VOICES: I support Issue 1 because of my faith, not in spite of it

I am a Christian minister and life-long Ohioan. As an ordained pastor of the United Church of Christ, I have been blessed to journey through hundreds of exceedingly joyous occasions in the lives of congregants and believers. Likewise, I have also supported many hundreds of families through some of the most difficult moments imaginable.

In my years of pastoral service, joyous events like baptisms, weddings, and confirmation celebrations have intermixed regularly with fatal car accidents, life-threatening diseases, terminal cancer, and pregnancies that were much wanted but tragically lost.

The whole of my pastoral experience, seasoned with a humble reverence for holy scripture, compels me to vote “yes” on Issue 1 in November. Issue 1 is about putting Ohioans back in charge of their families’ personal medical decisions – and that’s exactly where my Christian faith tells me they belong.

The Ohio Constitution should empower all people to decide for themselves whether, when, and how they become parents. Issue 1 will ensure that Ohio protects the fundamental rights of our citizens to control their own bodies, because no one should be forced — by the government, or by someone else’s faith convictions — to give birth in a free and prosperous Ohio.

Abortion can often be a complex moral issue, and it is one best addressed by the person whose body biologically bears the greatest weight of responsibility – that of the pregnant person themselves. I know of no person who has approached such a choice casually or without profound personal convictions. Patients deserve the right to make their own medical decisions without having their bodies catapulted into battlefields of political and religious warfare that ignore their agency and demean their humanity.

I support a “yes” on Issue 1 because of my faith, not in spite of it. As a minister of the United Church of Christ, my denomination has for many decades supported abortion access and the right of all persons to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. My religious convictions are clear: abortion bans are against my religion.

While this is my belief – and one shared by the vast majority of my pastoral colleagues across the state – I understand there are people with sincerely held religious beliefs regarding abortion that differ from my own beliefs. It is for this very reason that I wholeheartedly support Issue 1. Issue 1 keeps decisions about abortion out of the hands of politicians and permits all religious believers the freedom to exercise their own faith convictions without fear of state-sanctioned censure or tyranny.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, we have all heard many heartbreaking stories of patients struggling to access basic reproductive care in the face of legal uncertainty and government indifference. Pastors across our state have, for many years before 2022, witnessed in gruesome detail how extreme abortion bans have harmed the lives of generations of Ohioans, putting lives at risk and forcing patients to leave our state in order to get the care they need. We have the opportunity to end this needless suffering and to return to the hands of the people of Ohio the authority due each of us with respect to our own moral choices around matters of abortion, birth control, and other reproductive matters.

We have the power to restrain runaway government and to restore to patients the ultimate authority over their bodies and their futures. Because of my Christian faith – and not in spite of it – I urge Ohioans to join me in voting “yes” on Issue 1 on November 7.

Rev. Terry Williams is an organizer with Faith Choice Ohio. He is a pastor and an Ordained Minister of the United Church of Christ.

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