Tag Archives: religion

Emergency Contraception: A Victory for Women and Religious Freedom

We don’t typically share press releases on the RCRC blog, but we’re making an exception because we’re so excited about today’s ruling by a Federal Court which requires that emergency contraception be made available over the counter.

The case, which has been going on for many years, was brought by our friends at the Center for Reproductive Rights. The ruling requires that emergency contraception be made available over the counter within 30 days. Reproductive justice calls us work to create an environment where all people have access to everything they need to make decisions about their reproductive and sexual lives according to their own conscience and faith. This ruling is a huge step forward in recognizing the moral agency of women and couples to decide whether and/or when to have children.

It’s about time.

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April 4, 2013 — The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) applauds today’s Federal Court decision to increase access to emergency contraception. The ruling gives every woman and couple easier access to one more safe and effective birth control option. It also represents a clear—albeit long-delayed—triumph of science and public health over politics and moral policing.    

“This ruling is both a victory for women and a victory for religious freedom,” said RCRC Director of Public Policy Rev. Rob Keithan.  “The government’s role in reproductive healthcare should be to respect religious differences and protect access to options, not to impose one particular religious viewpoint and limit opportunities because of it. Every person should be able to make healthcare decisions according to their own beliefs and values.”

The ruling, from a case brought against the federal government by the Center for Reproductive Rights, improves access to safe, reliable contraception, which is an essential part of basic reproductive healthcare for women.

“Our commitment to reproductive justice calls us to ensure that a woman has access to  all the resources she needs to take care of herself and her family, including emergency contraception. RCRC views access to emergency contraception—and to contraception generally—as a moral imperative that benefits women, families, and society overall.” said Keithan.

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A Faithful Response to Trivializing Rape

As a progressive faith leader, I am grateful that so many individuals and groups are, like me, outraged at the comments multiple public officials have made which trivialize rape.  Because these statements reveal some of the true feelings behind extremist attempts to limit abortion, they are useful to people who believe, as I do, that “the truth will make us free”.  We deserve to know where our leaders stand on important issues.

However, the talk about definitions and legitimacy raises serious concerns. As a pastor, I am especially worried that women, men and children who have survived the horror of rape are re-traumatized each time a public figure suggests that some kinds of rape are less valid than others, or argues that a survivor of rape doesn’t deserve the right to make his or her own health care decisions because politicians know better. This stunning lack of compassion must bring forth feelings that are literally unimaginable for those of us who have not lived through such an assault.

Let’s make this clear: All rape is real and harmful, and, if a pregnancy results, no woman who has survived sexual violence deserves to be doubted, questioned or judged for her subsequent decisions.  Every possible support should be offered to those who have been violated in this morally repugnant way.  The last thing that should be done is to limit the options available – to do so runs counter to every tenet of good pastoral care, which calls for empowering survivors, not taking power and resources away from them.  It is simply unacceptable to harm a rape survivor again.

Faith leaders are called to minister to those who are hurting.  In these days when many of the most vulnerable are wondering who they can count on, I pray they will hear words of support and care from their imams, rabbis, pastors, and religious leaders. This moment of public debate offers opportunities to preach and teach when everyone who cares about those who have survived rape will have ears to hear.  Let them hear this, loud and clear: you are loved, and what happened to you also did violence to all of us who love you.  We stand with you spiritually, and we stand with you to fight for everything you need as you heal and move on.  We will not abandon you to fend for yourself against those who would hurt you in any way, including those who would limit your healthcare options.

I also pray that many people—secular and religious alike—will continue to speak out whenever prominent public figures trivialize rape or support limiting the healthcare options available to survivors. Our wives, sisters, friends, mothers, and daughters deserve our compassion, support, and respect—not judgment and interference. If you agree, please contact us at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice at info@rcrc.org. There is much to be done, so let’s work together!

–Rev. Harry Knox, President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

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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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