Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Without even looking at the guidelines set out by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on becoming a Reproductive Justice Congregation, I think that we all need to take the time to educate ourselves on every aspect involved regarding this topic. We need to research the history behind reproductive decisions made throughout time, the choices or lack of choices available for people of different races and socioeconomic stature, the outcome measures that policy and choices have on different populations, the actual procedures involved in abortions, and the moral, judgmental and prejudicial feelings we may all have. From a physicians point of view, just as I believe that the more educated and inquisitive a patients is, the better healthcare decisions she/he will make, so too, the more educated and inquisitive a church member is, the better reproductive rights decisions she/he will make.
Obviously, religion has a great deal to do with a woman’s reproductive rights. The dogma that life begins at conception is well known. But with vast amounts of digital information and communications at our fingertips, more and more information about when life begins (true and false, depending on your viewpoint) can be dispersed. I can liken the dogma of religious leaders to the dogma of “the old” healthcare providers. As a physician, people come into the office all the time self-educated on their medical conditions and treatments. Some physicians bemoan, “Gone are the days when what the physician said was gospel,” no questions asked. But I disagree. Even if a patient comes in with an incorrect diagnosis after consulting Dr. Google, the more inquisitive patient receives better healthcare.
Sadly, several medical groups, with very professional-sounding titles, have been accused of misusing or mischaracterizing their scientific work and advice to advance their own political agenda. One example is the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds). The ACPeds is a socially conservative advocacy group of pediatricians. This group is separate, and has very different viewpoints, from the professional pediatric associations, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Pediatric Society (APS), and the Academic Pediatric Association (APA). But how would one know that this is a conservative social group with its professionally-sounding name? The organizations views on parenting, sexuality, the right to have an abortion are very different from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The ACPeds has been listed as a hate group by the souther Poverty Law Center for “pushing anti-LGBT junk science (1). Mainstream researchers, including those in the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), have accused ACPeds of misusing or mischaracterizing their work to advance ACPeds’ political agenda (2).
The ACPeds primary focus is advocating against the rights of gay and lesbian people. They are against the rights of gay or lesbian people to adopt children, and they advocate conversion therapy (1), which are opposite the views of the AAP. They state that the “American College of Pediatricians concurs with the body of scientific evidence that human life begins at conception—fertilization.” They further state that this “… definition has been expounded since prior to Roe v. Wade, but was not made available to the US Supreme Court in 1973.”(3).
I believe that the higher our level of education and awareness of issues is, the more effective we can be in our conversations concerning reproductive rights and social justice. When discussing decisions about reproductive rights, no one can say they have all the answers or have never made or held a wrong reproductive rights choice, thought, belief, innuendo or comment. The more educated a person is about reproductive rights history, the biological development of the fetus and the different philosophies and opinions on women’s reproductive rights, the more powerful our conversations can be.
2. Collins, Francis (April 16, 2010). "Response to the American College of Pediatricians". National Institutes of Health. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2011.