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Central Texas churches declare support for access to reproductive health care despite abortion ban

Eleven Central Texas churches have publicly declared themselves as "reproductive freedom congregations." Nine of those are in Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Dozens of Texas churches are publicly declaring their support for women to make their own health care decisions, saying that access to reproductive health care is a human right.

The movement began in 2019 when Texas congregations partnered with the nonprofit Just Texas: Faith Voices for Justice and declared their churches as "reproductive freedom congregations" (RFCs). According to Just Texas, this classification was created as a first step to unraveling the stigma surrounding reproductive health issues within faith communities.

These churches believe in abortion rights, saying that the issue is not so black-and-white. The congregations have worked with their communities to provide spiritual counsel and create programs that help Texans access reproductive health care, including abortions, both within and outside of the state.

So far, 26 churches across the state have declared themselves RFCs. In Central Texas, there are 11, including nine in Austin.

To earn the designation of being an RFC, a church must vote on a set of principles agreeing they will “trust and respect women" and that access to reproductive health services is a “moral and social good.”

Reverend Amelia Fulbright of the Congregational Church of Austin said abortion resistance is often driven by religious advocacy, and members of Just Texas and RFCs seek to challenge the religious narrative that often pits people of faith against other communities.

"I was first working as an advocate on the National Domestic Violence Hotline and then doing some work for the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy," Fulbright said. "I realized that this narrative that the only people who get abortions are, you know, promiscuous women who are irresponsible and don't use birth control is just ... It's just a lie. It's a false narrative."

Fulbright said abortion isn't for just one thing.

"There are so many situations where abortion saves lives. So, I really changed my mind about the issue, and I feel that it is a calling from God to speak out on these issues," she said.

Not everyone agrees. Still, this does not change that, across the state, there are many anti-abortion rights groups – including Texas Right to Life, which launched a website where anyone could anonymously submit tips on people who might have helped others get abortions in the state. The site was later taken down.

In addition to its push for more RFCs, Just Texas – an initiative of the Texas Freedom Network – also offers training for clergy and congregants interested in testifying on reproductive health care. With the RFC declaration, congregations can offer different levels of engagement, from committing to ongoing education around reproductive freedom to publicly advocating about such issues, including on social media. 

Faith leaders interested in the RFC designation can sign up through the Just Texas website and attend a number of information sessions.

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