After Leak, Religious Break Over Legal Abortion Is Exhibited

America’s believers are bracing — some with cautionary glee and others with looming fear — for the Supreme Court to potentially overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and end the nationwide right to legal abortion.

A reversal of the 49-year-old ruling has never felt more like it since a draft advisory leaked this week suggesting judges can do it. While religious believers at the heart of the decades-old battle over abortion have been shocked by the violation of Supreme Court protocol, they are still equally deeply divided and their beliefs on the controversial issue are still deeply rooted.

National polls show that most Americans support access to abortion. A March Public Religion Research Institute survey found that a majority of religious groups believe it should be legal in most cases — with the exception of white evangelical Protestants, of whom 69% said the procedure would be legal in most or all. cases should be prohibited.

The draft opinion has sparked hope in conservative Christian corners. Faith groups that have held strong anti-abortion stances in the past, including the American Conference of Catholic Bishops, have urged followers to pray for Roe’s turnaround.

Reverend Manuel Rodriguez, pastor of the 17,000-strong Catholic Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Queens borough of New York City, said his predominantly Latino congregation is heartened by the prospect of Roe’s death at a time when courts in some states Latin American countries such as Colombia and Argentina have moved to legalize abortion.

“You don’t solve a crime by committing another crime,” Rodriguez said.

Bishop Garland R. Hunt Sr., senior pastor of The Father’s House, a nondenominational, predominantly African-American church in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, agreed.

“This is the result of constant, necessary prayer since 1973,” Hunt said. “As a Christian, I believe that God is the one who gives life – not politicians or judges. I definitely want more babies to be protected in the womb.”

No religion is monolithic when it comes to abortion. Still, many adherents of religions that don’t ban abortion are baffled that a minority opinion of Americans could replace their individual rights and religious beliefs.

In Judaism, for example, many authorities say that abortion is allowed or even required in cases where the woman’s life is in danger.

“This ruling would prohibit abortion in cases where our religion would allow it,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, “and it bases its concept of when life begins on the philosophy or theology of someone else .”

Similarly, Islam allows for “all aspects of reproductive choice, from family planning to abortion,” said Nadiah Mohajir, co-founder of Heart Women and Girls, a Chicago-based nonprofit that works with Muslim communities on reproductive rights and other issues. gender issues. †

“A particular political agenda infringes on my right and my religious and personal freedom,” she said.

According to new data released Wednesday by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 56% of Muslim Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, a figure roughly in line with the beliefs of American Catholics.

Donna Nicolino, a student at Fire Lotus Temple, a Zen Buddhist center in Brooklyn, said her faith calls on followers to show compassion for others. Restricting or banning abortion does not take into account why women have abortions and would hurt the poor and marginalized the most, she said.

“If we really value life as a culture,” Nicolino said, “we would take steps like guarantee maternal health care, health care for children, decent housing for pregnant women.”

Sikhism forbids gender-selective murders — female infanticide — but is more nuanced when it comes to abortion and promotes compassion and personal choice, said Harinder Singh, senior fellow of research and policy at Sikhri, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that creates educational resources about the faith.

A 2019 survey he co-led with research associate Jasleen Kaur found that 65% of Sikhs said abortion should be a matter for women rather than government or religious leaders, while 77% said Sikh institutions are the ones who consider abortion should support.

“The Sikh community surveyed is very clear that no religious or political authority should decide on this issue,” Singh said.

Compassion is a virtue also emphasized by some Christian leaders who call on their staunch anti-abortion colleagues to lower the temperature when speaking out on the issue.

The Rev. Kirk Winslow, pastor of the Canvas Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California, said he sees abortion through a human and spiritual lens rather than a political issue. Communities should turn to solutions such as counseling centers, parenting courses, health care and education, he said, rather than getting “swept up in a culture war.”

He has advised women who struggle with whether or not to have an abortion, and emphasizes the importance of empathy.

“Amid the pain, anxiety, and confusion of an unexpected pregnancy, no one has ever said, ‘I’m excited to have an abortion,'” Winslow said. “And there are times when getting an abortion is the best chance we have of bringing God’s peace to the situation. And I know many disagree with that view. I would just like to answer that most of them have not been in my office for these very real and very difficult conversations.”

Likewise, Caitlyn Stenerson, an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor and campus pastor in the Twin Cities area of ​​Minnesota, called on faith leaders to “act with caution,” bearing in mind that women in their pews may have had abortions for a variety of reasons and possibly grieving and struggling with trauma.

“As a minister, my job is not to make people more ashamed, but to bring them to Jesus,” Stenerson said. “We are called to speak the truth, but with love.”

Pending a final court ruling expected to be delivered this summer, faith leaders on both sides are preparing for the possibility of abortion becoming illegal in many states.

Rev. Sarah Halverson-Cano, senior pastor of the Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, Calif., said her congregation is considering providing shelters and other support for women who can travel to the state to terminate their pregnancies. On Tuesday, the day after the draft advisory was leaked, she led council members and community members in an abortion rights demonstration in nearby Santa Ana.

“Our faith calls us to be responsive to those in need,” said Halverson-Cano. “It is time to stand with women and families and see how we can respond to this terrible injustice.”

Niklas Koehler, chair of the Students for Life group at Franciscan University of Steubenville, a private Catholic university in eastern Ohio, said he and others regularly attend special Saturday masses with prayers for an end to abortion. They then travel across the state line to nearby Pittsburgh to hold a prayer vigil and hand out pamphlets outside an abortion clinic.

Such actions will remain necessary even if the draft opinion becomes law of the land, Koehler said, as abortion is likely to remain legal in states such as Pennsylvania.

“We will still pray outside the clinic,” he said.

Bharath reported from Los Angeles and Henao from New York. Associated Press writers Giovanna Dell’Orto in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Peter Smith in Pittsburgh contributed.

Associated Press religious coverage is supported by the AP’s partnership with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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