With access to abortion already severely limited in Texas and Mississippi, and the likelihood of the Supreme Court rolling back the Constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade, many people are wondering about a reboot of the Clergy Consultation Service (CCS).
Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, religious leaders and activists organized the Clergy Consultation Service (CCS) on Abortion to provide nonjudgmental pastoral care and referral, and in some cases direct support, for a woman to access safe and affordable abortion services if that was her decision. The CCS was directly responsible for opening the nation’s first abortion clinic in New York City in 1970. For background on the CCS, see this May 2016 article in the Atlantic: How Clergy Set the Standard for Abortion Care. See also the first reboot proposal from 2017 which lays out some objectives and actions that are still very relevant.
The legal and public context is very different now. When the CCS operated previously (1967-1973), there were very few laws on abortion, and it was not nearly as politicized. As a result, with only a few exceptions the clergy consultation service operated without police or public attention. In a post-Roe environment, there could be significant legal consequences at the state level, and any public acts could result in harassment or even violence (digitally and/or in-person) of the persons and/or congregations involved.
There are thousands of religious leaders in the United States who have demonstrated their support for abortion services through the years. Many are eager to take an active role in assuring that people have access to safe abortion care, especially if Roe v. Wade is overturned or significantly rolled back. We are also mindful that many Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and people with low incomes, have always lacked sufficient access to abortion care. Existing networks of progressive clergy could provide a foundation for the development of a revived CCS.
You could keep in mind the larger picture. States like ours might need more time. We might need people to work heavily on get-out-the-vote efforts- especially in more rural areas. Getting involved in UU the Vote will be key: https://www.uuthevote.org
Sign up for their notices and consider putting together a UUCW team for UU the Vote. Letter writing through UU the Vote is effective too.
The overall goal of this work is to change culture and policy so that all individuals and communities experience reproductive justice. This includes the human right and ability:
- To maintain personal bodily autonomy
- To have children
- To not have children
- To parent children in safe and sustainable communities
This recognizes that what many individuals and communities need–especially those with BIPOC identities–is much more than just access to abortion. It is access to healthcare generally, good jobs, education, food, transportation, and so much more.
Things you could do to help:
General spiritual/decision counseling
Already available nationally through the Faith Aloud hotline, and in some local clinics with local volunteers. This could likely be scaled up, and possibly combined with education about medication abortion or travel to higher access states.
Support for traveling to higher access states for surgical [and medical] abortion
This is already happening in Texas. It requires a significant amount of time, money, and coordination between the point of origin and destination. The legal risk also varies by state, at least for the people from low-access states (especially if vigilante laws stand). Clergy could include financial support, physical accompaniment, post-procedure food and rest, and logistics for travel and housing See below for more description.
Support for Illegal Surgical [AND Medical ]Abortion in Low Access States
This is the legally riskiest but logistically most efficient option for people who are not able to use medication for abortion. There are organizations providing surgical abortion training to nurses, and possibly others, to counter the lack of trained physicians. Clergy could provide counseling, referrals, and logistical support. Congregations could provide space for procedures.
Planned Parenthood, the Clergy Consultation Service, and others will need your financial gifts.