Episcopal Women's Caucus urges church to act on reproductive justice

Posted Aug 24, 2012

[Episcopal Women’s Caucus] The Board of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, a social justice advocacy group within the Episcopal Church, expresses our outrage at the current political discourse regarding reproductive justice. We are appalled by the misinformation that speaks of “forcible rape” as something different from ordinary rape and asserts that, in a “legitimate rape,” a woman will not get pregnant, because her body has a way to “shut that whole thing down.”

Those of us who have worked to raise awareness about women’s rights and promoted changes in laws to more actively prosecute rapists, strengthen jail sentences, and help victims of rape and sexual assault find help and hope feel that we have back tracked in time. We are living a nightmare.

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus is committed to changing this nightmare, reinforcing and increasing acts of justice.

First, we take a firm stand against any and all representatives, senators and other legislators who aim to limit the health care options any woman — particularly a raped and pregnant woman — has available to her.

Second, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus supports Rev. Harry Knox, president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, when he writes:

“Congressman Akin misunderstands the Biblical meaning of the word ‘justice.’ He talks about bringing rapists to justice, but he apparently doesn’t realize that true justice requires that a woman who has been raped have every resource available to her as she rebuilds her life after trauma. One of those resources must be the option to end a pregnancy caused by her rapist.”

Additionally, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus calls upon the membership and leadership of the Episcopal church — at international, national, diocesan and local levels — to write to their representatives, senators and other legislators to express their outrage and distress about this archaic ideology and deeply flawed theology that is the foundation of this political and anti-women position.

In turning nightmares into dreams of justice, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus will actively work to ensure that people are informed and not misinformed. We actively work to promote the well-being of all people. Each woman should have the right to choose how to best care for herself, her whole self. Because we are made in the image of God, and that is sacred.

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus is a justice organization dedicated to Gospel values of equality and liberation and committed to the incarnation of God’s unconditional love. For more information, visit www.episcopalwomenscaucus.org.


Comments (17)

  1. Sue Dauer says:

    Thank you for the strong wording in this article. I cannot believe that any human being would stand behind Akin or his followers or other party members.

  2. Elizabeth R. Hallett says:

    We cannot defend too strongly the rights of women. We, as Americans, are so slow among the developed nations to welcome women into the eschelons of decision making, and the men need us!! We change the level of discourse when geiven the opportunity. Episcopalian men: where are you?

  3. Please. The guy misspoke. Those of us who are pro-life and actually live in Missouri know that Congressman Akin is not fit to be a US senator and are moving heaven and Earth to get another viable conservative candidate on the November ballot. But whatever Congressman Akin is, he is infinitely preferable to the abortion-for-any-reason-whatsoever zealots of Harry Knox’s RCRC. And for the Episcopal Women’s Caucus to try to use this occasion merely to try to score a few political points is deplorable and anti-Christian.

    1. Steve Grech says:

      I agree with Mr Johnson.

      1. Marlene Talbott-Green PhD says:

        Mr. Grech and Mr. Johnson: Please be careful lest you both mis-speak – the bogy man of “abortion for any reason whatsoever zealot” does not exist. What seems to exist here, is the inplication that these men know the real and acceptable reasons why women can’t be trusted to make decisions about their healthcare and family planning , but that even Todd Akin, bad as he may be, is morally and spiritually superior to women generally, who do not have the intelligence or moral sensitivity to decide when they may want or need to terminate a pregnancy. From where do these people get their authority to make such statements? The mis-speakers here may be thinking that they are better judges of what women should do about their health care, their privacy, their bodily integrity, and reproductive rights than women do. They define rape on their own terms, they make ridiculous statements about women’s anatomy, and claim their authority from God. It is doubtful that they have had any first hand experience with real women or with rape or incest, so trippingly do these insane statements flow off the tongue. And by what experience do they claim that God is their authority? Let’s have a little humility, gentlemen, and a little compassion, too. I think that comes from God.

    2. John D. Andrews says:

      Christopher, Mr. Akin did not misspeak. His words were very clear. He only backpedaled after the extreme backlash from people on both sides of the issue. I applaud the Episcopal Womens Caucus for taking a strong stand for women.

  4. Louis Stanley Schoen says:

    Strikes me that Mr. Johnson’s comment illustrates the need for EWC to highlight the issue and remind Episcopalians to contact their legislators if there’s any doubt about where they stand on it.

  5. The Rev. Doris Mote says:

    Couldn’t believe I was hearing that old saw again. We must speak up. The time has passed to let these comments to go by with no response.

  6. Tony Green says:

    I can’t tell you how the notion of “outrage” strikes me in general. When people of faith present themselves as “outraged,” I usually offer the comment, “So what?” In this context, someone got something wrong — an important thing, mind you. But I am not outraged. Upset or perturbed — maybe even pissed off, but not outraged. I get outraged when innocent people are being annihilated in Syria, while no one does anything. I get outraged when thousands die, when serums and the technology for clean water is readily available. I get outraged when the best technology we can come up with to resolve the perils of rape and traumatic pregnancy is termination. We are so cautious in the use of the scalpel in so many procedures, why are we so quick to suggest it in so many cases as a right? I get outraged when living things aren’t given the chance to live out their potential because of circumstances beyond their control –because of the trauma their presence will cause.

    Can we redirect the energy wasted in outrage to better purposes and strategies?

    1. There’s an old expression: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”.

      Those of us who have worked long and hard over many years for reproductive justice are, indeed, ‘outraged’ to hear the current level of discourse as well as the proposed political legislation to erode the gains made over the past few decades.

      The 1994 statement of the Episcopal Church regarding abortion still stands squarely on the classical Via Media of Anglicanism. You can find it here: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=1994-A054

      It says, in part, “We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community. While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.”

      That was actually taken from Resolution C047 at the 61st General Convention. In 1994, we added this:

      “We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church; and be it further

      Resolved, That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.”

      Not everyone on either side of this issue is happy with that statement. Those who are opposed to abortion under ANY circumstance lament that their church is not more blatantly “pro-life”. Those who see that abortion can be a “blessing” to some women, lament that their church is not more aggressively “pro-choice”.

      Those of us who see some in our government trying to erode reproductive justice for women – even with the extremes of junk science which more than Mr. Aiken believe – are rightly and justifiably outraged. That’s because we’re paying attention, even as we continue to direct our energies toward reducing the reasons why women have abortions: poverty, education, access to affordable, quality health care, etc.

  7. John D. Andrews says:

    The men on this thread show how we need more women in legislative bodies that understand the issue of rape. It is clear that these men do not.

  8. Pamela. RW Kandt says:

    Rep. Akin did not “mispeak” — the fallacy he expressed has been promulgated by a doctor Mitt Romney is proud to call a supporter and has been oft repeated by politicians seeking to dictate the private medical care of women. It’s a misnomer to call these people “pro-life” — they are merely pro-birth. Witness their lack of concern for children born into poverty and their strident support for gutting public education for ample evidence of their “pro-life” hypocrisy.

  9. elizabeth windsor says:

    Mr. Johnson,

    He did not misspeak. Far from it. He claimed, without any scientific basis whatsoever, that women who are raped “legitimately” (as opposed to those who he believes are making false claims of rape) do not get pregnant. This hateful and ignorant statement harkens back to the 16th century witch hunts and the “ordeal by water” where an accused woman who sank was considered innocent of witchcraft (albeit, dead), while floating indicated witchcraft. To Akin, if a woman was really, legitimately raped, her body does not allow her to get pregnant, so there is no need for an abortion. To those who get pregnant, well they must have been asking for it, right? No abortion for them.

    This is not a misstatement of any sort whatsoever, it was a calculated, sickening statement.

  10. Really? Than why are pro-lifers like me trying to get Akin to withdraw and are seriously considering voting for a third-party candidate or even Claire McCaskill herself if he doesn’t? If you believe that what Akin said represents pro-life beliefs than you know nothing whatsoever about pro-life beliefs. The fact that Todd Akin is stupid enough not to understand that what he said gave the Democrats a weapon that they’d be foolish not to exploit and arrogantly self-centered enough not to care is what will probably give Claire McCaskill six more years in the Senate.

    Let me put it this way. If the election seems close enough that my vote might matter, I’ll hold my nose and vote for Akin, secure in the knowledge that, if he wins, I’ll be able to vote for a much less embarrassing Republican candidate in 2018. But if it’s obvious to everyone in Missouri that Claire is going to take down this monster pot, handed to her by Todd Akin, then I’ll vote for some third-party candidate or other, secure in the knowledge that Todd Akin’s political career is finished.

  11. John Harrington says:

    Regardless of whether Mr. Aiken misspoke, the real nightmare is the suggestion that government assistance for killing a fetus because it was conceived by rape has anything to do with justice. Mr. Akin may want to turn the clock back to the 1960s, but it sounds like the Women’s Caucus want to turn it back to somewhere around the Bronze Age (see Exodus 20:5).

    1. Marlene Talbott-Green PhD says:

      It sounds like the arguments pro and con regarding women’s health care choices break down along gender lines, with women being outraged or at least disappointed, and men viewing it all with alarm. Inasmuch as medical science and medical research has had little to say about the physical difference and uniqueness of women’s bodies, to the extent that most research is historically abased on the male as “norm,” I woiuld say, that probably women should be the first consulted about these kinds of moral and spiritual issues, and men ought to defer to women’s unique experiences in their unique bodies. In otrher words, be still and listen.

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