Californians are going to the polls on November 8 to decide whether to establish a fundamental right to reproductive choice, including abortion and contraception, in the California Constitution. While many have voted already, millions of Californians are still wrestling with this question.
The Episcopal Church affirms the sanctity of life from inception and acknowledges the tragedy of abortion. We agree with abortion opponents that the moral dimension is a proper subject for the religious and spiritual sphere. We also believe that the proper forum for reproductive decisions is faith-informed individual conscience, not politico-religious regulation. As Dean Malcolm Young said in a sermon in May on abortion and theology: “Every situation is different. It is not a simple matter that can be easily and permanently resolved. Each person has to decide. No one should be coerced to deviate from their conscience, because that is the place we so often meet God.”
The Episcopal Church opposes any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right to act on an informed decision to terminate a pregnancy. The Church is especially concerned that access to abortion and other fundamental rights might once again depend on wealth and mobility.
Its supporters say that a high turnout in favor of Prop. 1 will give pause to those who consider the Supreme Court’s rollback a political opportunity. They warn that abortion is a marker for other gender justice-related privacy rights under threat. Opponents point out that reproductive rights are already protected under California legislation. They claim that the wording of the measure could be interpreted to legalize late-term abortion on demand, contrary to current California law.
Whatever the outcome of Prop. 1, abortion and contraception will still be legal in California on November 9. The hard choices will not be any easier. The Episcopal Church will continue to promote education and awareness, medical as well as pastoral, as an essential component of engaging with issues relating to family planning, child spacing, adoption, infertility and abortion.
The Supreme Court has declared that abortion is a political question. If so, let us go to the polls with a conscience informed by faith.