Check, November 12, 2008
An Interfaith Call to Action on Reproductive Health
Rev. Dr. Carlton W. Veazey
A broad array of religious groups
and faith communities have come together to urge President-elect Barack Obama
to make reproductive health a priority in the first months of his administration.
Decisions about whether or when to have children are among the most sacred and
monumental that people consider in their life. It is important that they have
access to the reproductive health care information and services they need for
such decisions. For many families across the globe, access to reproductive health
care is the difference between being able to fulfill dreams and struggling to
In this country, more than 17 million women cannot afford
reproductive health care services.
Internationally, each year, half
a million women die and 10-15 million women suffer chronic disability from preventable
complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
In this country, one
in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection and nearly 60,000 new
HIV infections occurred in 2006.
We have a moral responsibility
to heal our ailing communities. A new administration and the 111th Congress will
be sworn in to office in January. We are hopeful that the New Year will shine
a light on the morality and value of addressing these issues and that the administration
makes them an immediate priority.
Our letter to the new President:
Dear President-elect Obama,
Our faith communities, comprising
millions of Americans, unite in a shared moral commitment to preserve the reproductive
health of our nation. Though traditionally cast as a woman's issue, we maintain
that prioritizing reproductive health and justice is an integral part of achieving
greater social justice for all. The ability to plan and care for one's family
is central to addressing the myriad social, political and economic concerns we
face. Accessing comprehensive health care services safely and legally is inextricably
linked to the ability of our country's citizens and families to thrive. This is
why we urge you to make these issues a priority in your administration.
health is critical at every stage of development: from routine gynecological exams,
to comprehensive and accurate sex education and disease prevention information,
to access to the full range of contraceptive options, to obtaining nondirective
counseling and proper obstetrical services during pregnancy.
access to reproductive health information and services builds a foundation for
healthier families and communities, reduces maternal and infant mortality and
improves the health of women and their families. It allows women to continue their
education, thereby improving their economic status and the well-being of their
families and their communities. Additionally, it is critical in preventing unintended
pregnancies and in ensuring the blessing that every child is a wanted child.
following three issues are among the social justice priorities of our faith communities,
access to: comprehensive sex education, abortion services and contraceptive information
Access to Comprehensive Sex Education
communities, we are committed to sex education in our public schools that empowers
and protects young people, honors diverse values, and promotes the highest ethical
standards. Religious Americans overwhelmingly favor responsible sex education
that is complete, age appropriate and includes accurate information about abstinence
Federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs
are often based on incomplete information, fear, shame and exclusivity, denying
basic civil rights to young people. They withhold information about pregnancy
and sexually transmitted disease and frequently distort other health information.
There is also a growing body of evidence that shows abstinence-only programs do
not impact teens' decisions to abstain from sexual activity, while comprehensive
programs can effectively do this.
In addition to compromising ethical and
public health standards, many abstinence-only programs currently funded by the
federal government and taught in public schools use messages that are couched
in religious rhetoric. As faith-based organizations committed to the separation
of religion and state, we believe it is critical that public health and medically
accurate methodology - not restrictive views or ideologies - inform the sex education
that young people receive in our country's public schools.
we urge you to:
Ensure that, as they grow, young people in public
schools receive comprehensive, medically accurate, scientifically sound sex education
that includes the unbiased health information about abstinence and contraception
necessary to help them make responsible and safe life decisions.
that young people from other countries are not barred from accessing the full
range of information because of restrictive, ineffective, ideologically motivated
policies that put youth in HIV ravaged nations at higher risk. Remove funding
requirements for dangerously ineffective abstinence-only programs in US global
Access to Abortion Services
As faith communities,
we believe that each individual is capable of making complex moral decisions.
Our faith traditions and American law entrust patients with autonomy in making
health care decisions, free from government interference. We assert that in a
diverse democracy each person has the liberty to draw upon his or her own faith
for guidance, and not be subject to a single religion's views.
1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman's right to terminate
a pregnancy. However, since then, many anti-choice, ideologically-driven organizations,
religious groups and elected and appointed officials have tried to restrict, if
not eliminate, the ability to exercise this right, effectively codifying their
own beliefs. This infringes upon the entire country's guarantee of religious freedom
and personal liberty. Furthermore, these efforts endanger women's health and lives
and intrude upon a woman's right to decide what is right for her.
we urge you to improve access to abortion services:
Freedom of Choice Act, which reaffirms a woman's right to choose to bear a child
or terminate a pregnancy, and urge its passage in Congress.
Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services. Low-income
women and women of color are disproportionately affected by this restrictive law.
These women are not abstract entities, but members of our faiths, who often depend
on the government for their health care. Restrictions on local and federal government
funds force them to risk their health by delaying or even foregoing reproductive
health care. Striking funding restrictions will help eliminate this unjust denial
of vital care and the resulting disparity in access to care.
to Contraceptive Information and Options
As faith communities, we believe
access to affordable and comprehensive contraceptive information and services
is an essential part of basic health care. Restrictions to contraceptive access
lead to more unintended pregnancies and significantly contribute to the alarming
rates of sexually transmitted infections and disease, posing a serious threat
to our nation's public health.
Access to family planning faces ongoing
attacks by individuals and organizations attempting to impose their own political
and ideological views, instead of respecting women's and families' reproductive
health and religious freedom. We believe in the autonomy of women as moral decision
makers. All women should be able to choose whether, when, or if they have children.
Therefore, we urge you to:
Ensure contraceptive access
for all women and men by increasing support and funding for Title X family planning
clinics and for voluntary international family planning assistance. All individuals,
regardless of age, income, religion, race, or geographic location need access
to the full range of contraceptive options.
Protect and strengthen access
to birth control, including emergency contraception. Implement safeguards so that
no one religious practice or belief denies women the freedom to make personal
decisions about their own health.
Restore funding to the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA), so that the most vulnerable women and families around
the world have access to vital reproductive health services. In addition, for
many women, family planning clinics serve as the entry point to access health
care services. Fully coordinate and integrate family planning with HIV prevention,
care, and treatment programs.
Repeal the Global Gag Rule (Mexico City Policy),
which withholds much needed aid from family planning agencies that even mention
abortion. Allowing international health clinics to provide comprehensive services
would enhance the efficacy and efficiency of their work, saving the lives of women
around the world.
We welcome the opportunity to work together to preserve
the reproductive health of our women and girls and strengthen our nation's families
American Friends Service Committee
Christian Lesbians Out
Disciples for Choice
Justice Action Network
Jewish Women International
Lutheran Women's Caucus
of Jewish Women
Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church,
General Board of Church & Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
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