Dr. Alvin C. Bernstine
Richmond and other local religious leaders talked about their views on legalized abortion as the country this week marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision.
On Jan. 22, 1973 in a 7-2 decfisionv, the court ruled that a woman could choose abortion in the early months of her pregnancy without any legal restraints. The justices declared laws prohibiting abortion violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy. They also said states could regulate abortion procedures in the interest of a woman’s health or in protecting a potential human life starting at the end of the pregnancy’s first trimester.
To commemorate the date, the National Organization for Women held a candlelight vigil while opponents organized their annual March for Life.
Pastor Michael Calloway, Non-Denominational pastor and chief apostle of God’s Way Deliverance Temple in San Pablo, opposes Roe.
“Laws are made all the time and are changed all the time,” he said. “I believe in following the Word of God; and when you take a life, [a] life [that] belongs to God, it puts us in the category of being a murderer. The Bible says ‘no murderers shall have eternal life.’”
“In the African American community,” says Calloway, “We don’t need to be aborting anybody. Due to unfortunate circumstances, we need all [of] our kids – kids are our future. We need these young people to do their job as our fathers did their jobs.”
On the other side of the issue is Dr. Alvin C. Bernstine, pastor at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond. “Christianity has been used as a religion to oppress,” he said. “A lot of times it’s old white men trying to tell our women what to do with their bodies. The oppressors interpretation is always different from the oppressed.”
However, Bernstine says that he doe not preach pro-choice or anti-abortion. “It’s ridiculous what people do to impose their opinions,” he said. “Legislating what people do with their bodies is kind of challenging for me. It’s going to require a different approach.”
Pastor Ambrose F. Carroll, American Baptist pastor of Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley, emphasizes the difficulties women face when making a decision to have an abortion.
“African Americans, a lot of us land both sides of this spectrum,” he said. “Personally speaking, I have sat with many young ladies as they have made the decision to give birth or to abort. I have never envied being [in] a place to have to make such a life altering choice as a woman.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011 and 2012, 135 laws were implemented and designed to limit access to abortion in various states across the country.
“I believe that freedom is very costly,” Carroll continued. “We spend millions of dollars fighting for the unborn, but at the same time [we] restrict millions of people to a life in poverty and attempt to bring them into a world where the quality of life does not seem important at all.”
In 1965, before the Supreme Court’s decision, almost one-fifth of all maternal deaths in the United States were caused by illegal and risky abortions, according to Planned Parenthood.