At Issue: In light of the April 25 rally of 800,000 on the National Mall in Washington, how has your faith community responded to questions on the issue of abortion?
Response: Every minute one woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth. According to the United Methodist Church, 80 million unintended pregnancies occur worldwide. Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused at some point during their life. Of the world’s poor, 70% are women. This was truly a “March for Women’s Lives.”
I support the right of a woman to have an abortion, but our Zen Center does not take a position as a group or expect agreement among Zen practitioners. We embrace the precepts “Do no harm,” “Do good” and “Do good for others,” but the interpretation and expression remains the responsibility of each person, who must be guided by his or her meditation practice and life experience. Though the Buddhist Peace Fellowship has been a pivotal organization for socially engaged Buddhists from all denominations, issues related to prison reform, anti-war activities, and other human rights causes have been most prominent.
The rally demonstrated massive opposition to the Bush Administration’s policies on reproductive health issues. Over 1,000 organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, National Latina Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, warned that reproductive freedoms are being chipped away. The ban on federal funds for family-planning groups that provide abortions abroad and the imposition of waiting periods in various states are examples of impediments placed upon a woman’s right to make her own choices about her reproductive health. Depending upon whom is nominated to the Supreme Court, legal abortion could be curtailed or ended.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice sponsored a “Faithful Choices” day, to help the public and Congressional Representatives better understand that there is widespread religious support for freedom of choice. This is especially important to counterbalance voices that oppose legal abortion on the basis of their own particular religious beliefs. An Interfaith Worship Service provided further spiritual support for the marchers.
In the mid-80’s I was the coordinator of a national project to obtain federal funding for abortion for victims of rape and incest. I have nothing but respect for the coalition of groups I worked with, especially Catholics for a Free Choice, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. I would never have guessed that 20 years later reproductive freedom would be so seriously threatened.
– Rev. Dr. Deborah Barrett
Published: April 10, 2004