From the recording Clergy Man
Once referred to as the man
Who led a quiet revolution
I went to meet him in the village
It was a health and a privacy pilgrimage
And in his office the walls were made of brick
And time was running short and I was feeling sick
Oh Reverend Moody you did you stood your duty
As a clergy man
A clergy man
You helped me
In over a dozen different towns
Mostly after the sun went down
His network adopted a controversial issue
It took six years to change the law had been misused
Hotel room, damp basement, Mexico
No hotel room, no damn basement, no going to Mexico
Mourned for no thank you
No towels for bleeding left alone as you go
June 8, 2002
NYCLU Honors Lasker and Callaway Award Winners
Howard Moody: The Man Who Led a Quiet Revolution
Once referred to as "the Harriet Tubman of the abortion rights movement," Reverend Howard Moody recently received the NYCLU's Joseph Callaway Award for his lifelong fight for women's rights, health and privacy.
In 1967, when abortions were illegal and often unsafe, the Rev. Moody helped found a network of concerned clergy, the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, which referred women to competent abortion providers.
As word of the service spread, desperate women from all over the country contacted the network, which the Rev. Moody ran from his office at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. The network grew to approximately 1,400 ministers and rabbis across the United States and was then replicated in over a dozen cities.
The impact of the Rev. Moody's organization reached far beyond the countless women it helped, women who would have been forced to undergo furtive and dangerous abortions in motel rooms and damp basements. By engaging clergy - people who had earned the trust and respect of their community - Reverend Moody started a quiet revolution.
"Women who were seen as criminals were suddenly being associated with the clergy," the Rev. Moody said. "The impact this had on people's attitudes toward abortion cannot be overestimated... It brought the word 'abortion' out of the closet and into the church."
This change proved critical in New York State, where the legislature couldn't even manage to pass a reform that would permit abortions in limited circumstances such as rape or to save a woman's life. In 1970, three years after Moody and others made a spiritual issue of the harm caused by the criminalization or abortion, New York Legalized abortion. Its law was the nation's first permitting any woman in the state - whether a resident or not - to legally obtain an abortion.
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court looked to New York and 17 other states that had reformed or repealed their abortion bans before issuing its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion nationwide.
Howard Moody grew up in Dallas, the son of Southern Baptists. he served as Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church from 1956 to 1992. Under the Rev. Moody's leadership, the church has been at the forefront of a number of issues of human liberation, working for social change.
Rev. Moody, a quiet, living legend in civil liberties history, continues today to be a leader for reproductive rights. He served on the NYCLU Board of Directors for more than 35 years and is presently the Board's Member Emeritus. He is Minister Emeritus of Judson Church. Reverend Moody is now retired (in his words "redeployed") and splits his time between Santa Barbara, California and New York City.
Howard Moody - minster, teacher, organizer and author - is truly the peoples' champion. In his book The Fourth Man, the Rev. Moody reflects on the struggle for social equality: "The conflict and paradox of the city are the same as those in the life of every citizen, and the struggle to build a new city is the same as creating for each of ourselves a new kind of life."