Cami King, Director of Advocacy & Training
The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full measure.John 10:10
The decision by SCOTUS to repeal Roe v. Wade and, in effect, remove abortion access for many people around the country weighs heavy on our hearts today. There is no question that such a decision will support legislation like we’ve seen recently in Texas and other states that not only denies abortion access beyond six weeks post-conception (before most people know they are pregnant), but also criminalizes and emboldens the targeting of those who seek abortion elsewhere and abortion care providers who seek to do their jobs.1 The speculated restrictions following today’s decision by SCOTUS will disproportionately impact Black, brown, poor, and otherwise marginalized people who lack the means, financial and otherwise, to seek abortion services beyond where they live and adequate prenatal care.2 Furthermore, such a decision will negatively impact students who are 50% less likely to graduate high school after becoming mothers.3
The commitment to deny abortion access is often said to be rooted in a concern for the protection and preservation of life. However, Black and Indigenous women are three times more likely to die as a result of being pregnant than white women4 – for reasons that include, but are not limited to, the lack of access to adequate healthcare for under-resourced women and the lack of responsive and compassionate healthcare for highly-resourced women (as Serena Williams brought to public attention in 2018 after nearly dying due to a lack of responsive postnatal care5). Black women are twice as likely to receive no or late prenatal care in comparison to white women and the infant mortality rate of Black children is 2.3 times that of white children.6
As people of faith, deeply committed to the preservation and support of life for all God’s children, we have to ask ourselves – (1) what is life? (2) are we truly protecting it? (3) and preservation of life for whom? In the teachings of Jesus, we find the promise of life abundant recorded in the Gospel of John, which points both to duration of life (what’s often called eternal life) and quality of life (what’s sometimes called “life to the full measure”). From Jesus we learn the importance of creating the kind of world that supports the thriving of Creation – that all might have life to the full measure, both now and into eternity.
Preservation of life, therefore, must include the lives of Black, Indigenous, poor and otherwise marginalized women and persons able to conceive children. The protection of life must have at its center efforts to create an anti-racist, equitable, and just world into which children can be born and access life – not the living death we force upon so many Black and otherwise marginalized people in our society, including children.
The repeal of Roe v. Wade is not rooted in a concern for life or a concern for children. If we wish to preserve and protect life and care for children, we must start with the facts above and address the social realities that are robbing so many of life everyday. We can begin to do this by securing:
- Adequate, compassionate, and accessible health care for women and those able to conceive children – including birth control, prenatal and postnatal care, and support for hospital alternatives;
- Adequate and comprehensive sex education including provision of contraceptives, mental health resources, and personal empowerment;
- Universal access to excellent childcare, quality PreK through 12 education, and accessible and comprehensive health care and other services that support the development of children.
Forcing birth is not pro-life. It is pro-birth and too often a prescriptive for living and literal death. That is immoral and as people of faith, we expect better and more for all God’s children.
- What If Roe Fell? (Center for Reproductive Rights)
- Center Cheers Reintroduction of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act in U.S. Congress (Center for Reproductive Rights)
- Reproductive Health: Teen Pregnancy (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Mortality rate of Black babies is cut dramatically when black doctors care for the after birth, researchers say (Washington Post)
- For Serena Williams, Childbirth Was a Harrowing Ordeal. She’s Not Alone. (NY Times)
- Infant Mortality & African Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health)
Image credit: Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images