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DeKalb area faith leaders discuss reproductive rights

Audience at Tuesday night's forum.
Yvonne Boose
Audience at Tuesday night's forum.

A group of DeKalb-area faith-leaders spoke candidly during a recent forum about a subject that some people in their profession might avoid.

The DeKalb County League of Women Voters hosted “Exploring the Impact of Reproductive Rights & Healthcare Decision Making.”

Linda Slabon is the Minister Emerita of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb and the co-chair of the Human Civil and Reproductive Rights committee of the League. She led the discussion.

“Opening the conversation, opens up the conversation on many values and concerns that we will face in our future,” she said. “And there will be many who will be afraid to speak.”

Slabon said she reached out to the medical community to take part in the conversation, but she was not successful with securing a medical professional. She was able to get someone to explain the timeline for abortion rights.

Evan Bernick is an assistant professor of Law at Northern Illinois University. He took the listeners on a historic journey.

“I want to begin with a story myself. The story is not about me,” he said. “It's about Sarah Weddington, one of two women. The other being Linda Coffee, who represented Norma McCorvey in what would become Roe v. Wade.”

Abortion has been banned in more than a dozen states following the June 2022 Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade. Bernick said other states are expected to follow suit. So far, Illinois isn’t one of them.

“The Illinois Constitution has a right to privacy,” Bernick explained, “but it doesn't have a specific guarantee of abortion rights in like plain text in the way that Vermont recently has enshrined in its constitution explicitly reproductive rights.”

Eric Oji, the pastor of the Federated Church of Sycamore, said that the Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of abortion, but some people see differently.

“Two of the scriptures that are often cited are Psalm 139, which is a masterfully poetic passage that has given strength and comfort to people of faith throughout history and all kinds of circumstances.”

He said some Christians proclaim that verses Psalm 139:13-16 suggest that having an abortion is murder. The other verse he said is used, is in the book of Jeremiah.

“Psalm 139 And Jeremiah 1:5 are poetry. They are not science. And if you read poetry as though it were science, well you're going to miss the point entirely, that remains true,” he said.

Molly Morris is the associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church of DeKalb. She explained why these types of forums are important.

“We have wrapped so much shame around the conversation of abortion that people are hiding in our congregations and in our spaces,” she said. “And in order to get rid of that shame and to release people from that, we have to be able to have conversations like this.”

“So, in my denomination, again, I said we adopted a statement in 1991. I don't know if we've even talked about it since. I don't. I mean, once we thought it was settled, and it's clearly not,” said Janet Hunt, the pastor at First Lutheran Church in DeKalb.

Hunt said she’s led conversations about the topic over the summer. She said this experience reminded her that most people who took part in those conversations are of one mind.

“This conversation opens up the whole world to us,” she explained. “It is about life, and about death, about values, about family about relationships, about our deepest hopes, and sometimes our shattered dreams.”

A member of the audience said that having the faith leaders share their thoughts on the topic knocks down the misconception that faith leaders are automatically conditioned not to discuss reproductive rights. The DeKalb County League of Women Voters plans to do more forums about reproductive rights.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.