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As a Christian educator, I believe abortion as reproductive health care must be available and accessible

I am a 24-year-old Our Whole Lives (OWL) facilitator. OWL is a full-spectrum human sexuality curriculum, created by the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

As an adolescent, I went through OWL at my church. It was fun, informative and empowering.

Now, as a staff member at the same church, I lead seventh- through ninth-graders through OWL. We give students accurate information and help them process it in a safe and loving space with peers and trusted adults.

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Ensuring youth have access to age-appropriate information as they mature is critically important. It helps them become sexually healthy people who feel good about their bodies and build positive, equitable, loving relationships.

Liam Magistad

Liam Magistad

The topics of pregnancy and parenting are in the last part of the curriculum. This spring, we talked about the U.S. Supreme Court and its then-possible decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The students listened carefully. It was clear they thought of being a parent as a distant future possibility, if at all. They considered why someone might be a good parent and the joy they could receive from that choice.

Students also thought about the challenges someone would face if they were to have a child while still a teen. Data show providing young people with accurate information, a safe environment and contraception when needed is the best way to decrease unintended pregnancy.

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I believe the overturning of Roe v. Wade is a catastrophic mistake. Forced pregnancy is a violation of bodily rights — a right that Christianity values highly. The government forcing any person to carry a pregnancy to term against their will deprives them of bodily autonomy and is thus violence. It also fails to recognize an individual’s God-given moral agency.

Abortion as reproductive health care must be available and accessible, with optional mental health support/counseling. It must be unencumbered by waiting periods. It must be strictly private, and free of charge. The patient’s safety, dignity and decision-making authority must be ensured.

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I am proud to be part of the UCC because our denomination speaks clearly at the national, state and local level about human rights and personal freedoms, including reproductive choice. My own faith journey has motivated me to continue advocating for a more just world. Right now is the moment to speak more boldly than ever before about the sacredness of reproductive choice.

Liam Magistad is director of Children, Youth and Family Ministries at St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ.

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