As priest-in-charge at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, which is across South Claiborne Avenue from the new Planned Parenthood clinic, I am pleased that the clinic is moving to the area.

I write to express my support for the right of the clinic to be there and to serve the reproductive needs of our community. This is very important to many in our community. I also write to make clear that there are many Christians, Christian denominations and many other people of faith who support the reproductive rights of women. I am very disappointed with some fellow Christian people and churches who have made threats of exclusion and boycotts to congregants who wish to work with the clinic. The recent disruption of a worship service at First Unitarian-Universalist Church in New Orleans by anti-abortion protesters was a highly disrespectful and sacrilegious act.

The Episcopal/Anglican Church worldwide has officially recognized the use of artificial contraception as an acceptable Christian moral choice since 1930. Lack of access to contraception can be among the chief causes of abortion, to which some are forced to turn in tragic cases.

The church supports the right of a woman to make her own choices in these matters, while rejecting abortion as a means of birth control or mere convenience. The official position of our church is that all human life is sacred from its inception until death. The church takes seriously its obligation to help form the consciences of its members concerning this sacredness. We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community. While we acknowledge that in this country, it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations.

We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection or any reason of mere convenience. The Episcopal Church expresses its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.

As a parish church that is named for the most wondrous conception in history, we welcome the Planned Parenthood clinic to the neighborhood. It will serve a very important role in education, health screenings, contraception and, when necessary, a safe place for the termination of pregnancy.

I am pleased to join an interfaith group of clergy in welcoming the clinic to the community.

The Rev. Walter Baer

Episcopal priest

New Orleans