God and Amendment 4: How religion plays into Florida’s abortion debate

Abortion Utah
'We’re just trying to make the world a better place. That’s what religion is all about.'

When Roe v. Wade fell, Rabbi Rachel Greengrass fought back.

At holiday celebrations, Shabbat services, whenever they could, her congregation collected 1,800 petitions to help get abortion rights on the ballot this November.

“I’m somebody who really loves to ground myself in Jewish text,” said Greengrass, who discusses religious verses showing a woman’s life is valued more over the unborn child if only one of them can be saved. “I’m also a feminist.”

The Miami rabbi supports Amendment 4 because of her religion, not despite it, she said.

She is among the faith leaders mobilizing the grassroots efforts for Amendment 4. The November ballot question would limit government interference on abortion. It needs at least 60% of the vote to pass and replace the state’s current six-week abortion ban that went into effect May 1.

For Pastor Regina Jackson, her views on abortion rights are framed by a Corinthians verse about love.

“Love protects. Love trusts. Love perseveres,” said Jackson, who leads Restoration of Truth Ministries, a nondenominational church of about 50 people in Jacksonville. “So if that is our guide as Christians, to love, … we have to trust pregnant people and medical providers to make reproductive health decisions.”

Other religious institutions are preparing to fight against Amendment 4.

“The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops is working hard to oppose this dangerous and deceptive amendment and urges all Floridians to vote ‘no’ on Amendment 4,” the Catholic Church said in a statement to Florida Politics, which called the ballot proposal “extreme.”

The Catholic Church declined to be interviewed for this story but went on to say in the statement, “Amendment 4 goes so far as to enshrine in our state constitution late-term abortion well after a child feels pain and can live outside the womb.”

Since the beginning of the Yes on 4 campaign, faith-based groups like Catholics for Choice, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Faith in Public Life Action and the National Council of Jewish Women have been involved, said Campaign Director Lauren Brenzel.

Those organizations play an important role for the campaign since “many Floridians are people of faith,” Brenzel said. “We know that people who are religious are statistically not less likely to access abortion care. So it’s incredibly important that we hear people of faith speaking out about this.”

Brenzel understands the complexity surrounding religion and abortion rights.

She is Catholic and remembered speaking harshly about people who got abortions. What started Brenzel’s shift in thinking as a teenager was when her mother made a confession to her. Her mother, a Catholic as well, had gotten an abortion before she left an abusive relationship.

Rev. Sarah Robinson said she mourned with some church members when the nation’s highest court overturned the landmark decision in 2022. One woman in her 70s was “devastated.”

“I had some really heartbreaking conversations,” Robinson said as she spoke one-on-one with people in the fellowship hall. “It was us being together in community and grieving.”

Two years later, you won’t hear Robinson get up on the pulpit to endorse Amendment 4 in front of her 30-member congregation at Audubon Park Covenant Church in Orlando. She is careful what she says on Sundays. Her sermons resemble a message more like, “love your neighbor.”

But Robinson is getting politically involved. She attended the Amendment 4 kickoff rally and on the same day wrote a lengthy Facebook explaining why she, as a pastor, supports abortion rights.

“I am here for the quiet majority of Christians, women and men, Republican, Democrat or otherwise who are in favor of having the freedom to make their own personal healthcare decisions,” Robinson wrote in her post.

The majority of commenters praised Robinson’s views and her writing, although one person responded only with a Bible quote that read, “’Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.’ Jeremiah 1:5.”

Ahead of the Nov. 5 election, Rabbi Greengrass is part of a group sending postcards to remind people to vote and conducting phone banks.

For 16 years, Greengrass has been a rabbi at Temple Beth Am to serve a congregation of about 1,700 families. It is one of the largest reformed Jewish communities in the country.

Greengrass describes her congregation as purple, with a congregation that includes big donors and leaders from both Democrats and Republicans.

This isn’t the first time Greengrass has talked about women’s health care and abortion rights to her congregation in her 16-years serving the temple, but not everyone is happy about her advocacy, she admitted.

“There are members of our congregation who are not pro-choice. It’s a minority, but what I love is that they feel comfortable pushing back and speaking out,” Greengrass said. “We are a faith that values diversity of thought.”

She knows some people don’t want their politics and religion to mix. 

“You can’t completely be devoid of politics,” Greengrass said. “We’re just trying to make the world a better place. That’s what religion is all about.”

A small number of counterprotesters at the Amendment 4 kickoff rally last month in Orlando held signs that read “Fear God” and “God hates the hands that shed innocent blood.”

But the reality is, looking through at abortion through the lens of religion is full of complications and nuances. Most Americans take a middle ground. Most do not think about their religion when deciding their political views on abortion either, according to Pew Research Center’s senior researcher, Besheer Mohamed.

About 59% of Catholics said abortion should be legal in all or some cases, according to Pew’s survey released this month.

To explain this support coming despite the Church’s staunch pro-life stance, Mohamed said some people believe abortion should be legal while also believing abortions are morally wrong. Those two thoughts — the legality of abortion and the personal morality of abortion — play into people’s views at the same time, he said.

“There are a lot of folks, about half of the public, that say, ‘There are situations where they think abortions are morally wrong but should still be legal,’” Mohamed said.

Steph Hanson-Quintana, Director of Organizing for Catholics for Choice, argued there’s a big disconnect between the top of the Catholic Church and the congregation when it comes to abortion. To gear up for Amendment 4, Catholics for Choice is hiring full-time field organizers in Florida, she said.

Meanwhile, about 71% of Black Protestants and 64% of white non-evangelical Protestants said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the Pew study found.

The religious group most opposed to abortion are White evangelical Protestants. About 73% believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, the Pew study said.

“White Evangelicals stand out. About three-quarters say that religion is very important on how they sort of come to their views about abortion,” Mohamed said. “But that’s not the case across most Americans. … Most Americans don’t see abortion through a religious lens. There are lots of folks who are coming to these decisions for reasons other than religion.”

Perhaps that’s not a surprise in America, where nearly 3 out of every 10 adults describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular,” according to Pew. Among those with no religious affiliation, 86% said they wanted abortion rights, the new survey said.

“One thing that is striking is that … in some ways, the national debate has changed a lot in the last couple of years, but the polling trends are not radically different now than they were two years ago,” Mohamed said. “There are some small changes, but not radically different than they were 20 years ago, when we first started asking these questions.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • LexT

    May 28, 2024 at 9:31 am

    This is a difficult debate, but this debate should be had in good faith on both sides. There is a lot of sense to the statement, “A woman’s life is valued more over the unborn child if only one of them can be saved.” The logic of the statement is that the unborn child has value. It is hard to consider early-term abortions monstrous when many of those early pregnancies self-terminate. But the logic of a true loss when convenience is chosen over an unborn child is pretty monstrous. We should neither broaden the “health of the mother” to allow any abortion nor have the “health of the mother mean nothing.”

  • woke up

    May 28, 2024 at 10:13 am

    There’s not one passage in the Bible, Koran or other religious tombs that forbids abortion. All of the Holy Rollers who love to fleece their folks just make stuff up to justify their own perverse spin on this issue. Religion is a business. Faith is a personal choice. Vote yes on 4!

    • Dont Say FLA

      May 28, 2024 at 10:46 pm

      Woke Up, while technically true that abortion isn’t forbidden in religious texts, Dianetics does warn of engrams as potential negative outcomes.

      Engrams are possible only from failed abortions, however. So ladies, please honor L Ron Hubbard and Scientology and Tom Cruise and do it right the first time!

  • rick whitaker

    May 28, 2024 at 8:48 pm

    religion makes the world a more dangerous placw. be honest and count all the bodies.

  • 🌞

    May 28, 2024 at 9:43 pm

    God,🌍 good orderly discipline

  • Cheesy Floridian

    May 29, 2024 at 4:58 pm

    Choice = Freedom. Plain and simple. If we are supposed to be free, and DeSantis and republicans love to say that “Florida is Free” then we should be allowed to make our own medical choices. Should there be limits? Yes but after viability. We are not free if we are not allowed to make choices.

  • Steve Powell

    May 30, 2024 at 5:06 pm

    There’s an old saying: “The devil can quote scripture for his own purposes”. In fact, he did when Jesus went into the wilderness. So don’t pull scripture quotes out of context. People come to their own feelings about abortion and then find Bible passages that fit. They are sincere, but their attitude comes first.

Comments are closed.


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