It's strange to be writing today about the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I am not your typical supporter of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, because hearing someone cheer "yay" for a woman's right to choose makes me cringe inside. Such choices are hard and challenging and never an occasion for celebration.
As a minister and person of deep faith, I believe that every abortion represents an unfortunate confluence of events. The promise of a life is being ended. Even if there is relief, there is no joy.
As a mother, I treasure the miracle and grace of bringing new life into the world.
But while profoundly pro-life, I am also deeply committed to every woman's inherent right to make these difficult decisions in private. There are valid and indisputable reasons for pregnancy to be untenable. It's not a government decision; it's a personal, human decision. My faith calls me to respond with compassion, support and respect, not condemnation or harassment.
During Jesus' time, "exposing infants" was common practice. Poor people who couldn't feed their babies would leave them outside to die. With this happening all around him, Jesus never denounced this tragic custom.
His message was love. He didn't condemn people in tough situations, folks like women who have no other option than to end a pregnancy. He urged they be treated with compassion and care.
I recently saw an anti-choice legislator being asked why he thought a woman might need an abortion. His shocking answer was that he never thought about it. He had no idea why a woman might need to make that decision. While promoting laws to control women, he doesn't understand the depth and complexity of the matter.
I know women who have made this difficult decision, in private, because it was the only thing they could do. Women should have inherent autonomy over their reproductive health, with support of family and loved ones, not interference by the government.
This issue is not about life. If you want to fight for life --fight for WIC payments for mothers and children, fight for childcare for working parents, fight for unemployment insurance for people who've lost their jobs. Fight for universal health care. Fight for compassion and understanding for all ages and stages of life -- don't fight for government control over women's bodies.
A legislative initiative will be on the November ballot this fall, moving Tennessee one step closer to taking away a woman's right to access safe and legal reproductive health care. Please vote for respect, freedom and privacy.
As a member of the Tennessee Reproductive Justice Network, a loosely knit group of clergy and community leaders throughout the state -- organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee -- I believe in access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including sex education, contraception and abortion services for all women. Please visit https://www.aclu.org/secure/tn-repro-rights-petition to add your voice for freedom.
My faith calls me to respect the beautiful gift of life; the inherent worth, dignity, and autonomy of every single person.