Rev. Rob Keithan
RCRC Director of Public Policy
I’m currently sitting in a hearing called by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) for his H.R. 1797, the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which would expand nationwide his proposed 20-week abortion ban for the District of Columbia. I’m here on behalf of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, but also on behalf of the millions of women and families whose lives would be dramatically impacted by this terrible bill.
Rep. Franks, like many other arch-conservatives and religious extremists, have been using the grisly case of Kermit Gosnell to push for more restrictions to compassionate abortion care. Restricting access to abortion – in some cases, making it so difficult to access as to make it impossible to obtain – actually creates more Gosnell’s, not less. H.R. 1797 is a dangerous intrusion into the most personal of decisions that a woman can make, a decision that politicians towing a narrow, religiously- motivated line should not be making for them.
It is necessary as faith leaders to have the humility to see God’s hand at work in people’s lives, and to make sure that they have the resources they need to effectuate the decisions that are best for them and their families. Banning abortion outright at 20 weeks, with no exceptions, is a crass political move to control the lives of people who are making decisions in complex situations. Such a move chafes at our pastoral responsibilities and at our deep faith in our constitutionally-protected religious liberty.
RCRC wrote the letter below, signed by a broad list of religious organizations, and delivered it to members of the House Judiciary Committee. I hope you’ll strongly consider reaching out to your Member of Congress to oppose this oppressive measure.
May 23, 2013
We, the undersigned national religious groups, urge you to oppose H.R.1797, the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” sponsored by Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), which would create a nationwide ban on access to abortion care 20 weeks after fertilization, with no exceptions in cases of rape, incest or fetal anomalies. It explicitly bans later abortion care for a woman whose mental health would threaten her life or her health. We stand united across our faith traditions in opposing this extreme legislation.
Proponents of this bill have cited the Kermit Gosnell case as a reason to push this intrusive policy, but the fact is that the lack of access to safe and affordable abortion care is precisely the circumstance that drove women to an unscrupulous person like Gosnell, as it did to so many women before Roe v. Wade. The existence of his clinic is a ghastly warning sign of what happens when abortion is so restricted and expensive that a woman in need feels that she has nowhere else to turn.
A family with a wanted pregnancy that goes terribly wrong is confronted with awful decisions that none of us ever want to face. Our religious values call us to offer compassion, support, and respect to a woman and her family facing these difficult circumstances. H.R.1797will only make a challenging situation worse. When a woman needs an abortion, it is critically important that she have access to safe and legal care.
It is telling that Representative Franks, in a press release announcing that he would be expanding the focus of H.R.1797 from the District of Columbia to a nationwide ban, does not make even a single reference to a woman, her family, or her situation.
Like all Americans, Rep. Franks is free to have and share his own religious beliefs about issues related to pregnancy and parenting. Liberty is an American value. However, H.R.1797 is a clear attempt to impose one particular religious belief on the whole nation, and thus represents a gross violation of the freedom to which every American is entitled by the Constitution. The proper role of government in the United States is not to impose one set of religious views on everyone, but to protect each person’s right and ability to make decisions according to their own beliefs and values.
We believe—and Americans, including people of faith, overwhelmingly agree—that the decision to end a pregnancy is best left to a woman in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her faith. Our laws should support and safeguard a woman’s health – not deny access to care. Please show compassion for women and respect for religious liberty by opposing HR 1797.
Catholics for Choice
Disciples Justice Action Network
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Methodist Federation for Social Action
Metropolitan Community Churches
Muslims for Progressive Values
National Council of Jewish Women
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Union of Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries