by Bishop Calvin C. Barlow Jr.
As a clergyperson and a member of the Tennessee Reproductive Justice Network, a group of clergy leaders throughout the state and spanning the religious and denominational spectrum, I do not agree with abortion as a contraceptive alternative. However, I do believe that women’s right to health and their reproductive rights should never be entrusted to professional politicians.
Women as well as men must be free to make certain decisions based upon their relationship with God and with medical professionals. To pass a law that robs a person of her reproductive choice and places it in the hands of men and women who may or may not have a genuine relationship with God goes against the personal rights that every person has under our Constitution as citizens.
God does not compel us, but he gives us choices. As a Christian, I believe that every coherent woman should be trusted to make reproductive choices that she feels are right for her life without government intervention. I ask that every person who enjoys his or her freedom in matters pertaining to their life stand with me, and vote against any proposed legislation that would deny a family (man and wife) or a woman her reproductive freedom.
In the early 1950s, I had a first cousin, Willie Pearl, who died while giving birth to a child. This was my oldest first cousin. I often say to myself, “Had she had the freedom to exercise her reproductive choice, she or her baby might be alive today.” However, because of the time in which she lived, both she and the baby died.
When I was in high school, in the ’60s, it was alleged that a young, underage black girl, whom I knew, was molested by the owner of the farm on which her parents lived. This girl was forced to endure the mental anguish of molestation and the birth of a child conceived by rape, and denied the ability to raise the child because interracial children were not accepted in the community.
In the ’50s and ’60s, laws did not favor people of color and women. This is why I believe that it is dangerous to allow politicians to create laws that discriminate against women. A law that discriminates against women is a law that discriminates against the family.
After much consideration, I oppose any law that would have the potential of making a woman give birth to a child of rape without her consent. For some women this might be their choice. Yet for other women this might not be their choice. Furthermore, I oppose any law that has the potential to deny a husband and wife the freedom to exercise their reproductive choice in an unbearable and unwanted pregnancy crisis.
When a law denies a woman her reproductive rights, it has the potential of undermining the family structure (man and wife) and denies that person the opportunity to make a decision based upon her relationship with God.
Bishop Calvin C. Barlow Jr. is senior pastor at Second Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville.