The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 11, 2022 1:00 am

Faith in women

Pastor vows to stand with those making life's most intimate decision

Anne B. Epling

Fourteen years ago around this time of year, my husband and I went in for what we thought was a routine ultrasound.

I was about 18 weeks pregnant at the time, and we were excited to welcome our fourth child. Our older three children, a daughter and two sons, were also eager to find out whether they were going to have a little sister or a little brother.

We promised them that when they got home from school, we'd have an answer for them.

After hearing from the ultrasound tech that we were going to have a girl, we settled in for the “routine stuff” that turned out to be anything but routine.

The ultrasound showed there was an abnormal white spot on the fetus' heart which could be Trisomy 13, a condition with which most infants don't live more than a week. We needed to schedule a higher-level ultrasound and amniocentesis quickly because if we chose to terminate the pregnancy we only had a few days to decide.

This was in Missouri, and the state mandated such things. We left devastated, worried and anxious. We started to grieve what could have been.

As a minister of the word and sacrament, I've spoken on a number of difficult subjects when I have felt God move me to do so. I've advocated for marriage equality and the full inclusion of LGBTQ-UIA+ individuals, demanded gun reform and asked hard theological questions about the place of faith in the public sphere.

But the one issue I have remained silent on is reproductive rights. By doing so, I have allowed the religious right to dominate the discussion and thus given the impression that there is only one religious view when it comes to abortion.

Given the news of the Supreme Court leak, I will not allow this to happen again.

I am supportive of reproductive rights, access to health care and a woman's right to choose. I am pro-choice, not in spite of my faith but because of my faith.

I believe in a woman's sacred worth, and that the creator has given her the capacity to make choices. I believe that when a woman faces the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy, this is an intensely personal decision that often doesn't fit into neat medical, legal or policy guidelines.

Women are empowered by the creator to make significant choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy. I believe when a woman faces the difficult decision to end a pregnancy, God stands by her side, holds her hand and loves her through it. I believe her faith community, if she is a part of one, should do the same.

I am grateful that 14 years ago I did not have to make the heart-wrenching choice to end my pregnancy or not, and I can't say with certainty the decision my husband and I would have made had we faced such a situation. But I do know that not every woman's story ends like mine, and for too long the faith community has failed to hold space for them.

It is time to put an end to that and the shame that often accompanies it.

Whether  to carry a pregnancy to term is an intensely personal decision to make and should be ours to make – not others. The last people who should make a decision about what happens to a woman's body are politicians and preachers.

Women can and should be trusted to make thoughtful and responsible decisions about their lives, and I vow to use my voice to advocate for us.

The Rev. Anne B. Epling is pastor/head of staff at First Presbyterian Church.

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