A dozen interfaith clergy held a July 9 blessing ceremony at a women’s reproductive-health clinic in Texas to demonstrate there is more than one way for Christians to view the abortion debate.
“Today we welcomed members of the local, religious community into our Austin clinic to bestow a blessing on the space and offer up words of solidarity, compassion and love for those who work in the clinic and those who receive its care,” the Charlottesville, Virginia,-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance posted July 9 on Facebook.
The ceremony, covered by the Huffington Post, comes at a time when Republican-led state legislatures are working overtime to enact laws restricting abortion. Some hope to produce a test case to see if the U.S. Supreme Court’s new conservative majority will weaken or reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling recognizing a right to privacy that protects a woman’s right to choose.
“The first and foremost goal was to say that we support you and the work that you’re doing, especially in a state where you’re constantly having to meet new regulations or deal with critics and protesters,” Amelia Fulbright, a campus minister formerly on staff at Austin’s University Baptist Church, commented to the liberal website.
Fulbright, founding minister and executive director of Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry, an ecumenical Christian community at the University of Texas, sits on the advisory committee of Just Texas: Faith Voices for Reproductive Justice, a Texas Freedom Network initiative formed after Texas passed one of the nation’s most restrictive laws governing abortion clinics in 2013.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2016, but in the meantime Whole Woman’s Health of Austin lost the location it had used for 16 years, taken over by a Christian anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center called Austin LifeCare.
Whole Woman’s Health Clinic, which offers first-trimester abortions and a full spectrum of gynecological services such as pap smears, annuals and STD/STI testing, found a smaller place with higher rent and reopened in February.
Fulbright, who served five years as an associate pastor at University Baptist Church before transitioning full-time into campus ministry in 2013, told HuffPost Religion that as a Christian minister, she feels it is important to offer an alternative voice on abortion to the one espoused by the Religious Right.
“As clergy, we have the privilege of counseling people at really vulnerable moments in their lives, and some of those have to do with reproductive choices,” she said. “I want people to know that there are clergy who are safe people to talk to so that they don’t have to navigate those choices alone.”
While working as an associate pastor at University Baptist Church, Fulbright discovered that students were searching for a more inclusive ministry. She formed the Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry, described online as “a progressive Christian community that is LGBTQ-friendly, racially inclusive, and open to all students, whether atheist, questioning or devout,” in August 2013.
The Whole Woman’s Health Alliance described Tuesday’s blessing ceremony — also supported by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Texas Freedom Network — as “a very powerful and empowering moment, complete with ritual, poetry, singing and insight that served to break away from the perception that religious communities are opposed to abortion.”