Georgia is a wake-up call


To the editor:

I grew up in a Catholic household, and when I moved back home to the Bronx, I felt a strong pull to go back to the church I was raised in.

Maybe it was the nostalgia for community, the comforting smell of frankincense, the cleansing feeling of quiet prayer with the Virgin Mary. But what I can for sure say is that it wasn’t for missing those hard plastic white shoes every Dominican grandma seems to buy for their granddaughters.

Now that I’m halfway through my first pregnancy, my faith has never been stronger. I consider myself a spiritual person, but not entirely a devout Catholic. I read the Gospel looking for light, and when it comes time for prayers, I don’t ask the Lord to hear my prayer about Gov. Cuomo or state legislators who “sin against the unborn.”

I believe in every person’s right to choose what to do with their body, and frankly, if a person decides that an abortion is what’s best for their bodies and their lives, it’s nobody’s damn business to legislate against their freedom to do so.

In an era where our civil liberties are under constant attack, faith has never been more important. When children are ripped from their families during ICE raids, it’s the church who provides sanctuary. When those suffering from alcoholism look for light and forgiveness, it’s the church that provides a path forward. When natural disasters hit, it’s the church that provides refuge.

Make no mistake, the Catholic Church is far from a perfect institution. I still struggle with how to reckon with a faith so many folks put into an institution that has, for generations, sexually abused children and swept it under the rug. I still struggle with its deep colonial history, homophobia and patriarchy.

But none of our democratic institutions are perfect, and that’s why we owe it to those who dare to have a deep commitment to compassion, and a strong imagination about what’s possible, to push these institutions to be better and deliver on their promise.

And because of this, we must remember that the powerful few can’t be left unaccountable to wield their twisted interpretation of faith as a weapon against those who don’t yet know how powerful they are.

I don’t call myself a scholar of divinity, but I am a student of history. What is happening in Alabama, in Georgia and across the states right now should be a deafening siren to all of us about the erosion of everybody’s civil liberties. The right to a safe and accessible abortion isn’t a fringe, progressive issue — it’s a human right.

It’s about economic freedom, and it’s about every single right that hypocritical religious zealots claim to care about: Dignity and respect for every single person on this planet.

I urge all of us to not only pay close attention, but to speak out, and to avoid the mistake of thinking this doesn’t affect us here in New York, the Bronx, or any of our neighborhoods. The assault on abortion access is not about faith, or “doing what God wills” — it is dark and insidious, and demands each and every one of us to call “bull.”

Jessica Woolford

Jessica Woolford,