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
- In this country,
more than 17 million women cannot afford reproductive health care services.
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:
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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.
Reproductive 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.
Furthermore, 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.
The following three issues
are among the social justice priorities of our faith communities, access
to: comprehensive sex education, abortion services and contraceptive
information and options.
Comprehensive Sex Education
As faith 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 and contraception.
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
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.
Therefore, 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.
- Ensure 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 HIV/AIDS policy.
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
The landmark 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.
Therefore, we urge you to improve access to abortion
- Support the 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.
- Repeal the 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.
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
- 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 and communities.
American Friends Service Committee
Catholics for Choice
Christian Lesbians Out
Disciples for Choice
Disciples Justice Action Network
Jewish Women International
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Lutheran Women’s Caucus
National Council of Jewish
Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory
Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General
Board of Church & Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Women’s Alliance for Theology,
Ethics and Ritual