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In an age of growing income inequality, rising inflation, racial disparities in wealth, and a pandemic-induced economic crisis, poverty remains a major contributor to abortion in the U.S. Nearly three-fourths of abortion patients cite inadequate means of support as a reason for terminating their pregnancies. After the anticipated rollback of Roe v. Wade, more low-income households will face additional needs and challenges caring for their families. Communities of color, rural communities, and those with the least access to health care will be most impacted. States with the most restrictive abortion laws are least equipped to meet these growing needs.
To follow Christ is to demonstrate love and solidarity with the poor. In the Western Christian tradition, the “rights of the poor” were among the first rights ever recognized by the Church. Under international law, the human right to life implies rights to the basics of human survival—like food, shelter, and healthcare. But the U.S. has generally refused to honor these human rights, allowing poverty to endure and remain closely tied to race in America.
What are our responsibilities, as people of faith, to build a society where all families have access to the necessities of life? In the face of growing needs the Dobbs v. Jackson decision is expected to prompt, what heightened duties do Christians have to advocate in solidarity with the poor—especially low-income, women of color-headed households? Now that Roe is falling, will moral outrage over abortion be channeled toward empowering those whose lives are threatened by poverty?
The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis
The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. She is the Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Rev. Dr. Theoharis is the editor of We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign (Broadleaf Press, October 12, 2021). She is the author of Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor (Eerdmans, 2017) and co-author of Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing (Beacon, 2018).
In 2021, she received the Hunger Leadership Award from the Congressional Hunger Center, along with the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. In 2020 she was named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress. In 2019, she was a Selma “Bridge” Award recipient and named one of 11 Women Shaping the Church by Sojourners. In 2018, she gave the “Building a Moral Movement” TEDtalk at TEDWomen, was named one of the Politico 50 “thinkers, doers and visionaries whose ideas are driving politics”, and was also named a Women of Faith Award recipient by the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Rev. Dr. Theoharis received her BA in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania; her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in 2004 where she was the first William Sloane Coffin Scholar; and her PhD from Union in New Testament and Christian Origins.
Lauren W. Reliford, MSW
Lauren W. Reliford, MSW is a passionate and mission-oriented public and population health professional focused on bridging the gap between social theory, spirituality, research, and practice to the forefront of our major policy decisions. She earned her master’s degree in social work with a combined clinical-macro concentration and focused primarily on the biological impacts of trauma in Black birthing women and the need for policy solutions, such as the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 (S. 346/H.R. 959).
Ms. Reliford, MSW currently serves as Political Director for Sojourners, a faith-based advocacy organization that represents and mobilizes thousands of Christian leaders and believers across our country around issues of justice and peace and an award-winning publication dedicated to issues spanning faith, politics, and culture. As political director, she is responsible for developing and implementing Sojourners’ policy strategy, positioning, framing, messaging, and advocacy for outreach and impact on Capitol Hill and the presidential administration.
She worked as a public health lobbyist for ten years prior to grad school, which allowed her to address the racist systemic and institutional structures that prevented whole health (physical, mental, behavioral, emotional) for Black and Brown communities. She credits her time doing frontline social work during the pandemic as a turning point in life and career that demonstrated the real need to address the ineligibility requirements in policies and programs that furthered poverty and oppression for aging and older adults in need.
As a macro social work practitioner, she believes in engaging with the clinical practitioners in the hopes that their direct experience working with her focus populations will help build a bottom-up, middle-out policy formulation process that centers the lived experience of Black and Brown communities. Her hope is to continue the good work and act on her morals and values at a policy level that either creates a space at the table—or builds a new one—for lived experience.
This event will be moderated by Allyson McKinney Timm, Founder & Executive Director of Justice Revival, this event is part of our educational series, “The Heart of Human Rights: Faith-Fueled Advocacy on Issues of Our Day.”
In this special series of web-based events, courageous advocates share compelling stories of their struggles and triumphs for justice in modern-day America. They are joined in conversation by other human rights experts and fellow faith leaders who reflect on spiritual and theological dimensions of their cause. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the deep inter-connections between Christian faith and human rights, and to understand urgent justice issues facing the United States today.