Opinion | Religious Beliefs and Abortion Laws – The New York Times

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To the Editor:
Re “Protecting a Child Isn’t ‘Extreme,’” by Karen Swallow Prior (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 10):
As a minister for 15 years, I believe that following my faith means living compassionately and honoring the dignity of all people, including people who get abortions.
Through the years, I’ve seen how anti-abortion extremists have launched attack after attack on reproductive rights in my state. These attempts to ban abortion stem from a ruthless, sinful desire to control Texans’ bodies, freedoms and lives. Real compassion means allowing people to make their own important, personal decisions about continuing or ending a pregnancy, while also ensuring that all people have the resources and support they need to make the choices that are best for themselves and their families.
The majority of Americans, across all faiths and no faith, understand this deeply and support the legal right to abortion. Like millions of Americans, I support access to abortion because of my faith, not despite it.
God has given us the gift of free will, and we must forcefully oppose any efforts by politicians to advance an extreme agenda that restricts our rights.
Erika Forbes
To the Editor:
The most important issue regarding abortion and the new Texas law is “When does life begin?” Karen Swallow Prior states clearly that as a pro-life Christian, she believes that life begins at conception. As a Jew, I believe that life begins at birth, based on the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic texts.
The question of when life begins has been debated in Christianity since it began, and different religions have come to different conclusions. The Texas law legislates a significant theological question and establishes one belief as the law of the state.
But in America we believe in freedom of religious belief and the right to practice our own beliefs and act upon them. There is no unanimity in the Christian world, nor in the religious community, about when life begins. What we really need to protect is our freedom of religion, in belief and in practice.
(Rabbi) Fred N. Reiner
To the Editor:
I was adopted as an infant, as were both my children. For this reason, I long considered myself pro-life. In a society that ignores the humanity of the unborn, my children and I, crisis pregnancies all, are lucky that we were not aborted.
However, even the mildly worded column of Karen Swallow Prior reveals the obsession of the pro-life movement with the fetus. Dr. Prior writes, “Abortion is a failure for every woman and her unborn child — a failure of love, justice and mercy.” I could not agree with her more. But where in the Texas law is mercy shown to women who are victims of rape or incest? Who attend Catholic schools, where sex education may not even be taught?
The Bible teaches us that in an ideal world, “mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Instead, Texas has become the bellwether for a world where justice spits on mercy. We can and must do better.
Rosemary C. McDonough
Narberth, Pa.
To the Editor:
Re “God Has No Place on the Supreme Court,” by Linda Greenhouse (Sunday Review, Sept. 12):
As a minister of 35 years, I am distressed by the continued reference to “God” in letters, opinion pieces and articles without some sense of which God is being referred to. Ms. Greenhouse is one of the very best commentators, and she is right that God does not belong in the Supreme Court to be sure, but which God is she referring to, or is the Supreme Court referring to?
Is it the God of the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament? Allah or Gaia, Thor or Kali, Elihino from the Cherokee tradition, the Buddha or Shiva? There are thousands of Gods. Is it the God of Paul Tillich or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Jerry Falwell? It would be so helpful to identify which God is being cited, as there is certainly more than one.
Jim Nelson
Pasadena, Calif.
To the Editor:
Having litigated constitutional law matters, and as a former board member of New Jersey Right to Choose, I (alas) have to take issue with “God Has No Place on the Supreme Court.”
The reality is that since our founding, “God” always has held a place in the public arena (often against my agnostic preferences). The Declaration of Independence famous declares that it is not “government,” but our “Creator” who has endowed us “with certain unalienable rights.”
Indeed, the Supreme Court courtroom is adorned with such religious imagery as Moses holding the Ten Commandments. Thus, while I greatly sympathize with Linda Greenhouse’s philosophy, I cannot ignore facts that run to the contrary.
Two-thirds of Americans want abortion to remain safe and legal, if not entirely then at least to some extent. Thus, the pro-choice movement would do well to focus its energies on securing abortion rights through the legislative process. While there unfortunately may be outlier states such as Texas and Mississippi, if two-thirds of Americans want to preserve some degree of abortion rights, they should persuade their elected legislators to do just that, and not rely upon the whims of unelected justices.
Edward S. Hochman
New York
To the Editor:
Re “Shot Mandates Drive Holdouts to Cite Religion” (front page, Sept. 12):
Thank you for your article on surging requests for religious exemptions from vaccine mandates. Yet, to be more explicit, no national leader of any major religion has opposed vaccines, with the pope, Mormon leaders and others advocating immunization.
Moreover, all Judeo-Christian faiths preach love of one’s family and neighbors, and thus altruism, and getting vaccinated is a crucial way of protecting other people.
Nonetheless, to ensure that President Biden’s mandates work, federal and state public health officials should develop guidelines, and provide resources and possibly financial support, to help employers sort through the numerous claims for exemptions they are already receiving.
Guidelines should recommend, for instance, that claimants not simply check a box or submit a letter, but undergo an interview to explain the religious basis of their objection. Setting such a high bar will hopefully prompt more individuals to get vaccinated, and thus help end this national and global scourge.
Robert Klitzman
New York
The writer is a psychiatrist and the director of the masters of bioethics program at Columbia University.
To the Editor:
As I read this article it was apparent that the vaccine resisters were not using their religious beliefs as a guide but were attempting to make their political positions fit into their personal beliefs. It’s like making up your religion as life goes along. Something happens that I don’t like, and “Oooops! That’s against my religion.”
The Rev. Sam Jones in Texas believes that “a Christian has no responsibility to obey any government outside of the scope that has been designated by God.” So does he mean that Christians don’t have to stop for red lights, wear seatbelts, pay alimony, maintain the speed limit, and this list could go on and on with things that were not decreed by God.
If I don’t like one of these laws or rules, can I be exempt by saying it’s against my religion? God didn’t mandate any of these laws and rules, but he did have some powerful things to say about how we should treat one another. Kindness, love, being our brother’s keeper come to mind. It’s just too bad that some Christians are forgetting those messages at a time when they are so relevant and necessary.
Shirley A. Reynolds
Mount Pleasant, Wis.
To the Editor:
Religious resisters to the Covid-19 vaccination remind me of conscientious objectors to the military draft. During my legal career I represented conscientious objectors. The issue was how to test the genuineness of the objection. The moral conviction has to be firmly held and religious in nature. Political, sociological or philosophical views or a personal moral code do not qualify.
No less a test should apply today when life and death and stemming an epidemic are at stake, and when more people have died than in many wars.
Norm Klinger
Ventnor, N.J.
To the Editor:
Religion won’t save anti-vaccine proponents from a pandemic. Vaccines will.
When illness and death from Covid-19 knock on their doors, will they wish they had prayed more or had taken a safe vaccine?
Donna Sloan
Los Angeles