Birmingham Calling

Pasted GraphicI got an e-mail from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice last night asking me to come to Birmingham next week. Six years ago the ask came in snail mail and the request was to go to Wichita. I'm not sure what possessed me to do it, but I went. It was a transformative experience.

While the extreme right wing nuts have done a pretty good job taking over the courts, shutting down comprehensive health services for women, intimidating doctors, nurses and nurse-midwives, there remains a loyal core of committed people who support a woman's right to make her own choices about her reproductive fate. When and whether a woman (or girl) is to have a child should not be decided by any church or any government. But there is quite a cadre of authoritarian soldiers who are intent on foisting their own "moral" strictures on all of the rest of us. And those authoritarian soldiers are being deployed in Birmingham to try to shut down the women's clinics in that city on July 14. They have done this before in other states at other clinics. I was there in 2001 when they tried to shut down Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita, again.

Here is most of the text of the e-mail I got from RCRC

Our friends in Birmingham, Alabama, have issued an urgent call for the help of the religious, pro-choice community.

On Saturday, July 14, Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) will descend on Birmingham to shut down the women's clinics there. OSA considers itself a "religious" group - but we know this crowd is a bunch of bullies who spend their time harassing and intimidating women and spewing hatred toward anyone who doesn't agree with their ideology. And they believe they are above the law.

In its own words, OSA is coming to Birmingham to bring "the Gospel of Christ to the gates of hell - the abortion industry in Birmingham." It is up to RCRC, as the voice of religious Americans, to debunk this irreligious propaganda.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has joined Alabama Reproductive Freedom Summer to stand up for the safety and dignity of women and the right of women's clinics to provide services. A week of reproductive justice-related events is scheduled, from July 14-22. Join us for a day, two days or a whole week. We will rally for women's lives, educate others about faith and reproductive freedom, and much, much more!

On July 14, the Rev. C. Joshua Villines of RCRC's Clergy for Choice Network will address the kick off rally, along with Emily Lyons, Rep. Patricia Todd, Michelle Colon of MidSouth NOW, and Howard Bayless of Equality Alabama. Emily Lyons is the clinic nurse who was gravely injured in the 1998 bombing of The New Woman All Women Health Care, the very clinic that Operation Save America intends to shut down. The bombing left her with severe physical damage but the determination and courage to speak out to stop the violence and hate.

After the rally, we will hold Peaceful Presence at the clinic, which provides safe abortions for women throughout Alabama and from as far away as Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Peaceful Presence is RCRC's non-violent, non-confrontational, law-abiding, all-volunteer program to offer solace and comfort to patients, families, and healthcare providers. On Sunday, July 15, we will take part in a clergy forum to discuss faith and reproductive justice.

If you are interested in joining the effort I highly recommend it. My trip to Wichita opened my eyes to the deep seated fear and anger that is held by the people carrying the signs and walking up and down the streets like zombies praying to a god that is no where in my understanding. It also solidified my own commitment to the cause of reproductive justice and freedom. It was exhausting and invigorating at the same time and I met some of the most amazing people who also are called to stand up for choice.

I'd be there but I'm in the middle of moving and it just won't fit into my life right now so I decided to pass the invitation along to everyone I could think of. This means you.

cross posted on DailyKos, Talk2Action and Street Prophets

Pro-Faith, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice


I pulled the mail out of my box at the church this morning. There were two envelopes with handwritten addresses on them. Neither had return addresses. One was nicely written the other looked like the hand had been in spasm with red pen in hand. The nicely written one was a thank you from a parishioner whose brother had died and I helped plan and conduct the memorial service. The other . . .

In the envelope was a torn up newspaper article from a local Cape Cod paper a week ago that quoted me about the war (surprise, I'm against it!). The quote was marked and there was a notation in the margins. Included in the envelope was a bumper sticker, " Be grateful your mother was Pro-life." OK, I hadn't had one of those kinds of mysterious envelopes in a while, years even. Into the garbage it went.

I had forgotten that today marks the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. An odd thing for me to forget as I am an activist for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. But there is so much going on in my life right now it had just slipped. It happens.

Whomever the troubled person was who felt the need to press her or his views upon me obviously does not know my mother. Back in the early 1950's my mother had two back alley abortions between my birth and the birth of my brother 2+ years later. They were horrid experiences for her and she never talks about them except to confirm that they happened. Fortunately for me, when birth control failed and I needed to find my way to a clinic, it was there. At a time in my life when I could not in any way, shape, or form bring a child into this world, it was there. It was legal. It was safe. It was a caring place for women in need. It also happened to house a facility for women who wanted to carry their fetuses to term and then give them up for adoption. That is what choice is about.

It was a hard decision to make. It is always a hard decision to make no matter how right it is. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. It changed my life. For the better. I doubt that I would be in ministry today had it not been for that choice that I was forced to make. Yes, there is a sad moment now and again when I think about the child I did not have, but I have no regrets. I also have great thanks for the brave and sensitive people who risk so much every day when they go to work so that others may exercise the same choice that I did.

To whomever sent me the bumper sticker, thank you for reminding me how supportive my mother is of my work to preserve a woman's right to choose.