Churches across Los Angeles react to the end of Roe vs. Wade

For Pastor Netz Gómez and the 1,500 members of his Houses of Light congregation in Northridge, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade was an answer to their prayers and decades of hard work.

“We thank God that this injustice has finally been rectified and that states have the right to decide how they want to deal with abortion rights,” said the pastor, a native of Mexico who opened the church in his living room 22 years ago founded has delved deeper and deeper into US politics. “But we really thank God because we prayed so much for abortion to end. Abortion is wrong. Killing babies is unfair.”

In recent days, Pastor Gómez has received hundreds of text messages from parishioners and friends supporting the court’s decision, and as he spoke from the pulpit Saturday night, his congregation cheered.

Over the weekend, followers of many different faiths across Southern California reacted differently to the court’s momentous ruling with rejoicing and sadness, joy and anger.

On Sunday, 30 miles south and east of Houses of Light, Rev. Alfredo Feregrino, associate rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, said he knew immediately he had to rewrite his sermon when he learned of a’s Friday rule Flood of text messages and emails.

Demonstrators at a vigil hold signs, including one that reads "Why are women's bodies more regulated than guns in America?"

People attend a vigil Friday night at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena with Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

The church held a vigil with Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley Friday night to mourn the loss of constitutional rights and had hung a red banner in front of the church that read “Abortion is Health Care” for weeks.

Speaking Sunday morning in a chapel decorated with rainbow flags, Feregrino said the decision will have the hardest impact on people living in poverty, those on low incomes and those with patchy access to health care. If this decision was really about protecting babies, he said there would be “months of parental leave for everyone,” free diapers and baby food, universal preschool and other parenting support.

The congregation clapped and shouted in agreement.

For some believers – particularly many Catholics and Evangelicals – the decision of individual states whether and under what circumstances abortion is legal at all represents a long-sought step towards saving precious unborn life; for others it is an incomprehensible assault on fundamental rights of women to decide for themselves what is best for their lives and their families.

And for some on both sides of the debate, their views were deeply informed by personal experience.

Among the cheerers in the pews of Houses of Light was Zohira Miramda, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico at age 13 and had an abortion at 19.

She said it was the hardest decision of her life.

Miramda was already raising two small children at the time, and the economic hardship of having another baby seemed insurmountable. She decided to have a surgical abortion. And to this day she laments what could have been.

Miramda has been a Houses of Light parishioner for eight years and said she is able to process those feelings through her Christian faith. She believes if young girls were given more education about how they might feel after an abortion, fewer of them would go through the procedure.

“It’s that constant reminder that never escapes you,” she said.

In the West Adams neighborhood of LA, Rev. Dr. ST Williams Jr., pastor of the 97-year-old St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, a historically African-American church, offers a different perspective.

Although the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Supporting the court’s decision, Williams said the ruling “set us back as a nation, a people and a culture.”

Williams, who leads a community of 375 families of black Americans and Caribbean, African and Latino parishioners, many of them immigrants, said the nation was already strained due to COVID-19, mass shootings and inflation.

Telling people “they no longer have the right to vote” will not allow for proper family planning and will hit those who can least afford to have children.

“It is a sad day as a Lutheran minister because it will cause much chaos and calamity,” he said of the verdict. “You don’t allow people to be who they want to be.”

Pastor Steve Lee, the English-speaking senior pastor of Gereja Injili Indonesia Los Angeles of Azusa, also known as the Indonesian Evangelical Church of Azusa, said that for him, Roe vs. Wade’s downfall was personal.

Twenty years earlier, Lee and his wife received news of their pregnancy from a genetic counselor: their daughter, the couple’s first child, would be born with Down syndrome.

Lee and his wife decided to carry the child to term. Six months later, their daughter was born without Down syndrome.

“What struck us in retrospect was the idea that some in society would see a child with Down syndrome as less than a person, not deserving of life,” Lee said. “All life should be treated with dignity.”

Lee understands that there will be celebration for some and fear for others. What he fears most, however, is the growing division of opposing views among Americans.

“Thoughtful Christians also see the greater division that is expected, but there is greater violence and hatred that has become the norm,” he said. “The vitriol that is and continues to come will only unleash more violence and destruction of life.”

Although abortion and religious policies have focused on Christians of all persuasions, representatives of other faiths spent the weekend weighing the implications of the court’s lawsuit.

Rabbi David Wolpe is seated in an office.

Rabbi David Wolpe of the conservative Westwood Sinai Temple says that ultimately, under Jewish law, it is clear that abortion is not murder, but it is also clear that a fetus is potential life.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

In a sermon delivered Saturday morning, Rabbi David Wolpe of the conservative synagogue Sinai Temple in Westwood acknowledged that speaking from the pulpit was difficult about the Supreme Court decision and that he expected people to would not agree with his message. Ultimately, he said, Jewish law is clear that abortion is not murder, but it is also clear that a fetus is potential life.

Wolpe supports a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion no matter where in the United States she lives, but he also said he will not vilify those who disagree with him.

“I suspect, and I hope, that you do to those who disagree with me,” he told the faithful. “I don’t think that on the one hand people are carefree about life or that on the other hand people don’t care about women.”

“I think this is a profound, divisive issue,” he said. Churches across Los Angeles react to the end of Roe vs. Wade

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