Alabama, Abortion and Honoring My Mother
By Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
Mother’s Day just passed and I was thinking of my own mother, Marylu, who died five years ago. I miss her, but am glad she did not have to see the deterioration of our nation under the current administration, although I would have relished her fury. Marylu was the first person I thought about this week when Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia all passed severe laws restricting, and essentially outlawing, women’s right to make reproductive choices about their own lives.
I was in the pew with my family in our church in the 70’s, when all of a sudden my mother was walking down the center aisle, up the stairs and into the pulpit to announce a family planning rally taking place downtown at the capitol the next day, and explaining to the congregation about the importance of contraception availability and abortion rights. My mother insisted that her church stand up for her and for all women. While Marylu was often disappointed in religion, she felt that having a spiritual community that proclaimed the rights of the people to be free was important. As she prayed with me every night at my bed, she taught me to be open to an intimate conversation with God, about what was most important to us. Her faith taught her that every person has the ability to speak to the Divine and to discern how to make moral choices for themselves, which includes abortion.
Marylu wanted people to be able to make those choices safely and legally. She wore pins with hangers crossed out, insisting that no woman should be forced to endanger her own life to end an unwanted pregnancy. She went to rallies and marched on Washington where my two sisters joined her. She was marching alongside millions of women who demanded to be considered fully capable of making choices around their body and determining what kind of family she could and would have.
As a son of a mother who fought all of her life for the right of women to be free and equal, as a brother to two sisters (and a brother) who continue that fight today, I want to show up. For all those people in my life who have been my teachers, mentors, pastors and spiritual counselors who are fighting for control of their own bodies and moral conscience. I stand braced and ready to show up for you in whatever way you ask. My mother and all the fierce women and men who taught me courage are the reason that I accepted the call to continue Jesus’ work to preach good news and liberation.
I have been ordained for 20 years and I know it is my sacred duty as a Christian minister to stand shoulder to shoulder with all those whose bodies and hearts and spirits have become battlegrounds, where some insist on their right to dominate and control our sexualities, our identities, and our families. Together we will tear off the straight jacket on our bodies, insisting on the Divine blessing on our continuous, joyful, fierce liberation.
I am eternally grateful for the faith in God my mother gave me, grateful for her example as an activist and grateful for her fearless furious spirit that lives today in me, following women’s lead, raising my fist with theirs, ready for the fight for women’s right to abortion and the healthcare they need.