FUS has a robust history of support for reproductive health, rights, and justice. Early meetings of the Birth Control League were held here; that organization eventually grew into Planned Parenthood of the North Central States. In 2019 FUS became a founding member of UnRestrict MN, a community-based campaign to educate Minnesotans about restrictions to abortion access in our state. At the same time, FUS joined as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against those restrictions, with a religious freedom claim. Our statement to the congregation in June 2019 reads in part:
First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis (FUS) has taken a stand for our values of religious freedom and reproductive rights, in the exact cultural moment when the abortion bans in other states are decimating the rights of women and families. On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, we announced our participation in a legal challenge to the mandates that restrict abortion care in Minnesota. Specifically, FUS is challenging the law mandating that fetal tissue be disposed of by burial or cremation. This law assumes a level of personhood for fetal tissue, the result of abortion or miscarriage, that is not shared by the majority of our members nor is it supported by our theology. Such a mandate, unnecessary from a medical or public health perspective, is an attempt to add shame, stigma, and cost to persons seeking abortion care or who experience miscarriage. We say this must stop.
In addition, FUS has signed on as a co-sponsor of the statewide public education campaign, UnRestrict Minnesota. Most Minnesotans don’t know that anti-abortion lawmakers in our state have been quietly passing laws that restrict abortion access, intimidate providers and patients, and increase costs. The Minnesota Constitution and Supreme Court rulings guarantee and protect people’s right to decide to end a pregnancy and to get abortion care, without the government trying to influence that decision. As attacks to safe, legal, essential reproductive health care sweep through many states across the country, now is the time to respect our state constitution, respect women and equality, and protect all of our rights and freedoms.
“The FUS Board of Trustees carefully considered the risks and the benefits, how being a part of this lawsuit aligns with our mission and the resources it would take to support this effort,” said (then) Board Chair Holly Anderson. “In the end, we unanimously voted in favor of participation in the suit.”
In these days of rising authoritarianism, it is rare that an organization such as ours has an opportunity to live out our values by challenging a state mandate. We are humanists who are committed to religious freedom and human rights, and we have a proud history of promoting reproductive health, rights, and justice. Let us continue “to make the change we need for a more just, compassionate, and peaceful world.”
We expect the lawsuit to go to trial in the summer of 2022.