Small group meets to commemorate Roe v. Wade

Thursday, January 24, 2008 | 9:56 p.m. CST; updated 12:49 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

COLUMBIA — A gathering Thursday evening that participants dubbed “small but mighty” reached across religious barriers to find commonality in supporting women’s reproductive choice and their faith.

About eight people gathered at the Hillel Center for a roundtable discussion that was part of a series of events designed to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The discussion was meant to bring people of various backgrounds together to talk about their common stance in faith, said Kerry Hollander, executive director of the Hillel Center.

Government policy updates and the impact of an open field of candidates for Missouri’s Republican gubernatorial nomination were part of the conversation, as were spiritual implications of abortion.

Faith can be a strong foundation at a time when women really need it, even if they are otherwise not very spiritual, said Adele Coble, outreach coordinator for the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Religion can scare women, rather than give them comfort, when it comes from a punitive angle, she said.

In the counseling that Coble does through the Religious Coalition, she encounters women who want to speak to clergy, burdened by fears about abortion. Coble said, “Some women ask, ‘Will God hate me for this decision? Will this damn my baby to hell?’”

“We want to protect the women,” said Kristen Walle, an intern for Planned Parenthood of Columbia.

Walle is frustrated by punitive policies that she says hinder women from making their own choice about abortion and then punish them when they do.

Lauren Sandweiss, vice president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, believes that the Republican party will provide an equally conservative candidate now that Gov. Matt Blunt has decided not to run, providing no greater hope for abortion rights legislation.

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