The Roe v. Wade News—and Finding Hope

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Hey y’all, it’s Brittany. If it sounds kind of weird, it’s because I’m sitting in the back of a car with my family trying to figure out what the hell just happened. I mean, I know, we completely expected this, and yet, just because you know injustice is coming, doesn’t mean that it stings any less when it finally does.

In moments like these, it’s all the more important to find our hope, to find our faith, so we can keep up the fight. We had exactly that kind of conversation. Our friend and journalist Phillip Picardi led myself; Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, the senior pastor of Middle Church; and Jamie L. Mason, the president of Catholics for Choice in a conversation on how to do exactly that. Because in times like these, we need to fight and we need each other.

Here’s a little bit of our conversation together. And make sure you check out the show notes this week, because there will be some important actions that you can take to protect all of our access to abortion and protect all of our bodily autonomy. 

Phillip Picardi: So, Rev. Jacqui, you recently noted that the Supreme Court seems to be sort of throwing us into a theocracy. Can you explain what you meant by that?

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: These folks have been playing a long game for a long time to place on the court people who they knew would make decisions that would roll back the civil rights wins if you will, of the sixties, seventies, and eighties.

And so here we are, I think living out and I’m gonna call it a fake Christianity or Christianity-ish, kind of theology that is actually a theocracy. The court is not behaving as a neutral party it’s behaving as an instrument of white Evangelical Christianity and forcing its will on the people as demagogues.

Phillip: Brittany, I know for example, that you have never shied away, especially in your public role, right, as an activist of being a woman of God.

So when you hear this kind of dialogue, I think in our public square, that religion is responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade, I’m wondering how you interpret that or square that with your relationship to religion. 

Brittany: What Rev. Jacqui said is so right, this is about the will of a very vocal and now dominant, at least politically, minority of people who want to impose their will on the rest of us. We know that this is not true across all religions, it’s not even true across Christianity. Right?

We’ve got so many Jewish siblings, so many. Muslim siblings. So many siblings who are not people of faith who are expressing that the bodily autonomy that all of us should be able to have over ourselves should be maintained irrespective of a couple of people in some black robes and a party that has always been disinterested in our collective freedom.

I was reorienting myself with the basic concepts and frameworks of reproductive justice this morning in preparation for the conversations that I knew we’d have. Reproductive justice is a term and a framework that comes out of a collective of Black women in Chicago ahead of a global human rights conference that got together in 1994.

And they wanted to rightfully combine the concepts of reproductive rights and social justice. And you know our folks over at SisterSong, they define reproductive justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

And the reason why I love that concept so, so much is because it’s clarifying. It helps us understand that, yes, it is always about maintaining access to abortion. It is always about maintaining choice. But that is never and not enough. That it is also about maintaining personal bodily autonomy across the board.

It is about ensuring healthy communities and healthy homes and healthy families for these children to be raised in. So it is about eradicating childhood poverty. It is about ending maternal mortality. It is about ensuring that we have a gender expansive understanding of reproductive rights. 

It is about ensuring safe housing and quality healthcare, and excellent education for all young people, no matter how they’ve come to be in our community. And when I really center myself in my faith, it calls me to be honest about what I’m fighting against. And it also calls me to be deeply honest and clear with myself about what I’m fighting for and what I’m fighting for, what we’re always fighting for is reproductive justice. 

Rev. Jacqui: Girl, that was a sermon right there. I mean, I think I want to just say is as a clergy, paying attention to the Black church, which grew, you know, Brittany and me, you know, but to pay attention to what the Black church has to offer us in terms of a liberative word. This is what is, this is what we need to lean into right now.

And to not let the news, the media, anyone hijack faith as an evil construct unto it itself. But to remember, to lift up the voices of those who are doing organizing from their faith perspective as a model for how we might heal America. 

Brittany: I mean that’s absolutely a word, but you know. Phil, you and I have talked about the fact that I did not know, I was never familiar with this blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white Evangelical American Jesus for years, because that is genuinely not who I was raised with. My very first Bible had all the people of color in it, and my parents were extremely intentional about that. My father was a professor of Black liberation theology.

My mother is an educator and a Sunday school teacher and a social worker. And so I’ve always had an expansive understanding of what faith in our family’s definition was meant to be, and it was, it always came back down to the scripture of faith without works being dead. 

Whether you are a person of faith, big F faith or not, this is an opportunity for all of us to practice faith, right? Mariame Kaba said hope is a discipline. And, you know, my father used to always say, courage takes practice. These are the moments where we have to call on those that we are in community with afar and up close to help us practice the hope that we need to move forward.

So being raised in a Black church, we would understand we would pray about it, but we were also gonna March about it. We were also gonna move about it. We were gonna advocate. We were going to call whomever we needed to call. We were going to mount the pressure that we needed to mount. We were gonna pass the collection plate to fund whoever needed the funding. In this moment, the folks who need the funding are the local boards, right?

In this moment, the folks who were supposed to call on are members of Congress who need to codify and enshrine the right to access a safe and legal abortion. In this moment, we need to recognize that freedom is found in community and that it is one thing for us to go this alone and know how we feel and take our individual actions, but we can get so much more.

Done together. I’m thinking very specifically about the calls to make sure that in this moment that we don’t choose despair, right? I’ve thought about this a lot, especially after Buffalo and Uvalde, because the same is true for gun violence. In this moment, we can either choose despair or revolution.

The choice is ours, but my faith background helps me to understand that God is there to comfort me in my moments of despair. And therefore, because he’s provided the comfort to move me into a place of action and that anything else certainly is religious malpractice for my own personal life. But it’s also community malpractice, irrespective of what you believe, because it’s never going to be enough for us to simply cry our tears as valid and as justified as they are.

Sit in whatever you need to sit in today and tomorrow, make sure that you join arm and arm and do the work. 

Phillip: I wanna bring this back to Jamie at Catholics for Choice because it’s the Black church gives us so many examples of orienting ourselves towards justice and community and prayer and action.

And for a lot of us, it’s gonna be harder to identify those same themes in Catholicism. And a lot of people would say, well, why do you still identify as Catholic knowing what the church is doing to curb reproductive justice rights? What do you say about the role of your specific faith?

Jamie L. Manson: Well, Phil, I’m not only pro-choice, I’m a lesbian, I’m a woman called to the ordination in the Catholic priesthood. So I’m all kinds of ostracized in the Catholic church. 

And so why do I do this work in particular? I do it because people are suffering and people who will suffer massively as a result of this, as the poor will be poorer, the sick will get sicker. People in states of powerlessness will be even more powerless. So on my worst days when I’m very angry at the church I fight because they’re a global menace, particularly in the sphere of health care. And so as a Catholic I feel a moral obligation to speak out. 

You know, it’s very important to point out a few things. The majority of Catholics, 68%, did not want to see Roe v. Wade struck down today.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases and most stunningly, one in four abortion patients in this country identifies as Catholic. That means that Catholics in the pews are having abortions. People who are participating richly in the life of the church are having abortions.

Phillip: I think people are so tired of hearing the word prayer right now. 

Rev. Jacqui: Yes. Oh my goodness. Yes. 

Phillip: And I feel that, you know. Like I really feel that the word prayer has been hollowed and vacated of its meaning. How do you bring meaning back to prayer?

Rev. Jacqui: I remember Ferguson. I’m so glad Brittany’s here.

I remember those young people in the streets, shouting “Revolutionary love, love, love.” Their marching was a prayer. Our raging is a prayer. Our organizing is a prayer. Our furious dancing is prayer. Our pissed-offness is prayer. Our sorrow is prayer. Our hope is prayer. Our trust is prayer. So it’s not what you say, it’s putting your mind open to the universe to say, let the light in, let the love in, let the justice in. 

Let my rage be activated toward the resolution of these issues of injustice and toward a revolution of love. And just have an ordinary intention to love the hell out of the world. 

Brittany: That’s it for today, but never for tomorrow. UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. Thanks for listening, thanks for being, and thanks for doing. I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Let’s go get free.