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Faith leaders are among those marching for abortion rights in New Haven

Episcopal priest Helena Martin at a protest in New Haven, Connecticut, Friday.
Davis Dunavin
Episcopal priest Helena Martin at a protest in New Haven, Connecticut, on Friday.

Reverend Vicki Flippin, the pastor at New Haven’s First and Summerfield United Methodist Church, appeared before a crowd of hundreds at a rally for abortion rights on Friday.

“I was always told that to be a real Christian, you must oppose abortion," she said. "Has anybody ever heard that? Yeah. Over the years, I've learned the truth that that is a fabrication. Many faithful, courageous Christians and people of all faiths have fought for the rights of people to make their own choices about whether or not they have abortions.”

Rabbi Brian Immerman, with Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, told the crowd Jewish law explicitly allows some abortions.

“It may even require an abortion if a woman’s life is in danger," Immerman said. "Whether she is in physical, mental or economic danger. In Judaism, the fetus becomes a rodeph — a pursuer to that woman until that child emerges from her body.”

Episcopal Priest Helena Martin said she heard about the rally only about an hour before it began — and rushed down to the New Haven Green.

“I came dressed as an Episcopal priest, because this is something that's very much in teaching or in tune with the teaching of our church," she said. "Health care is a human right, and abortion is health care.”

The rally comes as a statement from the Connecticut Catholic Bishops welcomed what they call the “historic reversal” of Roe v. Wade. They said the decision “affirms the right to life of an unborn child”. They also pledged to support pregnant women who face challenges.

Martin said there are more progressive Christians who support abortion rights than people think, but many tend keep quiet about their faith.

“We don't want to impose it on other people. We don't want to be a problem," she said. "But it motivates us. I'm here, not in spite of my faith, but because of my faith. And I believe that God loves all people equally. And I believe that God desires us to flourish and to be healthy and happy and to care for one another. And that's just not happening.”

Martin said she’s lucky — the decision isn’t likely to affect her much.

“My heart breaks for the people whose lives will be lost by this," she said. "And people who are disadvantaged for all different kinds of reasons are going to be forced to make difficult choices about their health that can imperil them, that can endanger their families and that are against their desires and dreams for their lives.”

Martin said she finds hope when she sees people both in and out of the church working for abortion rights and other social justice issues.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.