Before Roe, Faith Leaders Helped Texans Get Illegal Abortions. What Will They Do Now?

Progressive religious leaders are mulling their options to help women who seek abortions—and some are willing to risk lawsuits and jail time.

By Ana Marie Cox
October 24, 2022

Most political observers know Texas as a key battleground for conservative Christian victories in banning abortion. But progressive people of faith in the state have a long history of fostering resistance to the assault on abortion access. Texas was a major hub in the Clergy Consultation Service, cofounded in New York City by Dallas native Howard Moody in 1967 to help women find competent and compassionate doctors willing to perform abortions. In 1970, Texas attorneys Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee started the road to their Supreme Court triumph in the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights case by garnering support from the Women’s Alliance at First Unitarian Church of Dallas. Today, liberal faith leaders across the state—some of whom began transporting pregnant Texans to New Mexico clinics after the Legislature passed a six-week ban on abortion last year—are assessing the still-hazy legal limits for helping women in a post-Dobbs world.


USA – People Helping Women Get Abortions Pre-Roe Were Heroes. It Wasn’t Enough.

Stories like the Rev. Robert Hare’s are incredibly moving. But what we need is for abortion to be legal.

JUNE 21, 2022

She was a 23-year-old white unmarried schoolteacher. She was also pregnant, and she would inevitably be fired from her teaching job when her employers found out. It was April 1969, elective abortion was illegal in Ohio, and unwed motherhood was a source of great shame.

Desperate, the young schoolteacher reached out for help to a recently formed religious organization, the Cleveland Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. The Plain Dealer, one of Cleveland’s major newspapers, had spotlighted the CCCSA, as did a slew of other news outlets across Ohio and the United States. Through these laudatory stories, Ohioans heard a startling announcement: an ecumenical group of local Protestant and Jewish clergy had announced that it was their “pastoral responsibility [to] give aid and assistance to women with problem pregnancies,” and promised to help them find an abortion, even if that meant breaking the law.

I Helped Women Get Abortions in Pre-Roe America

To think we’re going back to that world makes makes me angry and sad.

By Ellen Gruber Garvey, The Atlantic
June 4, 2022

When I was 16, I helped desperate women get abortions. This was in the sliver of time between New York State’s 1970 legalization of abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision three years later, which allowed women in every state to choose whether to continue their pregnancies. I answered phones for the Women’s Abortion Project at its headquarters in a shabby, unheated meeting space of the Women’s Liberation Center, on West 22nd Street in Manhattan.

Before New York made abortion legal, the project had been part of an underground, directing women to two or three gynecologists who, for reasons of conscience, wanted to perform safe abortions. From 1970 onward, these doctors continued this medical work in the open, and the Abortion Project continued to collaborate with them.


A covert network of activists is preparing for the end of Roe

What will the future of abortion in America look like?

By Jessica Bruder
APRIL 4, 2022

One bright afternoon in early January, on a beach in Southern California, a young woman spread what looked like a very strange picnic across an orange polka-dot towel: A mason jar. A rubber stopper with two holes. A syringe without a needle. A coil of aquarium tubing and a one-way valve. A plastic speculum. Several individually wrapped sterile cannulas—thin tubes designed to be inserted into the body—which resembled long soda straws. And, finally, a three-dimensional scale model of the female reproductive system.

The two of us were sitting on the sand. The woman, whom I’ll call Ellie, had suggested that we meet at the beach; she had recently recovered from COVID-19, and proposed the open-air setting for my safety. She also didn’t want to risk revealing where she lives—and asked me to withhold her name—because of concerns about harassment or violence from anti-abortion extremists.


USA – Failing to embed abortion care in mainstream medicine made it politically vulnerable

Actions by the medical profession in the 1970s still reverberate today

By Carole Joffe
Jan 11, 2022

Even before the expected June announcement by the Supreme Court of its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson — a decision many believe will overturn Roe v. Wade — abortion care in America is in trouble, marginalized from the rest of medicine.

Nearly 50 years after legalization nationwide, the majority of obstetrician gynecologists and primary-care doctors do not provide abortions — even though 1 out of 4 American women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Women in the “abortion deserts” of the South and Midwest are forced to travel many hours to reach a clinic. Only 4 percent of abortions take place in a hospital and only 1 percent of abortions take place in private doctors’ offices. The remaining 95 percent occur in free-standing clinics, which offer excellent care, but are largely isolated from other medical institutions. Over 1,000 restrictions, such as mandatory waiting periods, have been passed by state legislatures that make abortion care considerably more difficult for patients and providers alike.


USA – Religious abortion rights supporters fight for access

Holly Meyer, Associated Press
Nov. 28, 2021

On the day the Supreme Court hears arguments in a Mississippi abortion ban case, Sheila Katz plans to be at a nearby church.

It is where the Jewish organization she leads is helping to host a morning interfaith service in support of abortion rights. That gathering, and a planned rally outside the court, are among the ways the National Council of Jewish Women and like-minded faith groups are challenging the erosion of abortion access in the U.S.


The Argument for Abortion as a Religious Right

The Argument for Abortion as a Religious Right
The world's largest religions support—and sometimes require—abortion.

by Leila Ettachfini
Feb 10 2020

When evangelical professor Bruce Waltke shared a standard biblical interpretation in favor of abortion in 1968, his words were hardly controversial.

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed,” he wrote in a 1968 Christianity Today article. “Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

More than five decades later, a lot has changed. In that time, a concerted effort to place anti-abortion views at the core of the religious right has succeeded in rallying conservative Christians against reproductive rights.


I Had An Illegal Abortion Before Roe v. Wade. This Is Why Women Of My Generation Must Share Our Stories.

I Had An Illegal Abortion Before Roe v. Wade. This Is Why Women Of My Generation Must Share Our Stories.
The author, now 74, had an illegal abortion at age 23.

Carla Nordstrom, Guest Writer
May 17, 2019

At 74, I am well past the age of worry about an unwanted pregnancy. In many ways, the bad old days before Roe v. Wade have faded from our collective memory. Women of my generation have rarely told our stories of illegal abortions, perhaps because we are embarrassed. But our reticence has prevented others from learning from experiences like mine.

I never expected that we would go back to illegal abortions, but current legislative actions in a number of states have opened up that possibility.


USA – The untold ways women are fighting to protect abortion access if landmark Roe v Wade falls

The untold ways women are fighting to protect abortion access if landmark Roe v Wade falls
‘We’re here to continue our work, no matter what happens,’ says one activist

Emily Shugerman, New York
July 21, 2018

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh – Donald Trump’s conservative, pro-life pick for the Supreme Court – has set off a wave of activism among women’s rights advocates seeking to protect abortion rights across the US.

Groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America have staged protests and phone drives in an attempt block Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination, warning of a return to the days before Roe v Wade – the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion.