A Texas-based organization seeks to unite churches that support women’s reproductive rights in an effort to raise the profile of faith communities whose beliefs do not align with the pro-life movement.
Just Texas, an initiative of the Texas Freedom Network, held a press conference Wednesday at Dallas First Unitary Church, the same church where a group of women sided with efforts to see the Roe v. Wade case through the judicial system. . announces a new effort to identify congregations that support reproductive rights.
The designation of the Just Texas Reproductive Freedom Congregation recognizes churches that are working to eliminate the stigma associated with abortion and other reproductive health options. Just Texas currently has 25 congregations with the designation and another 70 in process.
The announcement comes just days before the Texas Senate Bill 8 is signed. The bill bans abortions from about six weeks.
“We started with congregations and churches because people still think of their congregation as the place where they make their decisions morally and where many unofficial political decisions are made,” said Rev. Erika Forbes, Faith and Outreach Manager of Just Texas.
Texas Freedom Network was founded in 1995 by Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Based in Austin, it acts as a watchdog for far-right issues across the state.
Congregations wishing to receive the Congregation for Reproductive Freedom designation must comply with the three principles that Forbes said.
“Affirm that you trust and respect women, promise that people who attend your congregation will be free from stigma, shame, and judgment for their reproductive decisions, including abortion, and that you believe that access to health services integrated and affordable is a social good. “
Forbes invites congregations of any faith group that agrees with these principles to join the effort.
“The intention to appoint these congregations from all walks of life to be able to say that we are on the side of women and affirm their moral dignity and capacity and, as you imagine in the state of Texas, is not so easy churches will agree, ”Forbes said.
Forbes believes this kind of openness to faith communities is the path to lasting cultural change in Texas.
“I am on a quest, we are on a quest, to recover God from the hostage situation that the kidnappers have kidnapped and I absolutely feel that the God I believe in, the God I serve, is said with many names, and no name , trusts and respects women, ”Forbes said.
The movement began in 2013 after the then Sen. Wendy Davis ’13-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill in the Texas legislature when a small group of Austin clerics came together to organize for reproductive rights. Just Texas was born out of that steering committee.
The Reverend Amelia Fulbright of the Austin Congregational Church was one of these clergy.
“Part of the reason I support this congregation designation of freedom of reproduction is because I think what has happened over the last 40 years or so, the religious right movement arose from the southern Baptist church where I was raised, there was a real strategic effort to put conservative and fundamentalist religious beliefs at the forefront of political life, ”Fulbright said.
For Fulbright, the designation is to provide a toolkit to churches on women’s issues.
“We really need churches to move forward in the public sphere, but if we want to ask the churches, we need to give them the resources and educational tools to be able to do that and to create transformative conversations in their congregations.”
The first Dallas Unitarian Church was the first of 25 current congregations to receive the designation of Congregation for Reproductive Freedom.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Kanter said the history of his congregation shares a commitment to the principles of Just Texas.
“As a congregation, we have a long history of working with reproductive rights, the women in our church started Roe v. Wade along with Planned Parenthood staff at the time, so when we talked about being the first recipients of reproduction the rights congregation in Texas there was a lot of history behind it, ”Kanter said.
The decision to join, however, involved much reflection and open dialogue for his congregation.
“We had long conversations and reflected on what it meant to us and what our commitment would be, but what it really did was open up a dialogue that changed people’s lives,” Kanter said.
Kanter said the role of the clergy and the church is essential in these matters.
“The church is an ideal place to love people as a whole and what our church has been for a long time and to invite people to tell their truths and not to be silenced about reproductive issues,” Kanter said. .