How a group of religious leaders in Dallas created a rotating chaplaincy at an abortion clinic
Whether you support access to abortion or not, I ask you if you would take the next few minutes to read the words of a member of the clergy who has been a volunteer chaplain to abortion women.
For the past five years, in my spare time, I have been sitting in an abortion clinic in Dallas, listening to stories, praying with women, facilitating conversations and trying to give them assurance that God loves them. . I took on this volunteer role because I am pastor of a 1000 member church and have a busy schedule. I spent my free time defending rights and choice on boards and panels.
When a member of my community kept calling me to ask if I could drop by and do a blessing for a woman who wanted to be prayed for by a pastor, I realized that if being a member of the clergy in this frame was going to be durable, we would need another way. I had too many meetings and responsibilities to skip every call.
After some discussions with the administration of the clinic, we figured out how to meet the needs of the patients. We have established a multi-faith chaplaincy team made up of Unitarian Universalist and Methodist ministers and a few Jewish rabbis.
Over the next year, we expanded our team to include four other religious leaders, and we began to sit around the clinic while waiting for the ministry to unfold. We ended up reading a lot of magazines and getting covers for the air conditioning patients in Texas. And then we realized we were really there to hear from the women and their families in a way the staff didn’t have time for.
We could spend half an hour listening to stories of college athletes and how they made a mistake getting pregnant and would lose their scholarships. We have heard stories of abuse and rape. We have heard stories of women with career goals whose lives are turned upside down by pregnancy.
We have heard families questioning whether to have a child with Down’s syndrome when their support network is thousands of miles away. We have heard stories of 13 year old girls being drawn into relationships with men in their apartment buildings. We have heard stories of fetal abnormalities that would kill the mother if brought to term.
We have heard stories of families with children they already cannot support or care for. And each story has added to the sense of our presence to receive, compassionately discern and care for these women and their families.
This all ends with the coming into force of the new Texas abortion law, which restricts abortion after six weeks of pregnancy because perhaps 10% of patients are less than six weeks pregnant. And the consequences of the law will be that thousands of births will take place, some of them very dangerous for mothers, and many will result in the lives of Texans being derailed by politicians in Austin.
And if that were not enough, the law endangers any private conversation between a member of the clergy and a member of the religious community. Whether or not you support access to abortion, you should be concerned that this law legislates what a member of the clergy can and cannot say in confidential counseling sessions.
This puts us in the category of having to censor conversations about discernment and life based on a woman’s number of weeks. This puts us on the defense not to “help and encourage” a potential abortion, thus breaking the law.
And what could we legislate against next if this law is successful? Members of the clergy have the right and responsibility to meet the people they care for where they are with an open heart, to receive whatever they struggle with so that people are free to bring the many struggles to the table. of life.
When we meet people with our ideologies exposed, we do harm by not hearing them in speech. But when we receive people with compassion rather than dogma, we help people find a spiritual fullness that is seldom found when we meet them with absolutes and our own agendas.
Over the centuries, the church has done so much harm in declaring what should or should not be done with our bodies in matters of sexuality, reproduction and sensuality. Above all, he relegated women as carriers of the sins of desire, while it was largely men who embodied these myths. The church needs to deal better with the real lives of the people on the pews trying their best to make it through the week.
Over the past few weeks I have received letters and emails demanding that I be somehow evil. These letters tend to come in cowardly without a return address, and emails come from newly created accounts, so senders never attempt a dialogue or learning. They make claims on God.
These offensive letters to those of us who want a free and open society should reflect on the concept that we cannot know God’s intentions. They claim that God wants fetuses to live because God created them. I am saying that God created fetuses as well as the medical procedure that we call abortion. You cannot choose what you want God to be, for your own ends.
What we can do is honestly see the lives of the people in front of us. We can look at our congregations and see that one in three American women has had an abortion, and we can envision how not to perpetuate the shame and blame for which we believers are famous.
We could look at each other and see that we are all a creation of God in need of love and respect.
Reverend Daniel C. Kanter is Senior Minister and Executive Director of First Unitarian Church in Dallas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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