How a Church Helped Women Get Safe, Illegal Abortions

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Abortion bans do not stop people from terminating their pregnancies; this was true before Roe v. Wade and it remains true today, both in the United States and globally. Some women will manage to do this safely on their own, while others will not. Some will have the money to access the procedure regardless of its legal status, others will not. Some will face legal consequences, others will not. Criminalization and incremental bans do not end the need for abortion, they simply creates a vast and unequal system that pregnant people must navigate.

In 1963, before Roe, a group of sympathetic religious leaders formed the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion to help women do just that. The network helped women access illegal, safe abortions at a time when poor women and women of color were disproportionately likely to die or experience severe medical complications as the result of unsafe abortions.

Jezebel spoke to Donna Schaper, who is currently the senior pastor of Judson memorial church, and who was among the first religious counselors within the network. She explains how the clergy operated its illegal referral service and how the fight for reproductive justice continues today.

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