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Pro-abortion Americans of Faith Must Take Action

During the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Amy Coney Barret, we heard a lot about how Judge Barrett’s extensive anti-abortion credentials are designed to appeal to “religious voters,” or that accurately stating Judge Barrett’s views on abortion constitutes an attack on her religion and on people of faith more broadly. These conversations about voters of faith view focus almost exclusively on one specific religious affiliation: conservative white evangelical Protestants, contrasting them with a presumably secular progressive left.

It is true that people who identify as non-religious or “unaffiliated” tend to be overwhelmingly supportive of abortion access. But as someone who has served as a parish priest and now leads the national organization representing abortion providers, I know firsthand that the framing of voters as either religious or pro-abortion is not just misleading, it’s completely wrong. It is time for the tens of millions of Americans of faith who support abortion access to put an end to the erasure of our voices. At this moment, when abortion access is threatened like never before, we need to speak up and make reproductive rights a priority.

Faith communities in America are highly diverse and, in most of them, support for abortion access is not just sporadic, it’s overwhelming — and has been for decades. A 2019 Pew survey asked Americans about their views on abortion and analyzed the results based on religious affiliation. They found that strong majorities of white mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, and Roman Catholics all believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among other religious groups, support for abortion is also strong; previous Pew research found that 83 percent of Jewish Americans, 82 percent of Buddhist Americans and 55 percent of Muslim Americans support access to abortion.

Faithful people support abortion not in spite of our faith, but because of it — based on our reading of Holy Scripture, the teaching of our faith institutions, and our experience as prayerful people struggling to live faithfully. We embrace sacred commands to care for those in need and to be thoughtful stewards of the gifts that have been given to us.

So why have ‘religious’ and ‘anti-abortion’ come to be synonymous in the United States? Ultimately, the answer is that over the course of the last several decades, conservative, anti-abortion politicians have effectively appealed to and mobilized overwhelmingly anti-abortion white evangelicals, who represent only a quarter of the U.S. population but vote in massive numbers. White evangelicals give these politicians the power to implement an agenda of restricting abortion access and controlling people’s bodies. One of their most effective strategies has been emphasizing the importance of conservative judges who support overturning Roe v. Wade; now, with Judge Barrett creating an anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court, we see the results of that effort coming to fruition.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. For the tens of millions of Americans for whom religious belief and support for reproductive rights go hand in hand, we must devote ourselves to advocating for policies that protect people’s ability to control their own bodies — including at the state level, where these fights will become even more crucial if Roe v. Wade is overturned — and supporting organizations on the frontlines of ensuring access to abortion. Together, we can not only send a clear message to our nation’s leaders that Americans of faith are a strong political force in support of reproductive rights, but also create a world that reflects our shared belief in human dignity and freedom.

Written by

The Very Reverend Katherine H. Ragsdale is the President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the professional association of abortion providers.

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