Like millions of people across the country, many Unitarian Universalists were outraged on the morning of June 24 when the U.S. Supreme Court announced, as expected, that it was overturning the federal right to abortion that had been enshrined for nearly fifty years under Roe v. Wade.
The announcement in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health Organization came as UUs gathered for the third day of General Assembly 2022, which was held both in-person in Portland, Oregon, and online. Unitarian Universalist Association President Susan Frederick-Gray took the stage at GA and said, “This anti-choice decision by the Supreme Court infringes on our deeply held religious beliefs. Access to abortion and the right to choose is an issue of gender equality, bodily autonomy, religious liberty, and access to healthcare, all of which are long-held Unitarian Universalist religious teachings.”
The UUA immediately released a statement affirming that keeping abortion legal is rooted in UU Principles and core religious beliefs that affirm gender equity. It also reflects a moral commitment to the idea that reproductive care is healthcare and is essential to the well-being of individuals and families. And on Saturday, UU delegates voted 99.7 percent in favor of “We Do Not Consent: Rejecting Legal Challenges to Abortion” an Action of Immediate Witness supporting reproductive justice.
On the afternoon of the Dobbs decision, scores of UUs, many in bright yellow Side With Love T-shirts, joined thousands of people at protests in downtown Portland organized by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, Democratic Socialists of America, and others.
Invited to address the crowd, Frederick-Gray drew loud cheers when she said, “I am furious; I am filled with holy fury!” adding, “Before Roe protected our right to abortion, Unitarian Universalists were participating with other faith communities to help women access safe abortion, and we are going right back to that work as faith communities.”
Emphasizing that the curtailing of reproductive rights will be felt most by marginalized groups, including people of color, trans people, young people, poor and working-class people, and those living in rural areas, Frederick-Gray said, “We will fight for every single one of us, and we will win, and we will not stop fighting until we win.”
After the rally, Carolyn Feldt, a UU from Kenosha, Wisconsin, said that Frederick-Gray’s address to the crowd was “fabulous. I love that she brings her outrage and her compassion. I’m so proud to be a UU.”
Lee Pardee, a UU from Brooklyn, New York, said, “We knew it was coming, but it’s still just horrible. I’ll be in the streets a fair amount, I’ll be pressing my representatives to take action to fix this, I’ll be sending money to pro-choice candidates around the country, and I’ll continue to work with grassroots organizations to help women needing abortions from other states come to New York. And I’m going to say I’m a UU because I think it’s so important to proclaim the religious liberals.”
Peter Fontneau, a delegate with the Accotink UU Church in Burke, Virginia, said he joined the downtown rally because after learning of the Dobbs decision, “I just need to be somewhere doing something. GA asked us to be here and I am.” Asked what UUs should do now, he said, “You couldn’t print some of what I think we should do,” then added, “It could be as simple as driving someone to a place where there’s abortion availability.”
Maggi Joseph and her wife Lucy Norton, UUs from San Antonio, Texas, were also at the rally. “I’m angry, angry, angry about this decision,” said Joseph. “It is so unfair and so stupid. Women should outrank fetuses. I fought this back in the day, and I did not dream, in a million years, I’d have to be fighting again.”
As for Frederick-Gray, Joseph said, “I think she was impassioned and wonderful.” Norton said, “What’s going on here today is part of our UU values and principles. It’s important that UUs show up, that anyone with a conscience needs to come out and support” reproductive justice.