Tuesday, February 15, 2022

TESTIMONY: "The Sacred Lives of Our Sisters"

House Committee on
Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs
Concord, NH

Good afternoon, I am the Rev. David Grishaw-Jones. I live in Dover, and I serve as pastor to the Community Church of Durham, a dynamic Christian congregation of the United Church of Christ. I’m here to speak against HB1080.

In my tradition, and in my faith, religious freedom is always and necessarily coupled with moral responsibility and compassion. Indeed, this is what we mean when we say that every one of us is created “in the image of God.” We are given life and breath to freely love God and to freely love one another—and this very freedom endows us with the energy and spirit needed to sustain communities of compassion, institutions committed to wellness, and relationships that protect integrity and choice.

What religious freedom does not do, not in any religion I know, is grant us license to deny much-needed health care to those who need it, or 
to sow the seeds of distrust and contempt among us, or to stigmatize the legitimate choices of women seeking to do what’s best for their bodies.  And I’m concerned that this is precisely what HB1080 – and legislation like it – is doing.

Here in New Hampshire, we are responsible – all of us together – for building institutions that promote the health and honor the integrity of all our neighbors, all our friends, all our sisters and all our brothers. That’s our human responsibility, our moral and spiritual responsibility; and to shirk that responsibility is to compromise our religious freedom. HB1080 would deny patients in our state – particularly in rural or underserved areas – essential health care and timely prescriptions. In the world this bill creates, a refusing provider is under no obligation to find someone else to deliver quality care to a woman in need – leaving that same woman (especially in a life-threatening emergency) without any access to critically needed medical care. This kind of world not only perverts the notion of religious freedom; it endangers the real lives, the sacred lives of our sisters, mothers, grandmothers and friends. It's not a world I want for my parishioners in Durham, or for my wife or my three daughters or whatever grandchildren are coming our way.

In my tradition, which is indeed the biblical tradition of Judaism and Christianity, freedom is gifted to human beings—and human communities—so that we might freely and joyfully care for one another, and create networks of protection and healing and even celebration. When we use that same notion of freedom to marginalize the poor among us, or to stigmatize women seeking the best for themselves and their families, we have wandered off the map of justice and righteousness.

My hope, indeed my prayer, for those of you in state government, is that you will honor the responsibility that we have placed in you, and that you will use your resources, your minds and hearts, your freedom, to promote the common good and honor the choices of women and their partners in our state, and then to build a community that protects health and encourages wellbeing and extends care to all our people. Your freedom comes with that responsibility. So I am opposed to HB1080, and I thank you for your time today.