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Faith Groups Lead Briefing on Religious Support for Abortion Services

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2011 - The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism joined Catholics for Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in leading a briefing today on Capitol Hill to highlight religious support for access to reproductive health care services, including abortion services. The briefing was also sponsored by more than a dozen faith organizations, including the Men of Reform Judaism and Women of Reform Judaism.

At issue are two bills that would severely restrict a woman's right to access safe and affordable abortion services. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3/S. 906) and the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358/S. 877) would limit a woman's ability to use her own private funds for abortion services and expand conscience clauses in a way that fails to strike the proper balance between the individual health care provider's right to his or her own religious and moral beliefs and the patient's right to access health care services in a timely manner. The briefing emphasized that millions of people of faith oppose these bills based on our shared commitments to respecting women's moral agency, achieving social justice in health care, protecting women's lives and health, and safeguarding religious liberty.

RAC Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Deborah Swerdlow spoke at the briefing about how the two bills rob women of the right to choose and deny their dignity as human beings. Below are statements from all of the speakers:

Deborah Swerdlow, RAC Eisendrath Legislative Assistant: "The restrictions on federal funding and insurance coverage of abortion services, the continuation of the ban on servicewomen using their own private funds for abortion services, and so-called 'conscience clauses' that prioritize the health care provider over the woman's health and well-being are an affront to a woman's fundamental dignity. The Reform Jewish Movement, like the other faith traditions represented here today, strongly believes that women are moral agents entitled to and capable of making their own health decisions."

Sara Hutchinson, Director for Domestic Programs at Catholics for Choice: "Despite the best efforts of the U.S. bishops to claim otherwise, large majorities of Catholic voters support access to and coverage for abortions in private- or government-run health systems. Catholic social justice tradition encourages us to advocate for the poor, and our intellectual tradition requires our respect for conscience-based decisions people make about their lives, including decisions about reproductive health."

Amy Cotton, Legislative Associate at the National Council of Jewish Women: "NCJW has a long history of support for women's reproductive choices and is proud to join some of our partner organizations to share why millions of people of faith similarly support reproductive rights. We recognize that within and across religious traditions, people can and do hold a variety of views on this issue and we submit that this diversity of opinions is a question our nation has answered by upholding the key, founding principle of religious freedom. We call on Congress to preserve this key tenet by rejecting proposals like S. 906 and S. 877, both of which - if passed - would result in the Legislature endorsing one religious viewpoint over others."

Nicolette Paterson, Director of Public Policy at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: "Members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice -- including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, the General Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division of the United Methodist Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Humanistic Judaism -- support women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care. As religious organizations, we believe that legislation such as S. 906 and S. 877, which will hurt all women but particularly those who are poor, vulnerable and marginalized, is profoundly unjust. Comprehensive reproductive health care is compassionate, necessary and morally just, and our elected representatives have a duty to women and families to ensure it is accessible to all."

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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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