Category Archives: abortion, reproductive health, religion, insurance, women’s health

Open Letter from Florida Religious Leaders Against Amendment 6

The letter below, signed by over 100 clergy from across the state of Florida, makes a strong religious case for voting against Amendment 6, a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that would restrict a woman’s access to healthcare. It was released publicly on Thursday, October 25. See the list of signatories at http://bit.ly/OpenLetter6Final. For more resources from Faith Voices Against Amendment 6, a collaboration of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, National Council of Jewish Women, and the Vote No on 6 Campaign, see http://votenoon6.com/faith

An Open Letter from Florida Religious Leaders to Florida Voters

Every Woman Deserves Compassion, Support, and Respect: 
Vote NO on Amendment 6

Dear Voters,

We, the undersigned religious leaders from all across the state of Florida, urge you to vote NO on Amendment 6 this coming Election Day.  Amendment 6 is an unnecessary and dangerous proposal that interferes with a woman’s ability to make important decisions about her own health.   We believe that the decision to end a pregnancy is best left to a woman in consultation with her doctor, her family, and through discernment of her own faith tradition and practices.

Sadly, sometimes a pregnancy can go tragically wrong. Some pregnancies result in serious fetal abnormalities, while others may place a woman’s health or future fertility in danger. When this happens, a woman and her family deserve all the medically available options.  Our religious values call us to offer compassion, support, and respect to a woman and her family in these trying times.

In the circumstances when a woman and her doctor make the decision to end a pregnancy, it is critically important that she have access to care that is safe and legal. Much to the contrary, Amendment 6 does not even include an exception to protect a woman’s health, which means that even a woman with cancer could be prevented from getting the healthcare she needs! By limiting or eliminating options, Amendment 6 represents a dangerous intrusion into the lives of women and families in Florida.

As religious leaders from diverse traditions across the state, we urge you to oppose this unnecessary and demeaning proposal. Our wives, sisters, mothers, daughters and friends deserve our compassion, support, and respect—not judgment and political interference.

Please vote NO on Amendment 6.

See the list of signatories at http://bit.ly/OpenLetter6Final.

For more resources from Faith Voices Against Amendment 6, a collaboration of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, National Council of Jewish Women, and the Vote No on 6 Campaign, see http://votenoon6.com/faith

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A Day for the History Books: Victory for American Women and People of Faith

By Molly Goldberg

As a summer intern for RCRC, I ventured to the steps of the Supreme Court Thursday morning to rally for women’s health care in the landmark case on the Affordable Care Act.

I met up with RCRC’s partners NARAL and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Standing tightly packed between physicians in medical garb and pro-choice college interns drenched in pink, we were surrounded by posters that raved, “Moving Forward: Protecting Our Care” and “Stand Up for Women’s Health.”

We were met with strong opposition. Belly dancers swarmed through the crowd, swinging their hips and opposing the individual mandate. Students for Life campaigned over the microphone, begging the Supreme Court to strike down the new health care measure, citing abortion as a reason even though it doesn’t cover abortion. All the while, we ACA supporters chanted “We love health care!” and anxiously updated and re-updated our Twitter feeds.

Finally, the ruling was released. We got the “jist” of it: the law and the individual mandate were upheld. Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberal justices, resulting in a 5-4 ruling. There was a bit of confusion at first, as CNN and Fox initially released the wrong decision, but soon the crowd went wild with joyous applause and gleeful shouts of “Yes We Did!” It was fantastic to know that our religious communities have played a role in ensuring a woman’s right to comprehensive healthcare in the United States.

Shortly after the decision was released, while the justices were still reading their concurring and dissenting opinions, abortion opponents held a forum before the Supreme Court building. That made me understand even more that this  decision is a huge step in the right direction for women’s health and a tremendous victory for the entire reproductive justice community. That said, we’ve still got major work to do to make sure this victory becomes a reality post-election season.

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A Reform Jewish View of Contraceptive Coverage

By Leora Cohen-Rosenberg
Machon Kaplan Intern with RCRC

The Institute of Medicine has just recommended that birth control be available without a co-pay. This is a great victory in the uphill battle we are fighting for reproductive health. This recommendation could mean that birth control will be considered part of the preventive health care that the Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to provide without out-of-pocket payment.

As a young woman who will eventually not be covered under her parents’ insurance, it relieves me that it is very possible that I will still be able to stay on birth control. Being raised in the Reform Jewish community, I was taught that all people should be given the health care they need. It all relates to Tikkun Atzmi, repairing yourself, and Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. First we need to make sure that we are safe, that we can afford our birth control. From there we are able to go on and help others with reproductive health.

When I was in high school I had a Catholic friend, Lisa, who became sexually active. She went to church most Sundays and had been confirmed in eighth grade. Lisa felt  that she couldn’t rely on condoms alone to protect her from pregnancy and that she needed another form of birth control. Her parents were absolutely against pre-marital sex and Lisa knew she couldn’t go to them for help. Luckily, there was a Planned Parenthood not too far from where we lived that she was able to go to and get her birth control. She had to pay $30 a month, which may not seem like a lot but was a struggle to a high school student without a job. Lisa could have greatly benefitted from having birth control without a co-pay or deductible. Now, so many other women may be helped.

Preventing an unintended pregnancy saves so much money in the long run, but that isn’t all this is about. For the first time, a women’s ability to become pregnant will not be considered a pre-existing condition. In a world dominated by men, women are working towards being truly equal. This includes women making a dollar for every dollar men make instead of 79 cents, but a large part is women’s health care. Access to abortion is quickly becoming near-impossible in many states because of  so-called “pro-life” advocates who care more about a fetus than they do the pregnant woman. Now, our country is finally taking a step in the right direction for women’s health.

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What If You Needed An Abortion But Your Doctor Didn’t Know How to Perform The Procedure?

What if you went to the doctor because your appendix was about to burst, but the doctor told you she couldn’t help you because she didn’t get the training in school to perform an appendectomy? Or what if you were told you had breast cancer and you needed a mastectomy to stop the spread of cancer, but weren’t able to obtain the surgery because your doctor did not know how to perform the procedure? If you are at all like me, you would be very upset. You would be angry that your chosen medical professional was not able to do her job. After all, shouldn’t medical students know how to perform common medical procedures?

Shockingly, this is what a provision introduced in the United States Congress would do – but it applies to abortion procedures. Last Wednesday, an anti-choice measure introduced by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) passed the House with a 234-182 vote. The provision – an amendment to H.B. 1216 (Title: To amend the Public Health Service Act to convert funding for graduate medical education in qualified teaching health centers from direct appropriations to an authorization of appropriations) – prohibits the use of federal funds for graduate medical education from being used to provide abortion or training in the provision of abortion. In other words, Foxx’s measure prevents federal funds from being used to train medical students on how to perform abortion procedures.

As someone who plans to go back to school to become an abortion provider, I find this provision unethical. If I am preparing for a career in which I will be responsible for the life and health of women who will walk through my door with a wide range of conditions, I must be trained in the skills and knowledge to handle each unique situation.  I cannot comprehend graduating and becoming a practicing provider without all the education and training I need to offer comprehensive, safe and effective care to my patients to the best of my ability.

Dr. Megan Evans said it best in her post on RH Reality Check—“By preventing valuable funding resources to residency programs across the country, Congress is working to put women’s lives in imminent danger. Whether a pregnancy is electively terminated or medically necessary to save the health or life of a woman, abortion is a legal procedure and physicians should be trained to be able to perform this procedure during their residency. This bill would create incompetent physicians, who would be uncomfortable performing a simple but important procedure.”

As of one week ago, the bill has been received in the Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Although I believe the bill will not get the votes to pass out of the Senate, it is important to make our voices heard and show our opposition to this dangerous measure. If we do not speak up against these sorts of attacks, they will continue and may someday cost us the life of someone we love. 

Requiring medical students to remain ignorant about how to perform a completely legal health care procedure is extremely dangerous and jeopardizes the health and lives of countless women. This is a message that needs to be heard, no matter what the final votes may be. Your Senators need to hear from you. Contact your Senators right now and tell them how you feel.

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Indiana Gov. Daniels Faces Solomon-Like Decision on Family Planning Funding

The president of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice told Governor Mitch Daniels that he is facing a Solomon-like dilemma in deciding whether to sign a bill that would remove millions in funds  from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services.
 
She suggested he take a “Pro-Both Indiana” approach- keep the funding, expand access to family planning and lessen the need for abortion.
 
Carolyn Meagher, president of the Indiana RCRC, said in her letter to the governor:

The two mothers claiming the same baby are Indiana Right To Life and Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  The baby represents the fetal lives at stake if HB 1210 is passed and further compromises Indiana’s already hideous contraception coverage.

The best way to prevent abortion from being used as birth control is state-of-the-art access to state-of-the-art birth control.

Governor Daniels must decide whether to sign a bill that would risk the loss of $4 million in federal grants for family planning programs under Title X. (To put that in perspective, only 31% of Indiana’s contraceptive needs are currently met). His situation is further complicated because he has indicated he may have presidential ambitions and his credentials as a “social conservative” need to be sterling.

Carolyn Meagher’s letter continued:

A state that ranks 49th nationally in prevention of unintended pregnancies should not be the first state to prevent Medicare money from being used at Planned Parenthood. It should be the 49th. This bill does not protect fetal life, protect men and women’s health or protect the taxpayer.

Governor Daniels, if you will refrain from signing HB 1210, we will lead a coalition of organizations to collaborate with you in a “Pro-Both Indiana” initiative to meet the contraceptive needs of every Indiana citizen. It would be medically accurate, faith driven but pluralistic, and short-term but sustainable. We will prove that healthy sexuality will decrease the abortion rate in Indiana and we will save fetal lives.  

According to the Women’s Health Policy Report on April 30, current law already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. HB 1210 would – in addition to banning specific funds – ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman’s life or health is substantially threatened. Current state law permits abortion before viability. The legislation would require abortion providers to inform women in writing that human life begins when the egg is fertilized, that abortion can increase the chances of infertility and that a fetus might feel pain before 20 weeks.

Planned Parenthood received about $3 million in federal funding last year, of which about $2 million was distributed by the state. The state also receives about $1.3 million in federal funds for Medicaid family planning programs. The state Family and Social Services Administration has expressed concern that Indiana could lose all $4 million of its Medicaid family planning funding if the bill becomes law because federal law dictates that states cannot pick and choose which providers receive the funds, according to the Women’s Health Policy Report.

Daniels is not expected to comment on the bill until it arrives at his desk, and he has seven calendar days to take action before the bill becomes law without his signature.

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Pro-Choice for Passover

Everything is related, as the renewal of the Earth in Spring shows us so beautifully. 

At this season, whether we observe Passover, Easter, another holiday, or none at all, Rabbi Peter Stein’s words are meaningful. Rabbi Stein is spiritual leader of Temple Sinai, Cranston, Rhode Island; President of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, and a founding member of Rhode Island Clergy for Choice, an RCRC-associated clergy network.

He asks us to “re-imagine the seder rituals as an affirmation of all that we do in protecting reproductive choice.”

He adapts the familiar Four Questions – Ma nishtana halayla hazeh mikol halelot? The classical answers to “Why is this night different from all other nights?” have to do with the particulars of Passover: on this night, we eat unleavened bread, bitter herbs, dip greens twice into salt water, and recline at the table as a sign of freedom.

But Rabbi Stein suggests other responses – responses that particularly resonate given the ongoing attacks on the nation’s family planning programs, of which Planned Parenthood’s services are a key part but by no means the entire program.  

On many nights during the year, women are denied the right to be moral decisors. On this night, as we remember the slavery in Egypt, we renew our commitment to freedom and equality. We will work to maintain laws and community institutions that allow women control over their bodies.

On many nights during the year, women are denied access to contraception and quality health care. On this night, as we remember the abusive tyrant Pharaoh, we renew our commitment to protect clinics and doctors’ offices and pharmacies as places that are open and accessible to women in need.

On many nights during the year, laws are being changed and funding is being challenged that would reduce safe and legal access to abortion services. On this night, as we remember the example of Shifrah and Puah*, we renew our commitment to raise our voices and keep abortion legal and accessible to those who want and need it.

At the seder I’ll attend, I’ll be thinking about Rabbi Stein’s thoughtful re-imagining, about all of those in need – and about positive ways to convey the message that we must preserve our nation’s family planning program. 

Marjorie Signer, RCRC Director of Communications 

*Shifrah and Puah were the midwives who defied Pharaoh’s decree to kill the newborn Hebrew males. See Exodus 1:15-22

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Bans on Insurance for Abortion – Misguided & Harmful

By Reverend Dr. Carlton W. Veazey, RCRC President and CEO

Legislation to ban or restrict insurance    coverage for abortion is sweeping through the states. Other than a Supreme Court case, these state bills may be more devastating to women’s access to reproductive health care than anything else. That is precisely why there is a huge national drive by Religious Right and anti-choice organizations to introduce and pass them.

By one estimate, 14.5 million women will lose the coverage they already have. That is in addition to women whose coverage for abortion is already restricted to the narrow cases of incest, rape or life endangerment: women who receive Medicaid, federal workers, the military, the American Indian health service, women in federal prisons and even Peace Corps volunteers.

Some background: the reason this is happening is anti-choice state legislators and governors are introducing bills or amendments to ban or limit coverage of abortion on the state insurance exchanges, which are in effect marketplaces. State insurance exchanges do not exist at this time. Most states are setting them up as a part of health care reform legislation (the Affordable Care Act) and they will go into effect in 2014. Many people who are underinsured or non-insured or want to change insurers will purchase insurance on the exchanges. So whatever happens to an exchange will affect many people.

By federal law, states do not have to offer coverage for abortion. That’s where opponents of comprehensive health care have found an opportunity to do even more damage to women’s health coverage. Five states have already passed bills to limit or ban insurance coverage of abortion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty-two more are considering bills. Just yesterday (3/31/11), Gov.  Robert McDonnell of Virginia added an amendment to a bill setting up an insurance exchange in Virginia that will forbid coverage for abortion except in the very limited cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the woman. That amendment is actually telling women what coverage they can buy with their own insurance dolalrs and telling insurers what services they can cover!

This is a dangerous situation – but it also offers a chance to explain why access to abortion is so critical to women’s lives.  As I wrote on Religion Dispatches:

Narrow attacks on abortion, whether from the Catholic or Protestant right, ignore the full range of issues that are  involved in an unintentional pregnancy, including poverty, discrimination, abuse and violence, lack of jobs and health care, and – underlying it all – the effects of racism and sexism.  They ignore the serious health issues that can affect a pregnancy and a woman’s life. They ignore the realities of young women and men who have no information or inaccurate information about sexuality, poor role models, and limited options for the future. They target abortion rather than the conditions that lead to unintended pregnancies.

We want to change that mindset. While opponents of comprehensive reproductive health care want to control women’s decision-making, we talk about the importance of options and resources in the lives of women, families and communities. While they demand “no taxpayer funding for abortion,” we explain that ample funding restrictions are already in place. While they stigmatize women who seek to end a pregnancy, we assert that abortion is an integral part of comprehensive reproductive health care and that one in three women will have an abortion procedure at some point in her life. While they demean women who choose abortion, we make it clear that forcing women to continue an unwanted pregnancy is wrong. While they rail against abortion, we elevate the discussion to consider the moral complexities of decisions about bearing children.

Insurance coverage for pregnancy termination has had a low profile until now because it was not threatened. Now that it is, it is critical to understand that insurance helps to guarantee access to reproductive health care services and – from a moral perspective – enables a woman to make a decision about childbearing according to her conscience, not what the government says is acceptable.

Progress in expanding health care coverage to millions of Americans and doing away with injustices in the system is long overdue and should be celebrated. But victory at the expense of women’s comprehensive reproductive health care is no victory at all.

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