Religious leaders react to Roe v. Wade leaked Supreme Court draft

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Religious leaders across North Carolina shared different reactions to Monday night's leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft regarding Roe v. Wade, highlighting the complex nature of the issue.

"My first reaction was, this isn't a surprise. We've been anticipating this moment for a long time. We've seen the erosion of abortion rights from the time of Roe v. Wade," said the Rev. Katey Zeh, the CEO of The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

The national organization represents faith leaders of varied backgrounds.

"What's most important to me is to center the person in need and say how can I be helpful to you as you go through this difficult decision-making process. I think that's what holds all of our religious traditions together is that common care for the neighbor and showing love and compassion to them during their difficult moments," Zeh said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Daniel Dickard, senior pastor at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, supported the contents of the draft.

"The church that I pastor does not see abortion as a political issue. We see it as a deeply moral issue, we see it as a spiritual issue. So as a result, our church believes that we must stand for life," said Dickard.

Abortion straddles the line between religion and politics, though Dr. Karey Harwood, an associate professor of Religious Studies at NC State noted the intertwining of the two has not always held such a large role.

"This has evolved too. In pre-Reagan era times, evangelical Christians generally shied away from getting involved in politics. That was not something that was a priority. But I think it was really politicians that courted the religious right starting with (President Ronald) Reagan in particular, for very utilitarian, instrumental reasons, to get more votes. Over time there has been a very strange melding of evangelical Christianity and hard-right Republican views," said Harwood.

Harwood noted that diversity of opinion on this issue exists even within the same denominations.

"What's so important when we talk about legislation and policy is that we live in a religiously pluralistic society and all of us have the right to reproductive freedom and also religious freedom. So any laws or policies need to uphold the religious liberty and religious freedom of everyone, not just one particular religious tradition or group," Zeh said.

Dickard disagreed with that assumption.

"From a Constitutional standpoint, I think it would be a good thing to be returned back to the states, but the work of Christians is not done when it goes back to the states. At the end of the day, our goal is to promote life," Dickard said.

Dickard said that needs to be backed up by actions.

"We're also involved in adoption processes, and walking alongside mothers, so that they will choose life. And our church has been actively involved in pregnancy networks as well as other agencies," Dickard explained, and he added that his brother is adopted.

The Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study of 2014 found that a majority of Buddhist, Hindu, historically Black Protestant, Jewish, mainline Protestant, Muslim, and Orthodox Christian followers supported legal abortion in most or all cases, while most evangelical Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Latter-day Saints members believed it should be banned under those same guidelines; Catholics were fairly split on the topic.

"There will be common denominator values like human life is valuable and should be saved. But interpreting that can really differ. And some of that can come down to whose life is more important - the mother's or the fetus'? And there are some eye-opening religious differences between religious traditions on that," said Harwood.

Several states have moved forward with plans to further restrict access to abortion, or have trigger laws in effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

"I just don't think this is an issue that's so simple to say it's always right or it's always wrong. It just isn't. And I have faith in my fellow citizens that they can hold a difficult, complex issue in their mind and come to a more nuanced understanding of what would be appropriate. And people who have religious faith who are going to be writing these laws, they need to think of all of us. They need to come up with laws that are appropriate for everyone, that can be universally applied, and to just legislate from their own particular interpretations of their faith traditions," said Harwood.
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