September 10, 2021
As Unitarian Universalists, we are outraged and heartbroken that the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court last week announced that they would allow the implementation of SB8—a Texas anti-abortion bill that outlaws abortion after six weeks gestation. We believe that all bodies are sacred. Every person has the right to determine what happens to their own body at all phases of life—including if, when, and how they want to have children. As people of faith, this commitment is part of our deepest religious values: Unitarian Universalism proclaims that all individuals and communities have the right to self-determination, safety, and the resources that are necessary for health and sustainability.
As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that all bodies are sacred. Every person has the right to determine what happens to their own body at all phases of life.
Our faith tradition has a long legacy of advocating for safe, legal, accessible abortion care for anyone who needs it. Unitarian Universalists were among the plaintiffs suing the state of Texas over SB8 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson. Unitarian Universalist ministers and congregations were part of the Clergy Consultation Service, which supported people in accessing abortion care before Roe v. Wade. And from developing the most comprehensive sexuality education program in North America through Our Whole Lives, to regularly affirming our support for abortion access and care in resolutions from our General Assembly, dating back to 1962, we have been steadfast in showing up for reproductive justice.
This anti-abortion bill not only violates basic reproductive freedom, it also deputizes private citizens to act as vigilantes who can receive bounties for bringing lawsuits against individuals who receive, “aid and abet,” or provide abortion care. This decision, which overturns decades of legal precedent dating back to 1973’s Roe v. Wade, signals that any state can effectively ban abortion within its borders. Safe, legal, nationwide access to abortion care is no longer the law of the land.
While this bill is a devastating blow, we also know that the radical right’s long legacy of chipping away at abortion access is only one tactic in a broader strategy. Comprehensive reproductive and sexual healthcare has never been available to all people. Rooted in white supremacy, misogyny, Christian hegemony, and colonialism, the anti-abortion movement has always tried to exert control over the bodies and families of people with uteruses.
In addition to the long battle over abortion, U.S. history is riddled with assaults on the bodily autonomy and agency of marginalized people, specifically Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC), poor communities, disabled people, and queer and trans people. Profound violations and inequities have included forced sterilizations, disparities in maternal mortality, denial of health care, and the violence of involuntary family separation through immigration detention, child protective services, or Indigenous boarding schools.
The Reproductive Justice movement—founded in the 1990s by Black women, and centering the leadership and needs of BIPOC women and other marginalized women and trans people—has always insisted that our focus cannot be solely on abortion and reproductive rights. Rather, if we are to truly secure unfettered access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, freedom, and autonomy for all people, we must focus not just on rights, but on analyzing systems of power, addressing intersecting oppressions, centering the most marginalized, and joining together across issues and identities. As our General Assembly affirmed in the 2015 Statement of Conscience, “Reproductive Justice”:
We are all relational beings with varying abilities, preferences, and identities. Unitarian Universalism calls us to advocate for the positive expression of sexuality, including choices about reproduction and nurturing, and for a culture of respect and empowerment.
Our Statement also names our deep commitment to support and partner with directly impacted communities, working together to build the anti-oppressive world we dream about:
In order to embody our principles we, as Unitarian Universalists, must listen to and follow the lead of those from the most affected communities, especially women of color, and reach outside our cultural assumptions.
We must continue to fight together for permanent federal legislation that enshrines the national right to abortion care. In this uncertain period of both grief and regrouping, our faith calls us to continue to advocate fiercely for all people to be able to readily access safe, legal abortion care whenever and wherever they need it. This will require a variety of tactics: donating generously to abortion funds; creating networks that financially and logistically support people to access abortion care; working in partnership with reproductive justice organizations who have already-developed infrastructure for both advocacy and service provision; and engaging in state-based legislative advocacy and legal support as a harm reduction strategy. Moreover, Reproductive Justice leaders remind us that without access to safety, stability, and resources, there will never truly be “choice” in reproductive health. Abortion is only one part of ensuring “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
One crucial role we can play is in continuing to voice values-based, theologically grounded support for abortion and reproductive justice. We can also provide spiritual support and accompaniment for people of all identities as they make choices about their reproductive health throughout their lives. We must also commit to organizing our congregations and our communities in solidarity with movements for racial and gender justice, economic equity, sex and body positivity, universal healthcare, and social systems that support diverse forms of parenting and family.
As we continue to fight for this fundamental and sacred right, we urge Unitarian Universalists to develop partnerships with local reproductive justice organizations, and to join Side With Love’s Action Center for ways to take concrete action together in this critical time and in the days ahead.