AUSTIN — Local ministers and rabbis
have purchased a newspaper advertisement supporting women's right to abortion
because it's time to "end the silence of the
mainline churches'* on the issue, a spokesman said. "No one here is pro-abortion.
We all believe in preserving life whenever
possible," said the Rev. Jim Rigby, a Pres-
byterian minister, at a news conference
However, he said, "Many people get in
situations where pregnancy takes a woman
beyond her resources ... We believe that
women are capable of making their own
Denominations represented by 77 clergy
signing the half-page ad which ran in Friday's Austin American-Statesman include
Episcopal, Methodist, Jewish, Presbyterian
and United Church of Christ, Rigby said.
LOOK WHO IS ON OUR SIDE!!!
"The matter of abortion inevitably involves a conflict between the gift of life and
the gift of freedom to choose, regardless of
the precise point when one believes a human embryo becomes a human being,"
says the statement by the group, called
Clergy for Responsible Reproductive
Making such ethical decisions for another person is not "in keeping with the mes-
sage of the Bible as a whole, nor in harmony with God's gift of freedom that f is
inherent in the sanctity of human life," it
The statement sets boundaries on the
group's support of the right to abortion,
saying it is not ethical to choose abortion to
select a child's sex or as a primary means of
It says, "The gift of life should take increasing primacy over the gift of freedom"
as a pregnancy comes closer to term, and
gives support to legislation that restricts
abortion after viability, when the fetus is
able to survive outside the womb.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer gives states broader powers to regulate
Anti-abortion activist Bill Price of Dallas
said the ad is unusual and called the
churches supporting it "a bunch of liberal
"I don't think they're coming from the
kind of churches that are growing and
making things happen in the Bible Belt,"
said Price, president of Texans United for
Life. He said the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic denominations are the largest
in the Bible Belt and support the pro-life
Domestic chores weren't always women's work
In January 1973 a young criminal named Paul Giles
was ordered by a British magistrate to clean an elderly person's house as a punishment lor his offense.
On hearing this, women around the world might be
forgiven tor wondering just what heinous crimesithey
must have committed to justify their life sentences ol
Women in the industrialized world did not gather
together over lea one afternoon and agree to work unpaid at cleaning, cooking, laundry, child care, and
nursing out of the sheer kindness of their hearts. No,
they were given little choice. They were, as Ivan II-
lich put it, "flattered and threatened, by capitalist and
cleric" into their current situation.
A number of authors have investigated the history of housework and have discovered that the housewife role is a very recent one indeed—and confined
to industrialized societies. As sociologist Anne Oakley
put it: "Othercultures may live in families but they do
not necessarily have housewives. They have women,
men, and children whose labor is woven together to
create a home and livelihood for the whole family."
As a woman in Kenya, for instance, starts to
untie the shawl securing a baby to her back so she can
wield her hoe with more freedom among the maize
stalks, another child will be there to take the baby
from her While she works, her daughters will be pounding sorghum and fetching water tor the evening meal,
her sons driving goats and cattle to fresh grazing, her
husband sinking wooden poles into the ground for a
All of these activities are work, but those that
we would term housework are so intricately interwoven with agriculture that it is difficult to tease them
apart. The growing of food and the growing of children are both vital to the family's survival. Without
children the food cannot be grown; without food there
can be no children. Who would dare make the judgment that holding your youngest baby on your lap is
less important than weeding a lew more yards in the
Vet this is the judgment our society makes constantly. Production—of autos, canned soup, advertising
copy—is important. Housework—cleaning, feeding, and
caring—is unimportant. How did this degradation of
domestic work come about? And how is it that women in
our societies are expected to do all this work alone?
Well, according to Oakley, Illich, and other historians, this situation set in with the growth of the cities,
factories, and mines in the early 19th century. By 1850
half of the United Kingdom population were living in
cities. In those days factory and mine owners did not
care who did their work for them and hired whole families to dig coal or weave cloth in the textile mills. It might
have continued that way, too, except for two reasons.
First was the extraordinarily high infant mortality
rate in the dreadful city slums where the workers lived.
This came about largely because attention to domestic
chores among the new proletariat had been reduced to an
absolute minimum, crowded out by the demands of wage
labor. Babies were left uniended in filthy hovels with no
water or sanitation and weaned onto gruel as soon as
they were born, to free their mothers for work in the
factories. The general "condition of the working class"
became a cause for serious concern among capitalists.
Malnourished, disease-ridden, stunted, and crippled by
the conditions in which they lived, the workers were less
and less able to do a good day's work.
Meanwhile, as machines became efficient, fewer
workers were needed to work them—which was the second
factor contributing to the creation of the housewife.
(At this point the story starts to read like a conspiracy—though in fact capitalism tends to operate more by
trial and error, rather like Darwinian evolution, with the
"fittest," by which I mean the most cost-effective for
capitalists, economic arrangements surviving.) It turned
out that the most cost-effective way to run a work force
was to remove women from the factories and put them to