Three Congregational/ Thematic Approaches to Reproductive Justice


Reproductive justice provides a great opportunity for the faith community in the public sphere. The movement is inclusive and holistic and visionary. Unitarian Universalism is a faith defined by our individual and collective pursuits of truth, and our ability to stand by our conscience and freely-made decisions. Reproductive justice challenges us to shift from our focus on individuals and individuality to a sense of belonging, intimate community, and relationship. What supports are needed for people to make decisions freely? When we engage in long-term movement building, how can we do so sustainably and faithfully? With whom are in partnership? How do we understand success?


For some of us, the shift from reproductive choice to reproductive justice can feel overwhelming, like an idealistic mission-creep that threatens our effectiveness and decentralizes the “Get out of my uterus!” theme. Many Unitarian Universalists were active in the choice movement that was epitomized by Roe v. Wade. We can hear their stories and honor their work while at the same time recognizing that younger generations have a different worldview and want a more holistic approach to problem-solving. In other words, it’s not enough to address abortion in isolation. Reproductive justice invites us to open our hearts and minds to a broader range of concerns and to examine how identity—and the intersection of identities—impact access to power and resources. What have we learned from the generations of activists that struggled to legalize abortion? What can we learn from the reproductive justice generation? How does a movement successfully transition from one generation to the next?


While the ‘reproductive choice’ framework sometimes denies emotional content (ie, the fetus is just a lump of cells; it’s no big deal), the RJ movement holds the dual realities that abortion can be the right and good decision, while also acknowledging that it can be extremely difficult and painful. As Rev. Barbara Condon writes in Between a Woman and Her God: Clergy and Women Tell their Stories, “There is a big difference between grief and regret.” Despite our relative openness on many issues, our Unitarian Universalist congregations tend to be places where people feel unwelcome to talk openly about abortion and other forms of reproductive loss. While important to respect people’s need for privacy, of course, avoiding the issue altogether also sends a message. Where does life come from? Who suffers from reproductive loss, and when? What judgments do we or others bring to those who suffer various types of reproductive loss, and where are those judgments based? What might our community be like, were it free from those kinds of judgments about sexuality or other people’s decisions?