Dear Members of the House Judiciary Committee,
I write to you today in opposition to HB1625. It is my hope that you will render this bill inexpedient to legislate. Thank you for hearing my testimony.
I want to invite you to imagine something with me today.
I want you to imagine that you are a 25 year old woman.
You are newly married, have a good job, and are eagerly awaiting beginning your family with your husband
You have always wanted children, and are looking forward to beginning that journey with your new spouse
Then, one night, walking to your car after work, you are sexually assaulted. Suddenly, the choice about when to have children has been stolen from you, and every physical reminder of pregnancy is a reminder of your assault. You make the decision to seek abortion care as soon as you know you are pregnant in consultation with your spouse, your doctor, your therapist, your clergy person, and those closest to you. This has been a devastating time, and complicated choice, but it is the right one.
You arrive for your appointment, profoundly vulnerable with no one to accompany you inside. Your family cannot go with you due to Covid-19 restrictions. As soon as you leave your car, someone puts a pamphlet under your windshield wipers. You are confronted with graphic signs, people yelling terrible names, and someone who physically blocks your way in an attempt to hand you religious literature on your way to the hardest medical appointment of your life
Accompany someone seeking abortion care to a clinic is among the most tender kinds of spiritual care. They are often terrified, and deeply vulnerable. Many times they have overcome enormous financial and logistical hurdles to even make it to the appointment. They are in need of empathy, compassion, and protection. It is jarring and harmful then for them to arrive at appointments for necessary medical care only to be yelled at, harassed, and physically intimidated outside of a clinic.
Please do not misunderstand me. As an active citizen, a Christian minister, and a supporter of free speech, I understand the right to protest, pray, and speak freely are all deeply important. These are rights I have, and will continue to defend. As a trained interfaith Chaplain I work daily at the practice of communicating across lines of difference, and engaging with viewpoints different from my own. However, I disagree that verbally assaulting, or physically intimidating someone seeking appropriate medical care is what is intended when we talk about political discourse. I do not believe it is hyperbole to worry that repealing this statute may put lives at risk.
The story I told you today is one example of many real stories I have held in my career as a minister. Abortion care is spiritual care. I cannot imagine we would be in support today of any number of groups or organizations intimidating people as they walk into church. Rightfully so. People deserve to practice their religion free from fear, or intimidation (whether it is my religion or not). So too do women and pregnant people deserve to access healthcare free from harassment and intimidation.
Protestors are free to share their voice, and their views from an appropriate buffer zone. It doesn’t make the words any less sharp, but it does ensure patients are both safe and protected. Buffer zones do not limit free speech only the distance at which it can occur.
A fundamental tenent of my faith is caring for, and protecting those who are vulnerable. In an ideal world, I believe that government should be of that work as well. It is in that spirit that I ask you please to vote HB1625 inexpedient to legislate. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further questions. Thank you for your time.
The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath