Last March, Cincinnati Friends Meeting approved the formation of a small group that led two open worship sharing sessions to discern our meeting's responses to a series of queries posed by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) regarding reproductive health. Seventeen people participated in the process, either during the sharing sessions or via email. The small group then synthesized the discussions and presented its summary to the May meeting for business. The following responses were sent to FCNL, which will review its policy statement at their annual meeting in November.
What does reproductive health care look like in the world that you and your community seek?
Reproductive healthcare should be accessible and affordable for all individuals, and it should include a comprehensive range of services, such as contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, in vitro fertilization, prenatal care, safe childbirth, care after a miscarriage, and access to legal and safe abortion. Education about pregnancy and reproductive health is also crucial, and should focus on accurate information and communication. It is important to recognize that reproductive healthcare is not just about abortion, but is a subset of comprehensive healthcare that is essential for the overall health of women.
Although some expressed certain personal concerns about abortion, we agreed that the decision about whether to have an abortion should be left to the individual, and not dictated by the government. Some expressed the importance of involving the man in the reproductive decision when it is safe to do so. Obtaining the procedure should be free of harassment.
Most agree there is a need for funding and support for reproductive healthcare, especially for underserved and poor communities, and for addressing the high rate of infant mortality among these groups. Some people expressed that, to the extent possible, men should take on financial, caregiving, and educational responsibilities for any children that the couple decides to bring to term.
Access to reproductive healthcare should not be overshadowed by the abortion debate or be limited by government intervention. Abortion will be legal, safe, and rare when we focus on reproductive care.
How are the Quaker values and testimonies relevant to the issue of abortion?
The Quaker testimony of community emphasizes the importance of supporting and caring for one another. This can be applied to the issue of abortion, as individuals may need support and resources when making decisions about their reproductive health, including access to comprehensive sexual education and healthcare services. Access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is crucial, particularly for marginalized communities, and Planned Parenthood serves an important role in providing healthcare services.
Our testimony of equality is paramount because women are uniquely affected by pregnancy, and the choices they make can impact their lives in profound ways. Lack of equitable access to abortion violates the rights of women to be free from the effects of violence and emotional trauma, as well as to protect their own lives. Bans on abortion are most devastating for young people, people of color, people with financial concerns, and marginalized communities, who already have trouble accessing healthcare and other needed services.
The Quaker testimony of integrity encompasses the importance of respecting the autonomy of individuals, including their right to make decisions about their own bodies. This can be applied to the issue of abortion, as it involves a person's right to make choices about their reproductive health and wellbeing.
The debate about abortion involves questions of when life begins and women's rights to privacy and choice. Ultimately, the decision to proceed with an abortion should be made with respect for the individual's circumstances and a recognition that we do not live in a perfect world. While the issue of abortion has been divisive and volatile, an approach that promotes peace and consensus within the self, within relationships, within Quaker communities, and within the democratic process is essential.
Should the FCNL Policy Statement be revised on the issues of abortion and reproductive health and abortion?
We recognize that the broader Quaker community may not be in unity regarding the issues of reproductive healthcare and abortion. Our community believes that healthcare decisions should be made by patients and their doctors without government involvement or coercion.
Within our group, some participants expressed support for revising the FCNL Policy Statement to take a pro-choice stance and codify the need for equitable access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion. Others suggested the possibility of changing the neutrality statement to something that isn't explicitly pro-choice or pro-life, but that is generally supportive of reproductive healthcare as part of comprehensive healthcare.
If so, what should the Policy Statement say?
Although our group did not develop specific wording for the Policy Statement, we support the idea of revising it to reflect the importance of equitable access to reproductive healthcare as part of comprehensive healthcare, and that reproductive rights are essential for women as human rights. We believe the responsibility for developing the statement lies with FCNL based on their discernment of the broader Friends community.
Do you have additional comments or responses from your discernment that you would like to share?
We did not have any primarily pro-life supporters participate in our worship sharing.
Please let us know if you have any comments about this method of gathering your ideas.
We appreciate what FCNL does to actively speak on behalf of the Quaker community to support our testimonies. We will hold in the Light this discernment process.