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Faith Groups Supporting Abortion Rights

Faith Groups Supporting Abortion Rights

Gayle Kent.JPGWhen we talk about religion and reproductive rights, too often the progressive faith voice goes unnoticed. I have been interning at the National Council of Jewish Women and one of our priorities is to make sure that our voice is heard in this debate. The loud religious right seems to be at the forefront, attempting to take away a woman's individual moral agency and her constitutional right to choose to terminate her pregnancy. But on Thursday, several faith groups held a Congressional briefing supporting abortion rights. This briefing included Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, the RAC, and National Council of Jewish Women in coalition with a dozen other faith groups.

This briefing was in response to two proposed bills: the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (S. 906/H.R. 3) and the Protect Life Act (S. 877/H.R. 358). which would prevent tax receipts to be used for abortions. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, women receiving health care coverage through Medicaid, the Indian Health Service and other federally funded programs would continue to be prevented from accessing abortion services except in the limited cases of rape, incest or when their lives are in danger. This bill would permanently take away access to a critical health care service from those who cannot afford it. Even women serving in the military would continue to be prevented from using their own, private money to access abortion services in military facilities. Additionally, this harmful bill would take away medical deductions and employer tax credits for health insurance plans that include abortion services, which could cause private insurers to drop abortion coverage. If this bill passes, the fear is that women would have to buy their own "unintended pregnancy insurance" plans, and as Sara Hutchinson from Catholics for Choice said, "No one plans an unplanned pregnancy," thus illustrating the ridiculousness of this alternative. 

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The "Protect Life Act" (S. 877/H.R. 358) would prohibit insurance plans that cover abortion services from being sold in the new state exchanges to be created under the health care reform law passed last year. The bill would also expand the list of people and entities that can refuse to provide certain health care services under conscience clauses, which allow a medical provider to refuse to perform or even give a referral for abortion or contraceptive services because of his/her moral or religious beliefs. If the Protect Life Act passes, health entities or health providers that refuse to even provide training for performing these services would be protected and could still receive federal funding. To me, this is a problem of separation between church and state (one of the first ideas covered in our Machon Kaplan class). The government should not be preferential toward any specific faith group by legislating one religious perspective into law. 
The hour-long briefing showed that these bills represent an attack on the pursuit of social justice in health care, women's moral agency and the diverse attitudes of faith groups. It was heartening to see the progressive faith voice being heard in such a public way. My own Jewish values have always guided me to understand the health of a mother is paramount and we must always do everything in our power to assist her. Especially in progressive Judaism, it is loud and clear that we cannot stand idly while these bills trample on the rights of all women. 
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