Clergy members blessed an abortion clinic in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, offering "words of solidarity, compassion, and love for those who work in the clinic and those who receive its care," Whole Woman's Health Alliance noted on its Facebook page.
"This was a very powerful and empowering moment, complete with ritual, poetry, singing and insight that served to break away from the perception that religious communities are opposed to abortion," the post said.
About a dozen clergy members representing Christian, Jewish, and other faiths participated in the ceremony at Whole Woman's Health of Austin, the Huffington Post said.
'We support you and the work that you're doing'
"The first and foremost goal was to say that we support you and the work that you're doing, especially in a state where you're constantly having to meet new regulations or deal with critics and protesters," the Rev. Amelia Fulbright, an Austin campus minister, told the Post.
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Bolstered by President Donald Trump's overtures to the anti-abortion movement, Republican lawmakers around the country have made moves this year to curtail abortion access in their states. In April, Texas' House of Representatives considered a bill that would have criminalized abortions and made it possible for women and doctors who participate in the procedure to receive the death penalty.
Even though the bill ultimately failed, Texas is still a difficult state for people seeking abortion care. State lawmakers have imposed strict requirements on patients, mandating that they must undergo sonograms and receive pamphlets about alternatives to abortion. Afterward, patients often have to wait 24 hours before they can have an abortion. Texas law also forbids insurers from covering abortion unless the procedure is required to prevent death or serious physical injury.
Whole Woman's Health of Austin, which provides abortion care and other gynecological services, was forced to move to its new location on the city's northwest side in February after the building it had occupied for 16 years was bought out by a crisis pregnancy center. CPCs are often faith-based organizations that masquerade as medical clinics in order to counsel women against having abortions.
'As a Christian minister, I feel like it's important to offer a different narrative'
Fulbright — founder of Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry — told the Post that not all Christians are against abortion.
"For me, in particular as a Christian minister, I feel like it's important to offer a different narrative," she added to the outlet.
"As clergy, we have the privilege of counseling people at really vulnerable moments in their lives, and some of those have to do with reproductive choices," Fulbright also told the Post. "I want people to know that there are clergy who are safe people to talk to so that they don't have to navigate those choices alone."
The outlet noted that during the blessing ceremony, clergy and clinic staff prayed while walking through the clinic — following the path a patient would travel through the waiting rooms, patient rooms, counseling rooms, and staff offices.
"As people of faith, it's not that we think we're bringing God to this place; we believe God is already present in that space," Fulbright added to the Post. "But it's to ask for prayers of safety, healing and peace, to infuse the space with an energy that is life-giving for women, a lot of whom are in an anxious time."
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She said one of the most meaningful moments of the ceremony was when her 4-month-old baby became hungry. She said being able to nurse her child in that setting, surrounded by people who understood the importance of being able to choose motherhood, illustrated to her that abortion clinics are a "life-affirming space."
"It paints a different picture than what the anti-abortion movement would like you to think happens in abortion clinics," Fulbright told the Post.
Not the first abortion clinic blessing
In 2015, 15 Christian ministers and rabbis gathered outside the Preterm clinic in Cleveland to bless the abortion facility, which may have been the first event of its kind in Ohio.
"Bless this building. May its walls stand strong against the onslaught of shame thrown at it," said the Very Rev. Tracey Lind of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. "May it be a beacon of hope for those who need its services."
And last year "faith leaders" were scheduled to gather for a "clinic blessing" at the East Columbus Surgical Center in Ohio.
"Anti-abortion advocates do not have the monopoly on faith or God," the notice from Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio read. "Many faith leaders and people of faith hold that accessing and providing abortions are good and godly decisions."
In January 2017, more than 20 faith leaders blessed a Planned Parenthood facility in Washington, D.C. "This confirms the sacredness of the work we do," Laura Meyers, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said regarding the ceremony.
Well-known pro-choice proponent Dr. Willie Parker added, "I've been a Christian longer than I've been an abortion provider. Women have been made to think that this [clinic] is some evil place, where God is not," according to DCist, which noted his observation that people often respond to abortion by "cursing [women] for making sacred decisions. Our answer to the curse is to bless."