage.
I said I was afraid for the girls and women who are the targets of this ruling, and I am; but I am also afraid for others as this ruling is only the tip of the iceberg.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in a follow-up piece, wrote that the court should reconsider rulings on access to birth control, as well as the validity/legality of same-sex relationships and marriages. Obviously I can't predict whether this will happen or, if those rulings are revisited, whether existing laws will once more be struck down in favor of religious intolerance. But if ever there were a time to be worried, it is now.
With that in mind, let me say now to all lgbtq+ people who are beloved members of our community:
If you don't have a will, get one.
If you don't have an advanced directive, make one.
If you haven't designated a medical and/or financial power of attorney, do so now.
If you haven't designated a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, do so now.
If you don't have a hospital visitation directive, get one.
Personal freedoms are coming under attack ever day now, and not just from the Supreme Court. More people have become emboldened to use threats, intimidation, and terrorism to silence those whom they oppose. Things we once took for granted are being attacked and recalled in some vague attempt to make this country great. But what makes this country great is the welcoming and lifting up of people different from us, not their constant abuse and marginalization. Equality is never freely handed out to the powerless and minorities by those in power or the majority. It needs to be challenged and fought for, because for some people equality is frightening.
Finally, Episcopal clergy in every diocese received a note from the Office of the Presiding Bishop that states:
“We have received information from federal authorities of credible security threats against clergy and churches around the...release by the US Supreme Court of its abortion decision. There is concern that clergy who have advised parishioners about abortion access and their reproductive rights may face threats or violence.
“The guidance we are hearing is for religious communities to encourage peaceful responses to the decision...in the days following the decision and also in weeks to come... while remaining vigilant about potential security threats.”
With that in mind, we must remember that standing with the outcast, the marginalized, and the other has inherit risks, but standing in love and support with those whom the larger society wants to eliminate or marginalize is what our faith calls us to do.
May God grant us wisdom and courage for the facing of these days.