Contacts: Michael Cobb, Religious Institute, 203.222.0055 Emily Alfano, NCJW, 202 296 2588 x5
Major Mainstream Religious Leaders Support White House on Contraceptive Coverage In Health Care Reform
Twenty-nine major mainstream religious leaders released a statement supporting the January 20, 2012 announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that contraceptive services must be covered by most insurance policies without deductibles or co-pays, and that only purely sectarian organizations are exempt from this requirement.
Catholics for Choice; the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Concerned Clergy for Choice; Disciples for Choice; Disciples Justice Action Network; Episcopal Divinity School; Episcopal Women’s Caucus; Hadassah; the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Jewish Women International; Methodist Federation for Social Action; More Light Presbyterians; Muslims for Progressive Values; the National Council of Jewish Women; Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board; Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options; Presbyterian Voices for Justice; the Rabbinical Assembly; the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; the Religious Institute; Society for Humanistic Judaism; The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Union Theological Seminary; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Church of Christ; Women’s League for Conservative Judaism; and Women of Reform Judaism represent millions of religious leaders and people of faith across the country.
Together, the leaders of these Christian, Jewish and Muslim national organizations affirmed:
“We stand with President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in their decision to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential preventive care for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and to assure access under the law to American women, regardless of religious affiliation. We respect individuals’ moral agency to make decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health without governmental interference or legal restrictions. We do not believe that specific religious doctrine belongs in health care reform – as we value our nation’s commitment to church-state separation. We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services. The Administration was correct in requiring institutions that do not have purely sectarian goals to offer comprehensive preventive health care. Our leaders have the responsibility to safeguard individual religious liberty and to help improve the health of women, their children, and families. Hospitals and universities across the religious spectrum have an obligation to assure that individuals’ conscience and decisions are respected and that their students and employees have access to this basic health care service. We invite other religious leaders to speak out with us for universal coverage of contraception.”
Catholics for Choice, Jon O'Brien, President Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Jonathan Stein, President Concerned Clergy for Choice, Rabbi Dennis Ross, Director Disciples for Choice, Nancy Hunt Wirth, Representative Disciples Justice Action Network, Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Director Episcopal Divinity School, The Very Reverend Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President Episcopal Women's Caucus, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, Convener Hadassah, Marcie Natan, National President Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Robert Barkin, Interim Executive Vice President Jewish Women International, Lori Weinstein, Executive Director Methodist Federation for Social Action, Jill Warren, Executive Director More Light Presbyterians, Rev. Dr. Michael Adee, Executive Director Muslims for Progressive Values, Ani Zonneveld, President National Council of Jewish Women, Nancy Kaufman, CEO Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board, Rev. Jane Emma Newall, Chair Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, Rev. Amanda Riley; Elder Brian S. Symonds, Co-Moderators Presbyterian Voices for Justice, Rev. H. William Dummer, Moderator Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Rev. Steve Clapp, Chair Religious Institute, Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director Society for Humanistic Judaism, M. Bonnie Cousens, Executive Director The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO Union Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Peter Morales, President United Church of Christ, Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Rita L. Wertlieb, President; Sarrae G. Crane, Executive Director Women of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director
March 8, 2012 US House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
As religious and faith based organizations and communities, we are compelled to speak out together in opposition to the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011, HR 3541. We urge you to vote against this bill because it exacerbates race-based health inequalities, would harm women’s health, undermine women’s dignity, and erode women’s rights.
We share a core belief that everyone has an equal right to health care, and are concerned about the disproportionate burden that women of color and immigrant women already face when it comes to accessing adequate and timely health care. Rather than seeking to reduce health disparities, HR 3541 would further stigmatize and restrict the comprehensive health care services available to women. The so-called “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” would erode the trust that exists between a woman and her doctor, threatening doctors with criminal penalties and inappropriately allowing the state to examine a patient’s private medical records.
Our diverse traditions are united in our obligation to protect every woman’s life and health. Women must be able to access safe health care, including safe abortion. Sponsors of this measure show no regard for the real health needs of women, children, or families in communities of color. While women of color may have higher abortion rates than their white counterparts, these rates are the result of higher rates of unintended pregnancy. There are myriad policy solutions to reduce unintended and mistimed pregnancy rates — such as increased access to comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, and maternal health services — but bans on abortion are not the answer, and may in fact put women’s health and lives at risk. Abortion bans endanger women by forcing them to seek potentially unsafe options, and do nothing to address unintended pregnancy.
Women have the right to act as independent moral agents, to make health care decisions in keeping with their own faith, personal circumstances, and health needs. This legislation is offensive to women of color as it presumes they are unable to make health care decisions for themselves and their families. And, though it feigns to be a civil rights bill, this legislation would actually discriminate against women of color by scrutinizing their healthcare decisions more intensely and invasively than the healthcare decisions of women in other communities. In so doing, HR 3541 is a violation of the dignity and equal rights of minority women.
As communities of faith, we all are committed to ensuring that every woman can exercise her constitutional right to make private decisions and follow her own conscience. Established law protects a woman’s right to seek abortion for any reason prior to fetal viability, a right which HR 3541 would eliminate. Discrimination against women and minorities are real problems in our society, but the way to address them is through proactive policies that change the way women, girls, and minorities are treated; improve economic security and access to comprehensive health care for all; and reduce violence against women. Policies that erode women’s dignity, violate their privacy, and deny them the right to self-determination are not the answer.
As faith based and religious organizations and communities, we strongly urge you to oppose HR 3541, the Prenatal Non-discrimination Act, as it will unjustly harm the health, erode the moral agency, and violate the dignity and constitutional rights of women of color and immigrant women. Thank you for considering our perspective. Should you have any questions, please contact Amy Cotton at the National Council of Jewish Women, 202 296 2588 x7 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catholics for Choice Concerned Clergy for Choice Disciples for Choice Disciples Justice Action Network Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Jewish Reconstructionist Federation Jewish Women International Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ Methodist Federation for Social Action Muslims for Progressive Values National Council of Jewish Women Presbyterian Voices for Justice Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Religious Institute Union for Reform Judaism Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Women of Reform Judaism Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) Women’s League for Conservative Judaism