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We support reproductive freedom because of, not despite, our faith traditions

Op-ed originally published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

January 22nd marked 50 years since Roe vs. Wade was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, protecting people’s right to privacy and giving us the right to decide whether or not we would receive abortion care.

Since that decision in 1973, a minority of religious institutions have monopolized the conversation and fueled a never-ceasing political campaign to restrict abortion care. This is not where the majority of people of faith stand. This is not where we stand.

As Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders we support access to abortion care because of our faith, not in spite of it. Our shared values of love, compassion and dignity and the core tenets of our faiths ground us in this belief. The Torah commands Jews to prioritize and respect the health and well-being of the pregnant person above all in matters of reproductive care. Similarly, Muslims agree that a pregnant person’s life takes precedence over the life of a fetus. The Bible instructs Christians to listen to the voices of women and all who are marginalized as they decide for themselves if, when, or under what conditions they have chosen to parent (or not parent) a child.

Ultimately, each of these sacred texts calls for equality and justice so that each of us – including those who need to have an abortion – can live compassionate and courageous lives.

The majority of people of faith agree with us and support abortion access in all or most cases. People of faith overwhelmingly believe that people can be trusted to make their own moral and faith-informed decisions about their body, family and future. People of faith overwhelmingly believe reproductive health decisions should be made by individuals and the medical providers they trust, not judges and politicians who wear their faith on their sleeve but fail to support the life-giving economic, childcare, education and healthcare policies we need to live our lives with the dignity God desires.

Georgia currently has a reproductive healthcare crisis. Last year, 68% of Georgia voters were against Roe being overturned. The majority also opposed Gov. Brian Kemp signing a 2019 bill that banned all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Despite this, local politicians have passed 13 new medically unnecessary and politically motivated abortion restrictions, like required waiting periods, insurance coverage restrictions and a near-total abortion ban. Additionally, Georgia currently has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the United States, making it nearly the most-dangerous place to be pregnant in the country. Furthermore, at least 78 Georgia counties currently have no ob-gyns and 63 Georgia counties have no pediatrician. Politicians are creating a Georgia the majority of us do not want.

We don’t have to settle for this. Since God has entrusted us to care for and offer deep hospitality to each other, people of faith can work together to create a Georgia where people are empowered to decide when, how and if they have children. A Georgia where the care we need is fully available regardless of where we live, how much money we make or whether or not we have health insurance. A Georgia where abortion care is free from all hurdles, is not continuously challenged in court or punished criminally and is free from social, political and religious shame and stigma.

People of faith can ensure this happens by supporting the expansion of Medicaid, which will ensure more people have healthcare coverage and can help bring ob-gyns and pediatricians to counties that currently do not have them. People of faith must also let our legislators know that we support the Reproductive Freedom Act (Senate Bill 15 and House Bill 75). These bills,  introduced in the state legislature last month, would prevent individuals from being criminalized for pregnancy loss and abortions, repeal the current six-week ban and medically unnecessary delays and give Georgians more access to comprehensive care by expanding the group of trained healthcare professionals who can provide abortion care. Our legislators must join people of faith in supporting these comprehensive solutions to Georgia’s reproductive health crisis.

This is the prophetic work that we are being called to do at this moment. For too long our faith has been weaponized to create political division, leaving the lives of those in our congregations and communities at risk.

The majority of people of faith, including white evangelicals, believe some form of abortion should be accessible; however, a minority has created a divisive conversation that made it difficult for people of faith to communicate their beliefs about faith, abortion and reproductive health. Let’s show the rest of the country that people of faith in Georgia support a person’s access to reproductive care because of our faith, not in spite of it.

Imama La Trina Jackson, Atlanta Unity Mosque; Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D, Rabbi-in-Residence, Be’chol Lashon and Rev. O.J. Flowers, Columbia Theological Seminary.

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