RCRC Calls on Obama Administration to Defend Women’s Right to Contraception Coverage Against Attacks by Catholic Bishops' “Fortnight for Freedom”
Statement of Reverend Harry Knox, RCRC President- and CEO-elect
June 20, 2012
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice today issued a moral appeal to the Obama Administration to defend the freedom of American women to exercise self-determination in the most critical area of their lives – their precious health.
With just six weeks until the historic Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage measure takes effect, women’s individual power to make decisions about their own reproductive health is under attack by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a series of events in churches and communities nationwide called Fortnight for Freedom.
The Catholic bishops are seeking to impose their doctrine on millions of Americans of all faiths and no particular faith by forcing the Obama Administration to back down on this essential preventive health care measure that has long – and unjustly - been denied to women.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – which represents major Christian, Jewish and other denominations with millions of members – is a staunch supporter of religious freedom. The world over, millions have suffered and died for the freedom to practice their religion and as people of faith we demand that our government and international bodies do all that is in their power to stop oppression in the name of religion. The Catholic bishops’ claim that their religious freedom is being undermined by ensuring women have access to preventive health care is a perversion of what is meant by freedom.
If the Administration capitulates in the face of this national campaign, the Catholic bishops will have succeeded in using the authority of the United States government as a tool to enforce their teachings about human reproduction on the nation. As the pressure to conform to the bishops’ will increases in this election year, we urge the Obama Administration to remember that the freedom and conscience that must be protected is that of individuals, not of a corporation such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As free individuals of all faiths and backgrounds, we must stand up to the Catholic bishops and defend the rights of women in this most critical area of life.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, founded in 1973, is the national coalition of religious and religiously affiliated organizations supporting women’s moral right to reproductive health care. Members include the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association, the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements of Judaism, and independent organizations such as Catholics for Choice and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.
RCRC Endorses Obama Administration Contraception Rule as Fair to Religiously Affiliated Institutions
June 18, 2012
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – the national body of major Christian, Jewish and other denominations supporting reproductive health care for women – has submitted official comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stating its rule on coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act is fair to religiously affiliated institutions and “a reasonable approach” to protecting individual religious freedom. The HHS comment period closes June 19.
"In our pluralistic democracy, a fundamental role of government is to protect the ability of individuals to follow their own conscience in decisions regarding sexuality and reproduction. In RCRC’s view, the proposed religious exemption [to the rule] protects the right of individuals to follow their own conscience and religious views on contraception and gives fair treatment to religiously affiliated institutions that employ and serve the general public,” Reverend Dr. Alethea Smith-Withers, Chair of the RCRC Board of Directors, stated in the submitted comments.
The rule, under which health insurance plans at religiously affiliated institutions that serve the public would cover women’s contraceptive methods, reaffirms the critical need for contraceptive coverage. It limits the types of institutions that can refuse to offer these services to a narrow group whose purpose is the inculcation of religious beliefs, the RCRC comments said. RCRC opposes broad exemptions for public institutions as a violation of both the separation of religion and state and the exercise of individual conscience.
RCRC’s interest in comprehensive insurance coverage of contraception is based on the its mission: to ensure individuals can follow the dictates of their conscience and/or religious principles in making decisions about reproduction, including decisions about the use of contraception, birth control and family planning.
“Our members recognize that the decision to become pregnant and have children is one of the most important decisions couples and individuals can make. As this decision affects women’s health and the overall interests of society, it requires responsible policies including policies that foster comprehensive access to birth control,” Reverend Dr. Smith-Withers stated.
RCRC members, emanating from diverse faith traditions, hold that our society has a responsibility to ensure that all people have access to the family planning they need, as well as access to the means and ability to raise children in a healthy environment. Individuals have the right to legal health services including contraception and their access to these services must not be limited or denied by institutions that object to them. As well, health care providers must not be prohibited from providing services that are legal, including contraception.
RCRC member organizations are the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association, the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements of Judaism, and religious and religiously affiliated organizations including American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, Catholics for Choice, Hadassah, Jewish Women International, NA’AMAT USA, National Council of Jewish Women, Women’s American ORT, and the American Ethical Union.