By Maria Rocha-Buschel
To the uninitiated, Middle Collegiate Church might seem like an unusual place to hold a rally in support of abortion, given many churches’ stance on the subject. But Executive Minister Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft wants everyone to know that it’s exactly the right place to hold a rally in support of abortion.
“Middle Collegiate is a very progressive church and we believe the struggle for reproductive justice is a struggle we all carry and people should have the right to choose,” she said.
Hambrick Ashcraft, who is also a Stuyvesant Town resident, was the driving force behind such a rally that was held outside the Second Avenue church in the East Village this past Tuesday, one of hundreds of rallies held across the country protesting the new wave of bans on abortion in a number of different states in recent weeks.
The rallies were part of a national “day of action” organized by NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. Hambrick Ashcraft said that she received a text from NARAL about the day of action at the end of last week and spoke with the senior minister about making the church a site for one of the rallies, and the church got more than 200 RSVPs just from their post on NARAL’s site.
Artist and activist Viva Ruiz acted as the rally’s MC and wore a crown proclaiming her support for abortion. Ruiz spoke about her experiences with abortion and said she is thankful for the medical procedure.
“I am a person of faith. Do you need god to have a moral compass? No,” Ruiz said. “However, I am a believer and my faith tells me that I can’t be quiet when people don’t have human rights. I’ve had two abortions and God loves me.”
Deacon Dennis Barton of Middle Church, the only man on the agenda at the rally on the church steps, spoke about why the fight was important for him and said that he felt he had a moral obligation to be there because he has daughters and granddaughters who live in Georgia, where one of the restrictive “heartbeat” abortion laws was recently passed.
Hambrick Ashcraft told Town & Village after the rally that she really wanted to dispel the myth that all houses of worship are anti-choice, noting that the church, in particular, has isolated would-be worshipers for having abortions or being pro-choice.
“The church has done a lot of harm along these lines,” she said. “I had three or four people come up and say I never thought I could be welcomed back (after having an abortion). We had eight to 10 people call and say, ‘Hey, is this really happening at a church?’” she said. “The stigma that the church is not a welcoming space for people is out there and it’s horrible.”
Hambrick Ashcraft added that Middle Church also strives to be inclusive, noting that there is crossover between this movement, Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes.
“We recognize this isn’t a struggle just for white women, but also for those who are non-binary, women of color, trans men, anyone who has a uterus,” she said. “This is their struggle as well.”