This morning, evangelical leaders from across Ohio joined their voices in a unified call for the DREAM Act and stood in solidarity with 18-year-old Bernard Pastor, a star student and athlete from Reading, OH who was detained after a minor traffic accident and faces deportation to Guatemala, a country his family fled when he was only 3 years old.
The press call included a powerful statement written by Bernard from jail and read by his 22-year-old sister, as well as moving remarks from several members of the clergy:
Listen to the Press Conference
Rev. Troy Jackson of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, who moderated the call and is a friend of FPL, has been an outspoken advocate for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform for a long time and sees Bernard’s story as the rallying cry our country needs to do the right thing.
Troy, a scholar of the Civil Rights movement as well as a pastor, noted that moments of clarity for our culture often come from seeing firsthand the ways a broken system harms children. Troy said that moment of clarity for civil rights came in 1963, when Bull Connor unleashed attack dogs and fire hoses on children, and that the injustice Bernard is facing is tantamount to the abuse those children faced in 1963.
Powerfully, Troy finished the call, saying:
“I know that certain members of Congress have threatened to hold up all legislation until tax cuts are enacted. To hold up an act that would free Bernard and rectify an unjust situation until tax cuts for the rich are passed, is the height of injustice, a dereliction of duty.”
You can support Bernard by pledging to join the nationwide prayer vigil for him this Saturday at PrayforBernard.org.
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Dan’s post yesterday on contraception was a good example of common ground politics. Reducing unintended pregnancies that can lead to abortion is a goal that Americans from all political sides support. I think it also stands out as a good example of why common ground is not the same thing as compromise, a distinction that’s easy to misunderstand.
Kyle Cupp at Vox Nova echoes this confusion in a recent post on common ground:
“The law cannot protect unborn human life without prohibiting abortion. It cannot guarantee a right to an abortion without denying legal protection to the unborn. There’s no place to call common ground.”
The impasse Kyle articulates is exactly why the common-ground movement specifically does not address legality. We know that thirty years of fighting these old battles has failed to bring us any closer to real solutions. Instead, common ground advocates seek proposals outside the traditional fault lines where both sides can agree without compromising their principles. Expanding access to contraception and reducing unintended pregnancies is a prime example of this concept.
Acknowledging these efforts, Kyle seems dismissive of their importance. Responding to a commenter who makes a similar point he says:
“Yes, common ground can be found in social efforts to reduce the number of abortions, but in so far as the pro-choice and pro-life movements are political movements, and at their core they are, common ground cannot be reached.”
I would fundamentally disagree that there is such a strict divide between social and political efforts. There are numerous examples of common-ground ideas being adopted by political actors or introduced as legislative proposals. Notably, the Democratic Party added abortion reduction language in their 2008 party platform, then-Senator Obama mentioned it in his presidential nomination acceptance speech, the Ryan-DeLauro bill introduced last year incorporated a host of ideas about prevention and support for pregnant women aimed at the same thing, and the Affordable Care Act included $250 million in funding for programs supporting pregnant and parenting women and families.
Moreover, this political progress was made possible because of robust social support. Polling consistently shows that both common ground efforts in general and specific ideas are popular with broad swaths of the American public.
The fact that political actors at large haven’t rushed to endorse a common-ground agenda reflects the entrenchment of divisive rhetoric that impedes implementation of the real solutions that enjoy broad support. The sooner that the rest of us can break free from a simplistic idea of what abortion politics has to be like, the sooner we can make real strides.
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We’ve been advocates of finding common ground on the historically polarizing abortion debate for a while now, and are continually gratified by the commitment from pro-life and pro-choice religious leaders to find and work together toward shared goals and principles. Reducing the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancy and supporting pregnant women and families makes sense regardless of one’s stance on the legality or morality of abortion, and it can lead to tangible results such as healthier families and lower abortion rates.
A critical way to prevent unintended pregnancies is to expand access to contraception for women. A provision in health care reform legislation intended to make preventive services available without a co-pay has the potential to greatly advance this goal. The Institute of Medicine has begun the process of deciding whether contraception will be classified as a preventive service, and thus available without the burden of out-of-pocket costs for women.
Prominent national faith leaders with diverse beliefs about abortion spoke out in favor of this common ground policy, which would be a key step toward preventing unintended pregnancy, especially among low-income women. FPL compiled statements of support from a broad array of Christian and Jewish leaders, as well as denominations and interfaith organizations who believe this effective, common-sense solution is a productive way forward.
A full list of statements is below the fold:
Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed:
“Ensuring that low-income women have access to affordable contraception is a crucial, common-sense way to prevent unintended pregnancies, which often end in abortion. Including contraception as a preventive service that insurance companies must cover without a co-payment thus has great potential to reduce the number of abortions by addressing a root cause of it.”
Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Church:
“Access to contraception needs to be a part of any comprehensive health care system wanting to enhance quality of life. Contraception prevents unplanned pregnancies for women who use it properly and, as a result, rates of abortion decrease. Deciding whether or not to bear children is an important decision in one’s life. Contraception makes that decision possible and safe. When men and women are able to access modern-day contraception, it allows them to not only plan their families, but also space their children – something that results in lower child and maternal mortality rates. The AIDS pandemic points to the importance of contraception, namely male and female condoms. At this point in time, the female condom is the only method available to women to stop the spread of HIV.”
Gabriel Salguero, Executive, The Latino Leadership Circle and Lead Pastor, The Lamb’s Church:
“Preventing unplanned pregnancies is critical to the health and economic stability of families and communities. It also promotes a culture of life by alleviating the circumstances that lead to abortion. Scripture teaches us that all life is sacred, that all people are precious in the eyes of God. I believe policies that prevent abortion and promote family health honor these ideals. Classifying non-abortive contraception as a preventive service that must be made available to all women is just such a policy. All women should have access to care that promotes the well-being of themselves and their families, regardless of their economic status or the whims of their insurers.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
“As Reform Jews, we believe that all are created in the image of the Divine, and that men and women are equally moral decision makers regarding their health and well-being. This includes reproductive health. Contraception must be classified as a preventive service so that all women, regardless of income level, can ensure they have access to all reproductive health options and can make their own determinations on how to best lead healthy lives.”
Rev. Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University; Co-Founder and Board Chair, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good:
“Inclusion of contraception in preventive services guidelines will be a critical victory for common ground on abortion, demonstrating that those who disagree on the legality of abortion can agree that we ought to prevent unintended pregnancies. Being responsible with sexuality when one wishes to avoid pregnancy requires either abstinence or the careful use of contraception. Removing financial obstacles to obtaining contraception can enable women and men to exercise greater moral responsibility with their sexuality. Contraception is a crucial preventive service that will tackle one of the primary root causes of abortions, a tragic decision that the vast majority of women strongly and rightly wish to avoid. Covering contraceptive services reflects the realities of our world and will do much to reduce the disastrously high number of abortions in America.”
Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor, Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.:
“While there are significantly differing opinions regarding abortion, I am certain that a very clear point of common ground is the prevention of unintended pregnancies. Ensuring that low-income women, along with all other women, have access to affordable contraception is a crucial, common-sense way to prevent unintended pregnancies, which often end in abortion. I believe that persons on both sides of this difficult issue would agree that including contraception as a preventive service that insurance companies must cover without a co-payment is a viable step in promoting women’s health, and reducing the number of abortions.”
Michael Livingston, Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative:
“Improving access to contraception for low-income women will prevent countless unintended pregnancies, which often lead to extreme economic hardship and abortions. When our economy falters, policies that make a concrete difference for women and families become more important than ever. Including contraception as a preventive service that insurance companies must cover without a co-payment is a common-sense, morally sound way to provide the opportunity for women and families to set themselves up for success, rather than failure.”
Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Government Relations, The Episcopal Church:
“The Episcopal Church, a member of the 78-million member worldwide Anglican Communion, long has recognized the moral appropriateness and individual right of women and families to use contraception. The wider Anglican Communion, through its decennial gathering of all the world’s bishops in 1958, described family planning as a “right and important factor in family life,” a position that has been reaffirmed by our own Episcopal Church on multiple occasions since then. As the new health-care law takes effect, the Episcopal Church is pleased to stand with other faith partners in calling for contraception to be included in the list of preventive-care services that must be available to individuals without co-pay. Improving access to contraception is an important way to strengthen family life, attend to the health needs of women, and reduce the frequency of abortion in our country.”
Lisa Sharon Harper, Executive Director, New York Faith and Justice:
“As the leader of an organization dedicated to eradicating poverty in New York, I know firsthand the deep connections between poverty and abortion. As we wait for our economy to rebound, we must work harder than ever to protect the sacred lives of women and children, helping women to choose life and to avoid unintended pregnancies which too often lead to abortion. Making contraception available without a co-payment makes sure that all women, regardless of economic status, are able to make healthy decisions and live abundantly.”
United Church of Christ:
“Since 1971, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has affirmed and reaffirmed full access to contraception and family planning for women, including low-income women. We know that the use of contraception prevents unplanned pregnancies and reduces the need for abortion. Every health care plan should include coverage for contraception as a basic measure for assuring women’s health and family health. It is preventative care and needs to be included among those services available without co-pay. Furthermore, it is essential that emergency contraception, now proven to work as a means of preventing pregnancy and not as a means to terminate a pregnancy, also be regarded in this category.”
Reverend Dr. Carlton W. Veazey, President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:
“The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has found that family planning is embraced by the world’s great religions and religious leaders across the spectrum – Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist, among them. They hold that it is a moral good, a responsible choice, and a basic human right. They recognize family planning helps to build strong families, to protect the health of women and children, to reduce child and spousal abuse, and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. With such strong moral support and virtually universal practice, family planning should be covered for all by our nation’s health care system.”
Brian McLaren, Author/Activist:
“Even in a polarized political climate, people of goodwill on both sides of the abortion debate are deeply committed to finding common ground, working together on issues like abortion prevention and improved health care for mothers and couples. Access to non-abortive contraception as a part of health insurance coverage is a key component of many of these collaborative projects.”
National Council of Jewish Women:
“The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has long supported comprehensive, confidential, accessible family planning and reproductive health services regardless of age or ability to pay. Women require accurate information and access to services in order to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, both of which have reached alarmingly high rates in the US. For NCJW, protecting women’s access to the full range of family planning services, including contraception, is a moral imperative. Doing so is essential not only to women’s health but also to women’s equality and economic opportunity. A woman must have the right to make decisions about her reproductive health based on her own needs, beliefs, and moral judgment — and making contraception widely available and affordable will allow women to be the decision makers about the preventive care services they wish to access.”
Frances Kissling, Visiting Scholar, Center for Bioethics, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania:
“The high rate of unintended pregnancies in our society results far too often in unplanned and unwanted births, stress and ill health for women who struggle to care for more children than they can care for as responsibly as they wish and the continuation of lives of poverty for children who are deprived of adequate nutrition, safe shelter, health care and a good education. Preventing such pregnancies and the moral dilemmas they pose is common sense. We are called ever more urgently to provide women with a full range of contraceptive services from natural family planning training and supplies to long acting reversible methods of contraception. Based on the high level of support for and use of contraceptives by Catholic women and couples in the US, and the explicit support for responsible parenthood by the late Pope John Paul 11 and the encyclical Gaudium et Spes there is no doubt that both women and many church leaders would support administration efforts to ensure that contraceptives were part of a preventive package for women’s health. As a Catholic woman and a leader in the effort to ensure that all women have the means to bring new life into the world safely, responsibly and consciously, I urge the Institute of Medicine and the administration to include contraceptive services and supplies in the preventive services guidelines.”
Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice:
“Individual conscience in matters of moral decision-making is at the core of the Catholic tradition. Catholics believe in ensuring that they and others are able to prevent unplanned pregnancies by having access to family planning. Today, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women older than 18 use some form of contraception banned by the Vatican.”
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