Women in the DMV area are expressing disappointment and heartache from the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Gayartri Malhotra on Unsplash.com)

By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO D.C. Editor

By Samuel Williams, Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

The fallout continues from the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe V. Wade on June 24. Black clergy women across denominations in the metropolitan D.C. area have joined women from all backgrounds in expressing a spectrum of thought – from disappointment to anger and rage at the Supreme Court’s decision, ending more than a half century of constitutional protection for abortion in the United States.   

“In my opinion the reversal is atrocious and full of government control and should not have been allowed,” said Constance Wheeler, former senior pastor at St. Paul AME Church in Northwest D.C.  

 “Over the past years women who faced pregnancy due to rape, incest or simply were facing an unwanted child had the option to make their own decision about abortion. Now 50 years later women’s bodies and being controlled by the state,” Wheeler said.  

 The Court’s ruling in Dobb’s v. Jackson’s Women‘s Health Organization resulted in making each state the final arbiter of a person’s right to terminate a pregnancy.  “Trigger laws” in 13 states immediately took effect banning almost all abortions.  Another 13 states have started enforcing a variety of restrictive measures against abortion reminiscent of the pre-Roe v. Wade era of the early 1970s.  

“This isn’t as Black and White as people want it to seem.  These are tough, arduous choices that women make,” said Patricia Hales Fears, President of the D.C. Baptist Convention. Fears, who also serves as Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Northwest D.C. 

Fears’ personal viewpoint on the abortion issue is not theoretical but comes having spent years counseling women who have undergone an abortion medical procedure.  

 “But it’s still a woman’s body to make that choice. And if you take that away, you take away a woman’s freedom – and that’s not the God that I serve,” she said.   

“In the D.C. Baptist Convention, some of our female clergy have already spoken out on this issue from the pulpit,” she continued, reflecting on the more than 150 diverse churches across D.C., Virginia and Maryland that are members of the D.C. Baptist Convention.   

Women in the DMV area are expressing disappointment and heartache from the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Gayartri Malhotra on Unsplash.com)

“I made it a point to speak with as many of the female clergy as I could,” Fears said after the ruling from the Court was handed down. “One-on-one conversations allowed us to have more thoughtful and rich dialogue. In churches where there is a difference of opinion on this issue, clergy sought to create a ‘space for grace’ where members can speak respectfully to one another about their divergent viewpoints,” Fears said.  

Black women with lower incomes are predicted to experience the greatest impact of state restrictions against abortion according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute.  

The most recent CDC data, from 2019, shows that Black women access abortion services at more than four times the rate of White women in the U.S.

Charlene Howard, a Catholic lay leader, and member of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington, D.C. voiced disappointment at the Court’s decision while acknowledging the Catholic Church’s official position on the medical procedure.  

“First and foremost, all life is from God therefore, human life in all its stages has dignity and value. This is a consistent ethic of life – womb to tomb,” said Howard.  

“The Supreme Court’s decision has left me numb since it is one entangled in political agendas within our government and our religious denominations. This ruling highlights the delicate, personal and intersectional ‘-isms’ of race, economics, gender, etc. that are now more complicated due to its issuance,” Howard continued.

Rev. Danielle Hipkins, senior pastor St. Luke AME Church in Ellicott City, Md. believes the reversal of constitutional protection for abortion is a slippery slope potentially leading to the Court’s involvement in curtailing other constitutionally protected rights.  

 “My response is simply: What’s next?” quipped Hipkins. “Interracial marriage, voting rights, segregation, slavery!”

“I serve a God that graciously gives us a choice and free will! How dare we take that away from others?” she asked. “Whether you agree with abortion or not: my body my choice; your body your choice.”

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