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Access to Abortion Care
At RCRC, we believe the decision to become a parent or become a parent again, when and under what circumstances are deeply personal decisions best left to a woman to discern for herself, in consultation with her family, her faith and others she might bring into the conversation. Becoming a parent – becoming a good parent – is an aspiration for many; likewise, abortion is irrevocably intertwined with one’s ability and desire to parent.
In 1973, Roe V. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case, ruled that a woman’s reproductive decisions are a matter of personal privacy, protected by the constitution. This decision was built upon a series of earlier cases that affirmed non-procreative sexual relations to be equally valid and sacred expressions of human sexuality. Subsequently, if sex serves purposes beyond reproduction, then a woman has the legal right to both prevent and interrupt a pregnancy. In addition to supporting a woman’s right to control her own body, this decision affirmed the separation of religion and state. There is no religious consensus on when life begins and, as such, codifying one ideological viewpoint into public law undermines the validity and religious freedom of others.
With reverence for each woman’s autonomy and agency – and with a profound desire to safeguard the religious liberty of each American – RCRC agrees that it is not the place of government to force any one particular reproductive health decision upon any woman. “That which is believed to be a morally responsible decision in one situation may not be in another” (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1991). Instead, we are all better served when the government supports the reproductive health decisions of its citizens instead of limiting them.
Currently, there are a number of state and federal restrictions on access to abortion care that disparately impact low-income women, women of color, young adults, women living in rural communities, peace corps volunteers and servicewomen and military families. We call on the government to partner with us in ensuring all women have equal access to safe, legal and moral abortion care.
Unique Issues Facing Low-income Women & Women of Color
Since 1976 the US Congress has continued to reauthorize the Hyde amendment which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion services with very limited exceptions. This means that women who receive their healthcare from government programs such as Medicaid are singled out and denied access to safe and legal medical care. For a woman already struggling to make ends meet, forcing her to pay out of pocket for medically unnecessary, manipulative ultrasounds – or make multiple trips to a clinic – prior to abortion care can amount to an insurmountable burden, coercively preventing her from obtaining the care she desires. Further, there are a barrage of state-level attempts to ban abortion for women who are thought to be pursuing one because of the potential race or sex of the fetus. While sexism and racism are real concerns, race and sex-selective abortion bans are a red herring. This particular policy turns women – particularly women of color – into suspects and turns doctors into unqualified investigators over a fabricated problem in America. Women facing the decision to have an abortion – whatever the reason – need compassion and support, not judgment, suspicion and denial.
Unique Issues Facing Peace Corps Volunteers
Similar to the Hyde Amendment, there is another portion of the federal budget known as the Helms Amendment that prohibits foreign aid from covering abortion or abortion counseling services. This Amendment has been interpreted to prohibit the healthcare for Peace Corp volunteers from covering abortion services, including in the cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.
Unique Issues Facing Servicewomen and Military Families
Current military policies do not allow on-base clinics to provide abortion care to servicewomen or military families, even if a woman is paying out of pocket (not using military-provided health insurance) for the procedure. For a woman serving oversees it can be extremely dangerous, if not impossible, to seek services off-base and for servicewomen in the states, it can be difficult to get approved for the time off, especially if a woman is stationed in a state with limited access or burdensome wait periods. Prohibiting women from using their own funds to obtain abortion services at military facilities not only discriminates against them but also endangers their health and career potential.
*special thanks to the Guttmacher Institute for their ongoing research into reproductive health, rights, and justice, and for some of the data appears above.