• By The Financial District

Religious Backers Of Abortion Say God Is On Their Side

It was lunch hour at the abortion clinic, so the nurse in the recovery room got her Bible out of her bag in the closet and began to read.

Photo Insert: Before Roe v. Wade, faith leaders in many places led efforts to help pregnant women access underground abortions because they considered it a calling to show compassion and mercy to the most vulnerable.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,” her favorite proverb says, and she returns to it again and again. “He will make your paths straight.”

She believes God led her here, to a job at the West Alabama Women’s Center, tending to patients who’ve just had abortions. “I trust in God,” said Ramona, who asked that her last name not be used because of the volatility of America’s abortion debate, Claire Galofaro reported for the Associated Press (AP).

Out in the parking lot, protesters bellowed at patients arriving for appointments, doing battle against what they regard as a grave sin. The loudest voices in the abortion debate are often characterized along a starkly religious divide, the faithful versus not.

But the reality is much more nuanced, both at this abortion clinic and in the nation that surrounds it. The clinic’s staff of 11 — most of them Black, deeply faithful Christian women — have no trouble at all reconciling their work with their religion. And as the US Supreme Court appears poised to dismantle the constitutional right to an abortion, they draw on their faith that they will somehow continue.

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God is on our side, they tell each other. God will keep this clinic open. Robin Marty, who moved from Minneapolis to Tuscaloosa a couple of years ago to help run this clinic, was surprised to hear nurses pray for guidance as the future of abortion grows uncertain.

“That is one of the things that has caused a whiplash for me — I had this stereotype in my head of a Southern religious person,” said Marty. “I just assumed that there was no compatibility between people who are religious and people who support the ability to get an abortion.” Marty realized she was wrong. It’s a common error.

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“We need to have a real conversation about what we describe as Christianity,” said Kendra Cotton, a member of the Black Southern Women’s Collective, a network of Black women organizers, many of them from faith-based groups. The white evangelical worldview that abortion is murder has consumed the conversation, flattening the understanding of how religion and views on abortion truly intersect, she said.

Before Roe v. Wade, faith leaders in many places led efforts to help pregnant women access underground abortions because they considered it a calling to show compassion and mercy to the most vulnerable.

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Now, Black Protestants have some of the most liberal views on access to abortion: Nearly 70% believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. White evangelicals are the other extreme, with only 24% believing abortion should be allowed in most or all cases.

For faithful women of color, there’s often a very different balancing act of values when confronting the question of whether women should be able to end unwanted pregnancies, Cotton said.

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“We know that Christianity supports freedom, and inherent in freedom is bodily autonomy. Inherent in Christianity is free will. When people talk about the body being a temple of God, you have purview over your body, there is nothing more sacred,” Cotton said.

The idea of the state restricting what a person can do with their own body is in direct conflict with that, she said, and it is reminiscent of being under someone else’s control -- of slavery. “

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You don’t get to tell me what to do,” Cotton said. In Tuscaloosa, the West Alabama Women’s Center sits on the edge of a nondescript medical plaza, a half-mile from the University of Alabama campus.

Though many of the center’s clientele are college students, others come from all over the state and some surrounding ones -- it is the only abortion clinic for two hours in every direction. Many of their clients are Black, many already have children, and more than 75% survive below the poverty line.

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