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Churchgoers' opinions are mixed about the Supreme Court's abortion ruling

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Some Catholics and evangelical Christians have been waiting for Roe v. Wade to be overturned from the day it became law 50 years ago. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN spent some time with a congregation in Nashville. He found that some people who pushed for Roe to go now feel conflicted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELLS RINGING)

BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: As the bells rang out at St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows, security was tighter than normal because a block away, abortion rights activists were rallying in downtown Nashville much of the weekend. But church member Louise Kitchens had her own thoughts.

LOUISE KITCHENS: Now you got to think a little bit before you have sex with somebody you don't know.

FARMER: Kitchens says her firm stance against abortion is based on Catholic teaching. But the latest Pew Research survey shows only about half of those who identify as Catholic believe abortion should be illegal. Although, the vast majority favor at least some restrictions. Even for those who have fought abortion on a daily basis, like one guy I talked to who spends most days outside the Planned Parenthood clinic here, the celebration was only in private. He didn't want to attract the ire of protesters. Some also say they don't want to come off as gloating. They told me it's not a good look for people who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, held an informal event on Zoom. Dana Hall McCain, of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, asked for churchgoers to act with compassion. She also discouraged fundamentalists who've been pushing for laws that would punish women who have abortions, not just their doctors.

DANA HALL MCCAIN: It gives us the possibility of pursuing justice, yet unintentionally creating new types of injustice.

FARMER: McCain volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center in Alabama and says it's impossible to miss the complexity of almost every story - often a woman of color, often living in poverty.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO GOOD TO ME")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) He's been so good, so, so good to me, so good...

FARMER: At the evangelical Unite Church in east Nashville, the early service crowd is dancing in the aisles, eyes closed, hands raised. This congregation takes a position against abortion. Though, when I ask Pastor Mark Lancaster if it's a sin, he says it's more complicated than can be contained in a soundbite. He says he got someone pregnant when he was 19 years old. And that person had an abortion.

MARK LANCASTER: I know the thoughts that go on in your head personally. And I know the weight on that - the repercussions that can come along later.

FARMER: Lancaster says, he's not judging anyone. Though, he would hope to guide them away from abortion. And that should be easier now in Tennessee, where abortions have basically halted. The church already works with a crisis pregnancy center. And in response to the abortion ruling, the congregation launched a diaper drive to support new mothers. But the efforts fall short for Karen Fuqua. She's one of the few evangelicals passionate enough about abortion rights to join the protests in Nashville over the weekend. She had her own child out of wedlock in the mid-1970s.

KAREN FUQUA: It'll just never be enough. I mean, there are unseen costs, diapers and formula and health insurance and day care. All of the things that I was lucky enough to have, most girls don't have.

FARMER: But just a few years earlier, before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, she had to drive a friend from Tennessee to New York to get an abortion over a weekend. She says her friend cried the whole way and that it's the same kind of journey others might be forced into making now.

For NPR News, I'm Blake Farmer in Nashville.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA'S "WHITE LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Blake Farmer
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