Letter: The right to choose whether to be a mother

Graphic by Lori Deaton

A forum called Reproductive Health Care as a Human Right held Sunday, May 22, attracted 25 people in person at the Swannanoa Valley Friends Meetinghouse and on Zoom [avl.mx/bni].

Monroe Gilmour from Western North Carolina Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry shared the remarkable history of monthly dialogues among Asheville citizens from opposing views on the right to end a pregnancy. This “Blue Moon” group, which met for 13 years, originated in response to violent threats against local providers of reproductive health care [avl.mx/bnj].

Gilmour also shared how, as a greeter and escort, he has witnessed verbal abuse hurled by anti-abortion protesters at patients seeking services at Planned Parenthood’s health center.

Nikki Harris (director of philanthropy, Planned Parenthood WNC) lamented how the issue has become so divisive that conversations about it are hard and all too rare. Her national historical perspective focused on abortion as an underground process supported by networks of clergy, medical practitioners and women’s support groups until the public health crisis finally led to the Roe v. Wade decision.

As Harris explained, abortion is and will be an ongoing reality. Will it be safe, legal and accessible? Or will it be criminalized, denying the worth of the pregnant person’s life and the right of the medically qualified professional to serve their patients’ well-being?

Depending on what statistics one looks at, between 1-in-4 and 1-in-3 women end a pregnancy by abortion, with over 60% having already borne one child. Without the constitutional right affirmed in Roe v. Wade, severe restrictions on abortion can deprive many U.S. citizens of equal rights, compelling them to risk involuntarily the dangers of pregnancy and birth. Many residents who can’t afford to travel out of state for a safe ending to an unwanted pregnancy will resort instead to life-threatening, illegal procedures. Others will submit to continuing in oppressive relationships while bearing and parenting an unchosen child.

From the perspective of a Quaker witness to human equality, the Swannanoa Valley Friends Meeting is concerned to respond to the current denial of the human right to choose if and when to become a mother. For details, see [avl.mx/bnl].

— Beth Keiser
Swannanoa Valley Friends Meeting
Peace and Social Concerns Committee
Black Mountain


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