Bishop Michael Sis, who heads Catholic Diocese of San Angelo, which includes Abilene churches, called the Supreme Court's recent decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade “an answer to many prayers.”
But the ruling also means communities must be prepared to step up to help, he said, a stance he shares with several Abilene supporters.
“I encourage everyone to offer ongoing, practical support to our local pregnancy resource centers, and to pray for their staff and volunteers,” Sis said. “Pregnant mothers in our communities in West Texas need support to help them obtain the necessities of life for themselves and their children.
"This is a time for all of us to step up our support for mothers and fathers in welcoming and caring for God’s precious gift of life.”
To Sherri Statler, president of adoption agency Christian Homes & Family Services, the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court is the correction of something “I think was wrongly decided from the get-go.”
“I've read the entire opinion and I was .. I was happy to see it turned back to the states,” Statler said of the court’s decision, released June 24. "I was happy to see that it was not deemed a constitutional matter."
Texas, Statler said, should be a state where “everything is done to make abortions as rare as possible.”
Sis said it is important to offer wide support to mothers and children, from a wide band of sources.
“When a woman is pregnant and considering abortion, she needs to know where she can find practical support if she decides to bring the child to term,” he said. “Ideally, that support should be available from many sources: government, churches, family and friends.”
Those outside resources include Pregnancy Resources of Abilene and Project Gabriel, he said, both of which are local resources for women.
Project Gabriel is a ministry of the Catholic Church that serves women in need of help throughout their pregnancy and during the year following the birth of their baby.
A personal assistant, or “Angel,” is assigned to each participant, who provides a wide range of support for both the mother and their child.
Beard believes the court's decision makes it incumbent on the community and churches to take an interest in foster care, help enhance adoptive services and to support entities such as Pregnancy Resources.
Beard served on that board or three years, he said, adding it was is important to galvanize ministries and other resources so the “right hand knows what the left hand is doing.”
“It is absolutely incumbent on the churches to coordinate with these great ministries in our city, to put our money where our mouth is,” he said.
Beltway Park Church has started a ministry to help recruit foster care families, while Beard's own church has a program, Safe Families, to try to parents “get on their feet” and perhaps avoid having children fall into foster care.
“These are just the kinds of things at a grassroots level that we've got to get very active in and think about coordinating our efforts,” he said.
Beard, who has himself helped foster two high school-age children that his son knew, said the process of fostering is not always easy, especially if children come from challenging backgrounds.
But it is "rewarding," he said.
He said he also wants to see resources developed to further help make the adoption process more affordable.
Statler hopes more young women who are not ready to be a parent or have day-to-day responsibility for a child consider adoption.
Christian Homes helps them do that at no cost, she said.
"If you're not, for whatever reason, emotionally, mentally, financially, chronologically ready to be a parent, you can still be a good parent when you choose adoption for your child,“ she said.
Her agency recently has hired more help, is working to improve its outreach and also wants to help create connections related to foster care, she said.
Both Pregnancy Resources and Christian Homes have fared will in recent rounds of Abilene Gives, a yearly fundraiser.
Pregnancy Resources came in third place out of 161 organizations in the most recent year. Christian Homes was 18th.
Setting things right
Beard, Sis and Statler agree that the court's approach to abortion, returning power to states, is correct.
The court's decision does not outlaw abortion throughout the country, Sis said, allowing for “regional differences.”
“For example, there is broader support for the right to life of the unborn in West Texas than there is on the West Coast,” he said. “Allowing states to pass their own laws about the legality of abortion recognizes those differences.”
Beard said the decision was, to him, one “nearly 50 years in the making.”
“I’ve been very much on the side of praying that Roe v. Wade would be overturned at some point. For that to happen … was history. June 24 will always be etched on my mind.”
Like Statler and Sis, Beard said he agreed with the way the justices ruled, calling the 1973 ruling that made Roe the law of the land “weak at best.”
“It’s never really had the real constitutional support or otherwise to lasts as long it did, but you’ve had a liberal court for years and years,” he said.
Beard said what changed was the presidency of Donald Trump.
“Thank God for Donald Trump,” he said, adding the former president’s massive support in Abilene and the area came from the understanding he would put conservative judges on the court.
“By some miracle, he did put three (justices) in, and it was miraculous the way that all that happened,” he said.
Beard said those in opposition have perpetuated a "lie" that the practice has been banned completely.
“You still have laws in place that make it legal to abort your child in cities that are that are right now losing their collective minds,” he said.
The fight on abortion in general is “far from being over,” Beard said.
“But it's where it needs to be, it needs to be back in states for the people to make the decision,” he said.
Beard, a substantial advocate for a movement to make Abilene a "sanctuary Ccty for the unborn," a measure that will come be voters in November’s general election, still believes further safeguards need to be in place locally.
The Abilene measure, which mirrors in some respects efforts in Lubbock and elsewhere, is still important given the way legislators and leaders can change in states and at the federal level, he said.
“So, there are plenty of reasons to drive a stake in the ground here in Abilene still, to make sure that we have this ordinance in place in our own city,” he said,
To Beard, a local ordinance is a “failsafe on a municipal level,” and puts a number of restrictions in the “right hands,” that of local lawmakers and residents.
Time to talk
Sis said painful opinions on the topic of abortion among friends, co-workers, family members and fellow church members has made the topic “divisive and polarizing.”
“In our conversations about abortion, I recommend that we begin by listening to one another, rather than by yelling,” he said.
Beard said his goal is not for those who are antiabortion to rub their recent victory “in anyone’s face,” especially given what he sees as work yet to be done.
He has dealt directly with opposition, he said, including a young woman who he’s known for years who lives in New York, where abortion is still “absolutely legal.”
“We have extremely different viewpoints on things, but her father is one of my best friends,” he said, adding his only goal is to “agree to disagree and to try to be cordial.”
Statler believes people would “probably be amazed at how many women we work with who have already had at least one abortion.”
“They often tell us I can't do that again, I'm not going to do that again,” she said.
There is no place for judgment against those women, in Statler’s opinion, but rather a “wide, open space for compassion.”
Statler said she’s had a number of thoughtful conversations with people who “don’t see it the way I do” when it comes to abortion.
“There have been some things suggested that I have certainly taken to heart about how we can help and how we can help women who are pregnant (who) for whatever reason don't want to consider adoption,” she said. “How are we, as Christian Homes responding to a woman who will be a single mom? We are thinking through … the best way for us to help.”
Everyone who comes to the table comes with different life experiences and expectations, Statler said.
“I think now is the time for more listening, really,” she said. “More listening than arguing.”
Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for t
he Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Roe decision a 'correction,' Abilene supporters say