Six years before the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, gutting access to reproductive care and activating trigger bans here and in states across the nation, Texas Freedom Network’s project Just Texas had begun the groundwork of creating advocacy spaces for the millions of people left vulnerable and strong, affirming communities for reproductive freedom within congregations of all faiths across Texas.
Like TFN, members of the Reproductive Freedom Congregation, a progressive faith cohort of twenty-five congregations in Texas (with over 100 congregations expressing interest in becoming designates), believe access to reproductive care, including abortion, should not be controversial. RFCs publicly affirm these principles:
- We trust and respect women and people who can become pregnant.
- We promise that people who attend our congregation will be free from stigma, shame, or judgment for their reproductive decisions, including abortion.
- We believe access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health services is a moral and social good.
While extremist far-right politicians are looking to dominate the conversation around abortion by using religion to curtail reproductive freedom in the state, RFCs have become increasingly visible and vital in pushing back the false narrative that all people of faith oppose abortion. Six in ten Texas voters believe abortion should be available in all or most cases, proving this is false and reinforces what we already know: that some Texas politicians will manipulate reality to push through unpopular agendas.
Therefore, it is important that we highlight the incredible impact and contributions RFCs are making all across Texas. The University Baptist Church of Austin is one such congregation that has held and continues to hold invaluable space for some of the most vulnerable Texans in the wearying, confusing, and heavy aftermath of the Roe decision. TFN sat with Rev. Natalie Webb (she/her), Senior Pastor of UBC, to learn more about the congregation and its commitment to reproductive care access.
TFN: How does reproductive freedom align with UBC’s values and beliefs?
Rev. Webb: As Christians, supporting reproductive freedom is one way that we put into practice our commitment to care for our neighbors. Abortion is healthcare, and in our tradition, we follow Jesus, the healer. Jesus cared deeply about the well-being of all people, especially those who were mistreated and marginalized in His world. Restricting reproductive freedom hurts women and families from every background while disproportionately hurting Black, Brown, and Indigenous women and families who are already mistreated and marginalized in our society. UBC cares about equitable and accessible reproductive healthcare, including abortion, because we are convinced that Jesus cares about it.
TFN: How has UBC integrated the reproductive freedom model into their worship?
Rev. Webb: We integrate our commitment to reproductive freedom in worship through sermons, action opportunities like letter-writing, attending protests, and by publicly re-affirming our commitments as a Reproductive Freedom Congregation when that freedom feels especially threatening. Those commitments are: 1) We trust and respect women and birthing people; 2) We promise that people who attend our congregation will be free from stigma, shame, or judgment for their reproductive decisions, including abortion; and 3) We believe access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health services, including abortion, is a moral and social good.
TFN: What are some actions UBC has taken to support reproductive freedom before/after becoming a Reproductive Freedom Congregation?
Rev. Webb: UBC participates in public witness by acting as a Reproductive Freedom Congregation with Just Texas, by attending protests and rallies, and by writing and calling our legislators. Our ministers speak at press conferences, testify at the state Capitol, and provide pastoral care and support for people in all their reproductive decisions. We are currently partnering with the Bridge Collective as a pick-up site for free health kits with emergency contraception.
TFN: Why is it important to vocalize your support publicly?
Rev. Webb: Public support for reproductive freedom, especially from faith communities, is hugely important. Regardless of your tradition or context, there are people in all congregations who have had abortions and who need to hear a different message than the hateful, damning messages coming from loud evangelical voices. People need to hear that they are capable, competent decision-makers, beloved by God and trusted by their faith families.
TFN: How is UBC holding space for the grief and fear people might be feeling after continued abortion bans and attacks on reproductive healthcare?
Rev. Webb: We are doing our best to take action in the small ways that we can, and we are continuing to uphold our commitments to supporting reproductive freedom. We take time to listen to each other’s stories and hold them with care and compassion. We tell each other the truth about ourselves—that despite what the legislature says, despite what the courts say, women and birthing people are competent moral agents. UBC is led by women, trans folx, queer ministers, and lay leaders, so we hold space by continuing to lead, fight, listen, and take up space in the world.
TFN: What is UBC hoping to do in the future to take action for reproductive freedom?
Rev. Webb: One thing we do now that we hope will impact the future is talking to our kids and young people about reproductive freedom; about the complexity of these issues, the dignity and freedom that all people and families should have to choose for themselves. At the moment, we are unsure about what actions we’ll be able to legally take, so we plan to follow the guidance and wisdom of organizations like Just Texas which are equipped to help congregations navigate this moment in history and collaborate on actions that promote religious freedom.
When people have the freedom to make decisions that are best for themselves and their families, we build communities where everyone can thrive and participate with dignity. UBC and other RFCs are taking the lead in ensuring the voices of people of faith are not drowned out in the reproductive care conversation. Will your congregation join them?