By Liam Magistad
I am a 24-year-old Our Whole Lives facilitator.
OWL is a full-spectrum, human sexuality curriculum, created by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
As an adolescent, I went through OWL at my church. I found it 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. Ensuring that 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.
The topics of pregnancy and parenting are in the last part of the OWL 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 unprepared for it.
Data—from newswise.com/articles/comprehensive-sex-education-might-reduce-teen-pregnancies (one of many)—shows that providing young people with accurate information, a safe environment and contraception, when needed, is the best way to decrease unintended pregnancy.
I believe the overturning of Roe v. Wade was a catastrophic mistake. Forced pregnancy is a violation of bodily rights—a right that Christianity values highly. The government’s 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 and 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 respected.
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.
Peace, joy and love be with you.
Liam Magistad is director of children, youth and family ministries at St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ.