A multi-denominational coalition of faith leaders in Colorado is taking a stand against Proposition 115, a ballot measure that would ban later abortion care in Colorado.
Spearheaded by the faith-based advocacy organization the Interfaith Alliance, over 130 faith leaders penned an opposition letter this week calling the measure a “one-size-fits-all mandate” that “does not account for the medical advice of doctors nor for the autonomy of the woman to make a deeply personal decision regarding her body and her health.”
Coloradans will vote on Proposition 115 in November. Its proposed language imposes criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where an abortion is immediately necessary to save the life of the patient. The measure does not include exceptions for rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or situations where the patient’s health would be severely impacted by carrying a pregnancy to term.
At a virtual press conference today, Rabbi Joseph Black of the Temple Emanuel in Denver shared his experience of having children with his wife, who in addition to himself carries the gene for Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that is particularly common for people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
Despite their one in four odds of conceiving a child who would be infected with the disease, they had a successful first pregnancy. With their second pregnancy, however, their luck changed.
“To hear from our doctor that the embryo we so desperately wanted to bring to term had a fatal disease was devastating, but thankfully, at that time, abortion was safe and legal,” Black said. “As difficult as it was to say goodbye to the hopes and dreams of a second baby, the thought of having to care for and bury a suffering child who would die a horrific death was unpalatable. Termination of the pregnancy was the obvious choice.”
Black said that three years later, they went on to have a healthy second child.
“Proposition 115, if passed, would be devastating to any couple in our situation,” he said. “Judaism is clear that abortion is not something that should ever be taken lightly, however, it also states unequivocally that the health and safety of the mother always take precedence over that of the fetus in any situation at any time during the course of a pregnancy,” Black said.
“The decision to terminate a pregnancy is highly personal and the government has no business inserting itself into these difficult decisions,” he added.
Iman Jodeh, a Muslim community leader in Aurora who is also running for a statehouse seat, echoed that sentiment, and also explained how her faith guides her vote against Prop. 115.
“Islam as a way of life believes that there are no absolutes, and accommodates unexpected circumstances by putting the woman first,” Jodeh said. “No woman should have to worry about politics when making important reproductive health decisions.”
Stressing the need for legal abortion, Rev. Dr. Jennifer Leath of the Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church shared some family history of her own.
“It is never easy to make the choice to end a pregnancy,” Leath said. “This is a choice that my great grandmother made because she was in an abusive relationship and had already borne children to her violent, unfaithful husband. This was a choice that led to her death, in large part because there were not safe, legal options for her.”
Leath spoke of the United States’ history of denying Black women the freedom to control their own bodies and the continued socioeconomic disparities Black Women face as key reasons for her vote against Prop. 115.
“We have been forced to bear children and sterilized for the interest of others,” Leath said. “Self-determination is essential for us, especially because we are more vulnerable, and because we cannot trust that those in power have our best interests at heart.”
The group also acknowledged that religious leaders have been some of the most vocal supporters of anti-abortion laws in the United States, and criticized their use of religion to take away the rights of others.
“The religious right does not have a monopoly on religious views on this issue,” Black said.
In Colorado, Catholic Church leaders have played a critical role in the effort to pass Prop. 115.
Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, President of Catholics For Choice, offered a different perspective from Colorado bishops at today’s press conference.
“Catholic social justice teaching compels us to fight for the marginalized in our society,” she said. “Prop. 115 would most harm the poorest Coloradans first and worst by banning the health care services they need in times of great stress and deep soul searching.”
“For decades, the Catholic hierarchy in Colorado has discarded the broader social justice teaching and sought political advantage by focusing on one single issue,” she added. “Time and time again, they’ve been at the forefront of trying to chip away at the right to choose for every Coloradan.”
Read the full text of the opposition letter below:
We, the undersigned faith leaders, reflecting a rich diversity of faith traditions in Colorado, stand in unified opposition to Proposition 115. The measure, which will appear on this November’s statewide ballot, seeks to ban abortions later in pregnancy. It would allow politics to dictate personal health decisions that should be made by a woman and her family in consultation with her healthcare providers.
As religious leaders, we often counsel people through the complex, difficult, and emotionally fraught decision to terminate a pregnancy. We know firsthand that these situations are never simple. We believe that women and families in these situations must be met with grace and compassion, especially when they’re already facing extraordinarily painful and difficult decisions.
One of the most troubling aspects of Proposition 115 is that it is a one-size-fits-all mandate, making no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, lethal fetal diagnosis, or the health of the woman. It does not account for the medical advice of doctors nor for the autonomy of the woman to make a deeply personal decision regarding her body and her health.
It has long been the case that some of the most vocal supporters of abortion bans in the United States are religious leaders. Together, with the shared values rooted in our various faith traditions, we stand for the rights, dignity, and liberty of women. We also stand alongside the majority of Colorado voters who have struck down three similar attempts to ban abortion in our state over the last twelve years.
Finally, we must acknowledge the plain fact that research has shown that bans on abortion do not reduce the number of overall abortions. They simply make it more difficult and dangerous for women to access the care they need. We believe that everyone deserves access to safe, legal healthcare.
We therefore urge those who call Colorado their home to vote “NO” on Proposition 115 in November. As faith leaders rooted in our vision of a better and more just world, we cannot remain silent when politicians and groups attempt to infringe upon the inherent rights of others, especially when they use their interpretation of their religion as justification to do so. Please join us in striking down this measure and preserving the reproductive liberty of the citizens of Colorado.
Together in this,
Rev. Dr. Brian Henderson, First Baptist Church of Denver
Rev. Christopher Gilmore, Sixth Avenue United Church of Christ
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber
Pastor Jeana Pynes
Rabbi Sara Gilbert
Dr. Nabeeh Hasan, Colorado Muslim Speakers Bureau
Rev. Sondra Tilsley
Rev. Dr. Stephan Papa, Minister Emeritus, First Universalist Church Denver
Rev. Tawana Davis, Soul 2 Soul Sisters
Rev. Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson
Rabbi Fred Greene, Congregation Har HaShem, Boulder
Rev. Rebecca K. Poos
Rev. Lea Alvarado
Rev. Tamara Boynton, UCC
Fr. Michael J. Nicosia, Regional Vicar, Ecumenical Catholic Communion
Rev. Amy Petré Hill, Mountain View United Church of Aurora
Rabbi Steven Foster, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Emanuel
Rev. Mollie Landers-Hatt, Lakewood United Church of Christ
Rev. Selena Wright
Rabbi Deborah Ruth Bronstein
Rev. Simon Shadowlight
Rev. Norman L. Bouchard
Rev. Dr. Dawn Riley Duval, Soul 2 Soul Sisters
Rev. Roger Butts, Community Minister, All Souls Church Colorado Springs
Rev. Dana S Hughes
Rev. Annie Arnoldy, UMC
Father Scott Jenkins
Rabbi Eliot Baskin
Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Plymouth Congregational, United Church of Christ
Rev. Ruth Rinehart, JUUST Living Intentional Recovery Community
Rev. Amanda Henderson
Rev. Jane Reina, Mary of Magdala, Fort Collins
Rev. Ben Konecny, First Congregational Church, Greeley
Rev. Morgan C Fletcher, Juniper Formation
Rev. Brian Rossbert
Rev. Laura Rossbert
Rev. Wayne A. Laws, United Church of Christ
Iman Jodeh, Muslim Community Leader
Tracy Hughes, United Church of Christ
Rev. Clover Beal, Montview Blvd Presbyterian
Rev. Heather Haginduff, United Church of Christ Ordained Clergy
Rev. Gregory G Garland, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Joseph R. Black, Temple Emanuel Denver
Rev. Jerry Herships
Rabbi Adam Morris, Temple Micah
Rabbi Jamie Arnold
Rev. Dr. Jenny Whitcher, Juniper Formation, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Nori Rost, All Souls UU Church
Dr. Melanie Rosa, First United Methodist Church
Rev. Claudia Aguilar Rubalcava, First Mennonite Church
Rabbi Emily Hyatt
Rev. Bradley Laurvick
Rev. Dr. Jennifer S. Leath, Campbell Chapel AME Church
Rev. Jane E. Vennard, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Rachel Kobrin, Congregation Rodef Shalom
Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav
James Evans-Ortiz, MCCR
Rabbi Iah Pillsbury, Temple Beit Torah
Rev. Clare Twomey, Vista Grande, UCC
Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding
Rabbi Birdie Becker
Rev. Christina Braudaway-Bauman, First Congregational Church UCC, Boulder
Rev. Dr. Stuart C. Haskins, Minister Emeritus, First Plymouth Church UCC
Rev. Melissa St. Clair, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Asher O’Callaghan, Highlands Lutheran Church
Rev. Stephanie Kidwell, Mt. View UMC-Boulder
Rev. Louise Westfall
Rabbi Julian Cook
Dr. Melanie Rosa, First United Methodist Church Fort Collins
Rev. Samuel J. Lopez, Amazing Love Sanctuary
Chaplain William Malling
Rev. David P Bahr, Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Mike Morran
Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Hall, Retired United Church of Christ
Jeff Ader, Temple Beit Torah
Rev. Sandy Blake, Episcopal Diocese of Colorado
Rev. Lisa A Petty
Rev. Dr. Lee Berg, Washington Park UCC
Rev. Rebecca K. Poos
Rev. Jessica Rooks, Mountain Sky Conference, United Methodist Church
Rev. Corbin Tobey-Davis
Rev. Marta Fioriti
Rev. Jeni Hiett Umble, Living Light of Peace, Arvada
Rev. Dr. Craig Whitcher, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dana Lightsey, Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder
Rev. Sondra Tilsley
Rev. Valerie Jackson, Cameron United Methodist Church
Rev. Allyson Sawtell, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Rick Rheins
Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, Congregation HEA
Rev. Dr. Jonathan B. Hall, First Christian Church (DOC)
Rev. Vern Rempel, Beloved Community Mennonite Church
Rev. Curtis Preston, Lakewood United Church of Christ
Rev. Jenny Shultz-Thomas, First Plymouth UCC
Rev. Dr. Phil Campbell (ret.)
Rev. Nancy True
Rev. Dr. Jacque Franklin, First Congregational Church Colorado Springs
Rev. Wendy Williams
Rev. Ahriana Platten, Unity Spiritual Center in the Rockies
Katherine Newell, MDiv, The Faith Space
Rev. Emily Flemming, First United Methodist Church Windsor
Rev. Katie Kandarian-Morris, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango
Rev. Dr James Fouther
Rev. Gretchen Haley, Foothills Unitarian Church
Rabbi Eliot Baskin
Rev. Peter Sawtell, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Bruce Dollin
Rabbi Daniel A. Roberts
Rabbi Sandra Cohen
Rev. Alycia Erickson, Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church
Rabbi Jessica K Marshall
Donna D. and David J. Zucker
Rev. Dr. Jim Ryan
Rev. Dr. Vernon Rempel
Rev. Marcia Meier
Rev. Susan S McKee
Rev. Paul Kottke, United Methodist Church
Dr. Ahmad Nabhan, Chairman of Colorado Islamic Fiq Council
Rev. Dr. Dawn Riley Duval
Rev. Dr. Charisa L. Hunter-Crump, Cairn Christian Church (DOC) in Lafayette