Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to place a stay on a Texas law restricting abortions beyond 6 weeks of conception. The unique feature of the law is that its enforcement is by individuals, not the Texas government. Religious groups have lined up in support of and in opposition to the law.
Clergy are listed among the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging SB 8, including the Rev. Erika Forbes, an interfaith minister and the outreach and faith manager for abortion rights group Just Texas. A longtime abortion-rights advocate, she has helped mobilize 25 “Reproductive Freedom Congregations,” with an additional 70 working their way through the process of earning the designation.
ACLU Texas staff attorney David Donatti, whose group is representing Forbes and another clergy member in the lawsuit, argued the law could have a “chilling effect” on faith leaders who are asked to counsel a congregant facing a decision on abortion.
“SB 8 could very well violate our First Amendment rights, because if it is restricting … the ability of clergy or religious individuals — a congregation — to provide that kind of counseling, which is fundamental to their faith, then that violates their religious freedom,” Donatti said.
According to UPI, there are Episcopal congregations in the process of becoming Reproductive Freedom Congregations:
Leaders of Just Texas: Faith Voices for Reproductive Justice announced at an Aug. 25 news conference at First Unitarian Church of Dallas that 25 churches have earned the designation of Reproductive Freedom Congregations [link added] since 2016 and about 70 more are in the process of getting it.
The program teaches clergy about reproductive healthcare and encourages them to talk about the subject, including abortion, from the pulpit and individually with members of their congregations.
The denominations of the churches and faith groups with the designations are Universalist, Baptist and Presbyterian. Episcopal, Methodist, Reform Judaism are among the congregations listed as undergoing the process.