"The church supports the right of a woman to make her own choices": Louisiana priest stands up for abortion access

Despite protests from religious anti-abortion activists, the Episcopal Church is offering its unflagging support

Published September 22, 2014 9:16PM (EDT)

                                     (ProgressOhio via Flickr Creative Commons)
(ProgressOhio via Flickr Creative Commons)

A Planned Parenthood abortion clinic set to open its doors in New Orleans has already faced its share of criticism from religious anti-choice activists, but it sounds as if it won't be hearing a peep from its neighbors at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation right across the street. The church's head priest, Rev. Walter Baer, has issued a touching and insightful letter, aptly titled with its supportive message: "People of faith support reproductive rights."

Baer's letter, which was published in the New Orleans advocate, outlines the Episcopal Church's support for women's legal right to make their own reproductive choices and access care, contrasting with the faith-based arguments invoked by many anti-abortion activists. Although he underscores that the church believes abortion should be a last resort, Baer also notes that it is a necessary option for countless women:

I write to express my support for the right of the clinic to be there and to serve the reproductive needs of our community. This is very important to many in our community. I also write to make clear that there are many Christians, Christian denominations and many other people of faith who support the reproductive rights of women. I am very disappointed with some fellow Christian people and churches who have made threats of exclusion and boycotts to congregants who wish to work with the clinic. The recent disruption of a worship service at First Unitarian-Universalist Church in New Orleans by anti-abortion protesters was a highly disrespectful and sacrilegious act. ...

The Episcopal Church expresses its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.

As a parish church that is named for the most wondrous conception in history, we welcome the Planned Parenthood clinic to the neighborhood. It will serve a very important role in education, health screenings, contraception and, when necessary, a safe place for the termination of pregnancy.

Baer's sentiment isn't quite as rare as it seems: As Think Progress notes, more than 1,400 faith leaders formed the "Clergy Consultation Service" before abortion was legalized with Roe v. Wade, with the belief that it was the church's responsibility to help prevent women from dying of complications from botched, illegal abortions. Additionally, currently active pro-choice religious groups have become increasingly vocal in light of attacks on women's reproductive healthcare, and have joined in supporting measures to expand access to contraception and abortion.

By Jenny Kutner

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