'Just a given'

Why a Southern Baptist minister in Kentucky is advocating for abortion rights

Reverend Millie Horning Peters. (Facebook / Refinery29)

The reproductive rights movement in Kentucky is being furthered with the help of an unlikely advocate: Reverend Millie Horning Peters, a Southern Baptist minister.

According to a profile in Yes! Magazine, Peters heads the local chapter of the Concerned Clergy for Choice, a multi-faith network of approximately 1,000 religious leaders who advocate for reproductive healthcare. She is also the co-chair of the Kentucky chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith group that brings a religious perspective to its support of women’s rights.

The minister told Yes! that she was inspired to take up the mantle for women’s rights after struggling to gain respect as a female religious leader. “I was a woman pioneer, and that was really stressful in those days. I received a lot of flack about serving as a woman minister,” she said.

The work of Peters and her fellow social justice warriors is very much needed — particularly in Kentucky, where religion has been used as justification for severely clamping down on women’s access to reproductive health care. Governor Matt Bevin, an evangelical Christian who ran for office in 2015 on an anti-abortion platform, has helped shutter all abortion clinics in the state except one — and that lone clinic is now locked in a legal battle for its future. Pro-choice advocates did pick up a pivotal legal victory late in September when a federal judge overturned a controversial Kentucky law that mandated doctors to show pregnant women an ultrasound image of the fetus before performing an abortion. The lawsuit that led to the ruling had been filed on behalf of Kentucky’s lone remaining abortion clinic, the EMW Women’s Surgical Center.

“We have a chance to lead this nation from a moral and spiritual perspective that is desperately needed,” he said in a press release.

But Peters and other religious advocates for reproductive rights see the issue differently. When asked how she reconciles her faith with pro-choice leanings, Peters told Yes! that when “we face a situation, we have to do what is best for us in the moment. Life is complicated, but it is just my firm belief that God has given us a mind and given me a heart of compassion that reaches out to people. To be pro-choice is just a given.”

In an interview with Refinery29, Peters likens the cultural shift in the religious community’s attitude toward women with the fight for women’s reproductive rights. “The real thing is a woman’s right to determine what happens to her own body — just the freedom to make those choices.” She said she used to think she’d never see the day that a woman minister would be able to get behind the pulpit without a commotion being raised. “But that day has arrived,” she said. “And I’m hopeful that the same thing will happen with out reproductive issues.” Watch the full interview below.

 

Read the full story at Yes!

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