Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Voices — August 2022
Leanne Nettles, LMFT
President's August Message
Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Anti-Life, Anti-Choice, Abortion, Autonomy, Freedom, Murder, Baby, Fetus, Conception, Contraception, Birth, Life, Death, Woman, Mother, Host, Parasite, Unborn, Pre-born, Rights, Choice, Protect, Persecute…so many buzzwords flowing from fingers and lips. As LA-CAMFT’s President, I have been challenged by the debate of writing on this topic, knowing LA-CAMFT serves mental health providers from many backgrounds, political stances, and belief systems. To take a public stance either way is to risk ostracizing a portion of the members we serve. But as Albert Einstein put it, “If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.” As I write this, I do not write representing the entire views of CAMFT or LA-CAMFT. I write wrestling with my own perspectives on this topic.
I’ve rewritten this message in my head a million times. And I couldn’t seem to find the words to fit just right until I read a social media post by my colleague and friend, Delonte Gholston: Tragedy. Abortion is a tragedy. The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade is a tragedy. Loss of life in all its forms is a tragedy. Loss of reproductive rights is a tragedy. For many people, America feels like a tragic place to be right now.
Delonte, a Christian Pastor and Community Activist, highlighted so many of my thoughts and feelings about this topic, that with his permission, I’d like to share some of his words, written in 2019 (with the full understanding that this comes from a male, Christian theological perspective and is not all encompassing of the nuances of this topic):
“Abortion is a tragedy and something that we as a society should grieve and deeply lament. Life at every stage is a mystery to be treated with awe, wonder, and gratitude. The life of mothers and the gift of motherhood is also sacred. Thus to protect a mother's life, her and her partner's painful decision to end their child's life should never be shamed or maligned . . .
. . . As much as I value the sanctity of life at every stage, it is . . . troubling to see people demonstrate such great passion for a precious baby that's in the womb only to find them silent when that precious baby is born, or when the mother who raised that baby must now bury them because the state gunned them down within seconds while playing on the playground.
It is troubling to hear Christian leaders speak up against the state for the rights of the unborn who were silent when our government . . . [funds] war in Yemen today where families, men, women, children and babies are bombed, shot, starved and slaughtered daily.
It grieves me to see people speak up for the unborn while doing nothing to prevent the public health and mental health determinants of gun violence in our culture and on our streets.
The precious unborn baby that so many of us speak up for now will grow up some day. To cry out when the state ends their life before they are born but to remain silent when the state ends their life after they are born (or to even rationalize their death) is a deep and dire tragedy. It is heartbreaking to see people speak up for the unborn, but watch them remain silent as our children live in food deserts, attend crumbling schools, be taught by underpaid teachers, be born to mothers who are discriminated against in the healthcare system and to fathers who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system.
The sanctity of life is not an either/or issue.
If you can speak up about abortion but remain silent about police brutality, consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.
If you can speak up about abortion, but you were silent as babies were put in cages and separated from their families at the border (from the same communities to which you send your donations and your missions teams), consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.
If you can speak up about abortion, but are silent as thousands of black and brown men and women languish on death row, often for crimes DNA evidence reveals they did not commit, consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.
If you can speak up about abortion, but you are silent as LGBTQ kids are bullied and committing suicide, consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.
If you can speak up about abortion, but remain silent as companies owned by people in our churches dump hazardous waste in black and brown communities where black and brown babies have to grow up, consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.
If you are speaking up about abortion but were silent when the children in Flint, their mothers and their fathers drank toxic quantities of lead, consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb.
If you are speaking up about abortion, but have not honored the stories of racial terrorism inflicted on the black, brown, Native, biracial, and Asian elders in your congregations and community, please consider that life is sacred from the womb to the tomb. The elders among us who survived Japanese internment, Jim Crow, and pesticide poisoning on grape farms must be treated like their lives are sacred too . . .
. . . As one who does see a Biblical basis for valuing the sanctity of life at every stage but who also sees a need to protect the life and health of mothers, I lament and grieve the loss of life at any stage. I also lament that my brothers and sisters who speak up today for the unborn will be silent tomorrow when that baby is born poor, black, or brown or if that child up grows up to be queer and comes out in our churches. It is sad to know that the people who speak up today will do nothing to prevent the scourge of gun violence in our communities tomorrow.
We have to find a way toward the love and compassion of Christ for both the unborn and the born.
Life is sacred from the womb to the tomb, and beyond.”
What we are experiencing is a tragedy on a large scale. A tragedy that impacts us all, but especially those of us with childbearing reproductive systems. And while I believe abortion is a true tragedy, I believe strongly that the forced removal of an individual’s free will, especially when no consideration is given under any circumstance, is a grand tragedy. If we want to protect life, rather than stripping rights, we need more funding for better sex education, access to and understanding of contraception, access to quality health care, easy access to free and affordable food, housing, financial, and educational resources during early childhood, acknowledgment and elimination toxic masculinity and sexualized violence, and community support and reduced stigma around single parenting, among other things. And we as a society need to radically shift our perspectives around the sacredness of life as truly lasting beyond birth.
Our experiences, our voices, our stories, our choices; they matter.
Leanne Nettles, LMFT is a School-based Clinical Program Manager in a community-mental health agency and an Adjunct Professor at Pacific Oaks College. She specializes in child and adolescent therapy, while practicing and supervising from a systemic and structural therapy approach. Leanne works to advocate for cultural diversity and equity within the field, and is passionate about training quality mental health professionals to serve low income, historically disenfranchised communities using a team-based, collaborative approach.