The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is a broad-based, national, interfaith movement that brings the moral force of religion to protect and advance reproductive health, choice, rights and justice through education, prophetic witness, pastoral presence and advocacy. RCRC values and promotes religious liberty which upholds the human and constitutional rights of all people to exercise their conscience to make their own reproductive health decisions without shame and stigma. RCRC challenges systems of oppression and seeks to remove the multiple barriers that impede individuals, especially those in marginalized communities in accessing comprehensive reproductive health care with respect and dignity.
For more than 40 years, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) has been the sole organization bringing interfaith and multiracial voices to reproductive health, rights and justice issues.
Our member organizations represent diverse religions and theologies unified in preserving reproductive health, rights and justice as a basic principle of religious liberty and diversity.
RCRC as it exists today evolved from an underground network of ministers and rabbis called the Clergy Consultation Service (CCS), formed in 1967, six years before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the United States.
In response to the deaths and injuries of women caused by unsafe abortions, this group quietly referred women to abortion providers they had researched and found to be safe. Within one year, CCS drew 1,400 members nationwide.
Many of the clergy involved had also been active in the Civil Rights Movement. They actively connected their racial justice activism to their commitment to helping women and families gain access to safe abortions.
After the 1973 Roe decision, a new group grew out of CCS. This new group, the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR), existed to safeguard the newly won constitutional right to privacy in abortion decisions.
Diversity, Intersectionality and Reproductive Justice
As RCAR and later as RCRC, this organization has unified not only people of different faiths, but also people of different races and ethnicities to advocate on reproductive issues.
In 1984, RCAR created the Women of Color Partnership Program (WCPP), which throughout the ‘80s collaborated with other groups such as the Black Women’s Health Project, the National Organization for Women’s Women of Color Program, the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood.
In 1989 Patricia Tyson, director of RCAR, signed on to the “We Remember” statement organized by Donna Brazile, then executive director of the National Political Congress of Black Women. The statement expressed Black women’s deep opposition to public policies controlling their reproductive lives, policies rooted in the oppression of black women since the days of slavery.
In 1990, RCAR co-sponsored a meeting of more than 30 Native American women representing more than 11 nations from the northern plains. The Agenda for Native Women’s Reproductive Rights was forged at that meeting.
Women of color have taken many important roles in the history of this organization which recognizes that restrictions on reproductive freedom disproportionately target poor women and women of color across our spiritual and faith traditions.
When the “We Remember” brochure was republished in 1994, three women of color, all in leadership at both RCRC and WCPP — Rev. Alma Faith Crawford, Mary Jane Patterson and Beverly Hunter — signed on to it.
In 1993, RCAR broadened its mission to include related issues of reproductive health and justice. The reproductive justice movement sees intersectional challenges to women’s reproductive lives. It recognizes power inequities inherent in our society’s institutions, environment, economics and culture.
We stand in solidarity with the reproductive justice movement and a broad based human rights agenda that focuses on the most marginalized among us. RCRC endorses public policies that ensure the medical, economic and educational resources necessary for healthy families and communities equipped to nurture children in healthy, safe environments.
In 1994, RCAR renamed itself the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, reflecting the diversity of faith traditions the organization represents.
Since then, controversies over issues of sex, sexuality, reproductive health and reproductive freedom have grown and intensified. RCRC’s activities have expanded in response.
What We Stand For
Beliefs about compassion and love central to all faiths motivate RCRC to advocate for reproductive freedom.
We support every person’s right to self-determination over their own bodies and reproductive lives. We also support access to sex education, family planning and contraception; affordable child care and health care; adoption services; adequate reproductive and general health care services and adequate insurance coverage for these services.
Based on our religious beliefs and our commitment to reproductive justice, we also champion a range of issues that impact families, family formation and the health and well being of communities. This means that our work deeply recognizes the ways in which reproductive justice links to LGBTQ issues, immigration, environmental, racial and economic justice.
Our Record of Advocacy Action
Over the years, RCRC has expressed the views of denominations of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others nationally and through grassroots state affiliates. Our activities have included:
- Opposing the appointment of justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court
- Filing amicus curiae briefs in many U.S. Supreme Court cases
- Supporting “conscience clauses’” in the ‘70s, preserving the right of publicly funded health care institutions to provide abortion services
- Opposing mandatory parental consent and notification laws in the ‘90s
- Holding convocations at Democratic and Republican nominating conventions
- Rallying clergy to defeat abortion bans in South Dakota in 2006 and 2008
- Sounding religious voices in 2011 to defeat MIssissippi’s “personhood” amendment that would have given fertilized eggs and persons equal legal status
- Uniting faith leaders and laypeople in 2012 to help defeat Florida’s Amendment 6, the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Amendment
- Activating people of faith in 2013 to defeat of a New Mexico ballot measure banning abortions after 20 weeks
Our History of Educational and Pastoral Outreach
RCRC has also worked to unite pastors and theologians to break the stigma of abortion and the silence about sex and sexuality in religious communities. Among our achievements are:
- A national conference on Healing, Justice and Renewal for Women in 1995 in Pensacola, Fla., site of killings of two abortion providers and an abortion clinic escort
- The Black Church Initiative, a 10-year program in the South which followed on RCRC’s 1997 National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality
- The Clergy Advisory Committee formed in 1998 to guide the growing Clergy for Choice Network
- The Latino Summit on Sexuality in 2001
- Seminarians for Choice formed in 2002
- Lift Every Voice for Reproductive Justice voter empowerment program in 2008
- Leading Faithfully institutes for clergy in three cities in 2013
- Publication of sermons and prayers over many years for use in congregations around the country
Today, RCRC’s members represent a range of Christian and Jewish denominations. Together we are finding new ways to bring faith-based views into public debate that has been dominated by the religious right.
Chief Executive Officer
Rev. Katey Zeh
Board of Directors
Bishop John Selders, RCRC Board Chair
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, Vice Chair
Deborah Tanno, Treasurer
Religious perspectives on reproductive issues
- United Church of Christ
- Episcopal church
- Presbyterian church
- Unitarian Universalists
- Lutheran church
- Methodists of Conscience
Clergy role and perspective
Abortion access and faith
Public policy and advocacy
Reproductive justice movement
Religious and political climate of reproductive issues in the South
Sex education and sexuality education in faith communities
Reproductive issues in communities of color
Reproductive issues in low income communities
Intersection of LGBTQ issues and reproductive issues
Community organizing in faith communities
Bridging faith and secular divides
Relationship between science or medicine and reproductive justice
Faith and spirituality among Millennials