When anti-abortion activists from all over the country converged last Saturday to stage a protest aimed at closing Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson was swept into the storm.
The 55–member congregation drew the attention of Operation Save America, a right–wing group dedicated to ending abortion, because it was hosting out–of–town pro–choice counter demonstrators in its religious education building. OSA decided to picket the church’s Sunday morning service and pre–service forum on abortion, but word spread and groups from the pro–choice National Organization for Women and the Anti–Racist Action Network came to the aid of church members. As the OSA group gathered with signs and a bullhorn across the street, the pro–choice supporters formed a line of cars blocking the church’s driveway and also barricaded the church entrance and exit.
At one point, according to Waverly Liles, the congregation’s president, someone from the OSA group tried to drive into the church’s driveway and knocked down one of the pro–choice demonstrators, who was unhurt. The pro–choice groups then started banging on the car, breaking the car’s windshield. There was no further escalation after that, Liles said, and both the forum and the service were held without further incident. No arrests were made.
OSA protesters also demonstrated at St. James Episcopal Church that same morning, resulting in the arrests of five protesters.
Liles described some of the OSA protesters as so extreme that their tactics alienated many local anti–abortion sympathizers. “In the long run, this is going to be good for us,” he said, referring to the fact that a major confrontation was averted. “It got us positive attention.”
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has formally supported a woman’s right to choose, with delegates to its annual General Assembly passing the first of eleven resolutions of support in 1963. The most recent was in 2003.
- UUA resources on reproductive health.Links to General Assembly resolutions, advocacy resources, sermons, and religious education material. (UUA.org)
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Correction 07.26.06: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to Operation Save America as Operation Rescue America. Operation Save America was formerly called Operation Rescue.