I’ve been considering that quote this week in relation to the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, and I am altering it slightly for this moment – Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what those whose bodies are capable of pregnancy carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.
Pregnancy arises and exists in complex situations. I could never fully capture the realities of individuals, their partners and their families. I could never fully take in what I have heard and witnessed in what others have carried.
I value the life and potential for human life of a fetus. I have held others’ stories of excitement and joy at each ultrasound and image of life growing in the womb. I have witnessed the wondrous and scary complicated births of my nephews. I have held others’ stories of deep grief around miscarriages and stillbirths of wanted pregnancies – grief over life lost. I value the life and potential for life of women, trans men and non-binary people. I have held others’ stories of supportive families, life-giving relationships, joyful milestones, triumph over struggles, and growing self-knowledge. I have held others’ stories of abusive relationships, health complications, lack of family or social support, economic struggle, shaming by others, sexual assault, and pain caused by sexism and other injustices. All stories potentially made more complicated by pregnancies. Since the removal of the right to safe and legal abortion, I have listened to the news reports of woman after woman who suddenly feel even more vulnerable and marginalized in their situations today. And I stand in awe of what they must carry. And I weep for the ways we as a community have asked them to now carry it - without the protected ability to discern and make judgment for oneself in relation to one’s health, circumstances, ethical agency, and relationship with others.
I have used the word “them,” and yet it is “us,” too. I have a body that can give birth. While I have not experienced pregnancy, I have experienced the disdain and shaming placed on bodies like mine, as well as the sense of powerlessness when agency is stripped away, pressured or questioned. As a woman and as a pastor, I desire to see my community arise to answer the ethical question of what we owe to one another – how we will support and value women and those who can become pregnant; how we will value the life in the womb by supporting life outside the womb in tangible, physical, life-giving ways through healthcare, childcare, parental leave, and living wages; how we will give accurate, truthful information and access to contraception; how we will hold and listen to each others’ stories with compassion and without judgment; how we will walk with one another in the midst of difficult situations; how we will create safe spaces for courageous sharing; and how we will honor each other by respecting each one’s agency and decision-making.
We are called to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). And so I do not want us to only stand in awe of what others must carry, but to lend our shoulder, our back, our arms, our lives in bearing the weight of what they must carry. If you are angry, afraid, and grieving today, know this: we are not left powerless. The Spirit breathes in us and unites us in community. We are yoked to Christ, whose burden is light, while the world’s burden is heavy. We are empowered to fully know and live into our calling as people of God in every situation. We are sent to live alongside others in the midst of their burdens, to witness against unjust laws, to speak to and experience God’s abundant life, and with power, to love. Love, love, love.
Peace be with you,
If you desire conversation, prayer or pastoral care regarding this recent Supreme Court decision, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
You may read Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s statement here.