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Family Planning De-Funding Threatens Vital Reproductive Health Services


Leaders: "Jewish tradition is emphatic about the importance of the community providing health care for its most vulnerable residents. Supporting Planned Parenthood in its efforts to reach millions of under-served men and women helps us fulfill that commandment."

Contact: Eric Harris or Deborah Swerdlow
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 11, 2011 -- The leaders of virtually every arm of the Reform Jewish Movement, the largest denomination in American Jewish life, came together to speak out against proposals to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

In their letter, which was sent to every Member of Congress, the leaders note that "Jewish tradition is emphatic about the importance of the community providing health care for its most vulnerable residents. Supporting Planned Parenthood in its efforts to reach millions of under-served men and women helps us fulfill that commandment. We stand with Planned Parenthood and urge you to do the same by opposing H.R. 217, S. 96 and any additional legislation aimed at de-funding this organization."

The letter was signed by: Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism; Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman of the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees; Rabbi Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Shelley Lindauer, Executive Director of the Women of Reform Judaism; Lynn Magid Lazar, President of the Women of Reform Judaism; Doug Barden, Executive Director of the Men of Reform Judaism; and John Shallet, President of the Men of Reform Judaism.

The full text of the letter appears below:

Dear Member of Congress,

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which includes over 1,800 Reform rabbis, the Women of Reform Judaism, which represents more than 65,000 Reform Jewish women, and the Men of Reform Judaism, which represents 20,000 Reform Jewish men, we express our strong concern about legislative efforts including the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 217) and Title X Family Planning Act (S. 96) to de-fund Planned Parenthood and the vital reproductive health services it provides.

As the largest Jewish denomination in North America, we have a long record of support for women's reproductive rights. All life is sacred in Judaism. Although an unborn fetus is precious and to be protected, Judaism views the life and well-being of the mother as paramount, placing a higher value on existing life than on potential life. Women are commanded to care for their own health and well-being above all else. It is due to the fundamental Jewish belief in the sanctity of life that abortion is viewed as both a moral and correct decision under some circumstances.

At the same time, we respect the fact that there are deeply held differences of opinion on this difficult issue. Yet these differences should not be at issue in the current debate: Planned Parenthood is already barred from using any federal funds for abortion services.

What is at stake is Planned Parenthood's essential work in the area of reproductive health. Planned Parenthood's network of more than 820 health care centers provides critical reproductive health services for men and women, including routine physical exams, Pap smears, pelvic exams, contraception, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and screenings for breast, prostate, colon, testicular, cervical and ovarian cancer. By providing these services and others on a sliding pay scale based on income, Planned Parenthood clinics are able to help more than three million individuals each year, including nearly two million low-income women, many of whom often lack access to preventive health services.

Much of Planned Parenthood's admirable work is conducted through the Title X Family Planning program, which, for 40 years, has provided community-based health clinics with federal funding for preventive health services and education. By law, Title X programs must give priority to low-income individuals, and the funding cannot be used for abortion services.

That is why we are deeply troubled by the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 217) and the Title X Family Planning Act (S. 96), both of which are aimed at de-funding Planned Parenthood by prohibiting it from receiving Title X funds. These bills would deprive millions of men and women of critical preventive health care and education.

Jewish tradition is emphatic about the importance of the community providing health care for its most vulnerable residents. Supporting Planned Parenthood in its efforts to reach millions of under-served men and women helps us fulfill that commandment. We stand with Planned Parenthood and urge you to do the same by opposing H.R. 217, S. 96 and any additional legislation aimed at de-funding this organization.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Eric Yoffie
President of the Union for Reform Judaism

Peter J. Weidhorn
Chairman of the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees

Rabbi Steven Fox
Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

Shelley Lindauer
Executive Director of the Women of Reform Judaism

Lynn Magid Lazar
President of the Women of Reform Judaism

Doug Barden
Executive Director of the Men of Reform Judaism

John Shallet
President of the Men of Reform Judaism

###

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.



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