Reflections on Abortion and Ethical Discernment in the Church

[1] June 24th 2022: The United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization; this ended the guarantee of abortion as a protected right. The weight of the issue of abortion does not solely rest on the shoulders of cisgender women. This also impacts MaGes (marginalized genders), men, and those who are most vulnerable such as children and victims of sexual assault. I believe that people with the capacity for pregnancy deserve the right to make such a deeply personal decision such as abortion for themselves without governmental interference. The repercussions of this decision will impact marginalized people the most, as have many decisions in the history of reproductive health care in the United States. A country which–because it refuses to acknowledge its history of forced birth in chattel slavery and the current abysmal maternal mortality rates within an inadequate healthcare system–will continue to fail it’s citizens.

[2] What does slavery have to do with abortion? The history of forced birth and the traumas it caused cannot continue to be ignored. Black women experienced horrific sexual violence during slavery. I don’t need to go into detail about how the bodies of Black women (and men) were exploited by any means necessary to uphold slavery in the U.S., but it is important to understand the history of forced birth and the accompanying lack of concern for the welfare of Black bodies in this country (a history that is often forgotten) and its connection to current affairs. Now, so many generations post slavery, we have alarming data that show Black women suffer the highest rates of maternal mortality. Data by the National Vital Statistics System show that  Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy related issues than their white counterparts.[1] Moreover, Black, Latina, and Indigenous women have all been found to have significantly higher rates of pregnancy related deaths compared to white women.[2]

[3] An important aspect of giving people the right to choose includes the right to choose healthy motherhood. One way to address the issue of maternal mortality is to make birth workers and doulas, who can advocate for their patients, more accessible. Because a significant number of maternal deaths can be prevented, it is inexcusable that the United States has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The U.S. is more than capable of changing the experiences that cost so many people their lives.

[4] An important part of reproductive healthcare does include abortion. The risks associated with pregnancy far outweigh the risks associated with abortion and that is why it is dangerous to restrict abortion rights because forcing women to carry pregnancies to term in some cases leads to what would have been preventable deaths. Doctors and the medical community have raised awareness of the life threatening issues in which cases abortion is a necessary option.[3]

[5] Moreover, there are also safety issues related to abortion accessibility due to factors of the mother’s circumstance. One example involves the threat of intimate partner violence. Those who are in abusive relationships need reproductive autonomy, so they can have more opportunity to freely and safely escape violent partners.[4] While socioeconomic factors can be a barrier to having access to abortion resources, abortion access is important because it often impacts women’s economic security, educational pursuits, and employment opportunities.[5]

[6] I have hope that the current dialogue around abortion will continue to educate us as a society. Younger generations are continuing to push the dialogue in ways I believe adds more value and wisdom to the conversation. I see how the language around abortion is becoming more inclusive as more and more people share their experiences. New perspectives and voices in dialogue can create broader understanding of the issues involved in abortion and promote social change and progress that benefits all people.

[7] For many people like myself growing up the topic of abortion was a religious issue. The church was a big part of my life. I spent so much time building community and learning about myself and my faith. I may not have truly understood the complexities of abortion as a teenager, but what I did know very clearly is that my church was against it. As a teenager I didn’t have much reason to question it. Sometimes those who grow up in a church tend to take on the ideologies and philosophies they are taught–no questions asked. I find it especially true among millennials to have had experiences in church in which they were denied the space to analyze the things we learned in church. As an adult, I now believe healthy and educational environments within the church are crucially important so that members can challenge and think critically about what they are taught. This directly relates to cultivating the ability to use faith to understand how to navigate in this world.

[8] To expand my point, growing up in a church gave me so many happy memories. Also because of my church experiences I developed key moral principles and was opened to a foundational faith perspective. In fact, it is my religious upbringing that has helped me become pro-choice, but only because I have been involved in discussions with many others. As I mentioned before, as a teenager I didn’t understand the complexities of abortion. It wasn’t until I met and talked with women at my alma mater, Mount Mary University, that I was faced with women who had experiences that I couldn’t even begin to conceptualize. The stories that were shared with me allowed me to evaluate if I was truly against the right to abortion or not. It made me question if I really knew what God would want in some of these situations.

[9] I wondered why I should be against abortion when it saved someone’s life. I wondered how I could look someone in the face and tell them they were wrong for doing something that saved their life, their physical health, or their mental wellbeing. Through discussion, I had to reckon with the idea of bodily autonomy for the first time which ultimately brought me to the question: Am I okay with making this decision for others? It was the first time in my life I practiced letting go of something I previously thought was a core belief. At first it was a little earth shattering. I felt a little ashamed.  But it taught me about what kind of person I wanted to be in my faith. Simply put, I had to decide if I was going to be a person who let their faith potentially harm others. I came to the conclusion that I could be more useful to others by being a part of systems of care that helped those who are in need. Whatever can be done to help the mental, physical or spiritual wellbeing of others is the most important thing. I believe God calls for us to be that person who demonstrates care in whatever ways we can.

[10] If the focus of any church is compassion for those in need, then I believe its members can implement practices that help them grow and connect to their local communities. One way to achieve this is to open up dialogue to those outside of the church as well as to people who practice different faiths. By doing so, church leaders can help foster an environment for people to learn together. I believe that congregations who are committed to self reflection and addressing how their members can habitually engage knowledge and research into the way it combats social justice issues better serve the community and those in need.




[1] D.L. Hoyert , Maternal mortality rates in the United States, NCHS Health, 2020.

[2] Emily Peterson, et. al., “Vital Signs: Pregnancy-Related Deaths, United States, 2011-2015, and Strategies for Prevention, 13 States, 2013-2017,  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  published by the Center for Disease Control.

[3] American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,  Abortion is Health Care.


[4] A.F. Saftlas, et. al.,  “Prevalence of intimate partner violence among an abortion clinic population,” American Journal of Public Health. 2010 Aug;100(8):1412-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.178947. Epub 2010 Jun 17. PMID: 20558796; PMCID: PMC2901290.

[5] Caitlin Knowles Myers and Morgan Welch. “What Can Economic Research Tell Us about the Effect of Abortion Access on Women’s Lives?”,, 30 Nov. 2021,


Celcy Powers-King

Celcy Powers-King is an elementary literacy tutor in Milwaukee, WI. She graduated in 2019 from Mount Mary University with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a certificate in peace building.