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Winter 2000

Clergy Voices: Volume 5, Issue 1

Purity Vs. Love

By Rev. Thomas R. Davis

The irony of the ongoing national conflict over abortion is that those who support a "right to life" have consistently supported policies that result in an increased need for abortion or in the birth of more unwanted children. For many "right-to-life" people, the crucial issues are about who should engage in sexual activity, under what circumstances, and for what purpose. In the name of doctrinal purity, they have consistently attacked programs that consider the possibility of any alternative to a "theology" of abstinence for the unmarried and even for married couples who do not wish to procreate. Take, for example, the recent challenges to family planning programs in the United States and abroad.

Crippling Title X

Title X of the Public Health Service Act of 1970 has ensured the availability of quality contraceptive services to low-income women of any age, on a confidential basis, for nearly 30 years. One purpose of the confidentiality provision was to reduce teen pregnancy by encouraging teens to protect themselves if they were sexually active.

Now, some powerful members of Congress want to require that family planning clinics notify parents before teens can obtain contraception on the theory that it would encourage family conversations and, thereby, would inhibit sexual activity. Parents should be discussing sexual matters with their children long before they even think about becoming sexually active, but too many don't.

Planned Parenthood tries to discourage teens from engaging in sexual intercourse. However, forced parental notification is likely only to discourage young people who do become sexually active from using contraceptives. In 1993, the Journal of Pediatrics reported that 29 percent of high school girls would not seek reproductive health care if their parents might find out. Incredibly, those promoting parental notification know this full well. Apparently, they believe that the potential benefit of a theology of abstinence is well worth the rise in unintended teen pregnancy that, in turn, will increase the number of teen abortions and/or the number of teen parents who are unprepared to care for children that they did not plan to have.

Crippling Mothers to "Save The Children"

Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA), along with other congressional opponents of family planning, introduced legislation earlier this year that would have transferred funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) international family planning program to the USAID child survival program on the grounds that money for contraception would be better spent on children's health services. Rep. Pitts chairs the Congressional Values Action Team, which coordinates strategy with the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition.

Helping children survive and family planning are not "either/or" propositions. To the contrary, as the Save the Children Foundation and CARE have stated, the Pitts proposal "ignores the fact that family planning and child survival are inextricably linked." Indeed, the Global Health Council, a U.S.-based group of hundreds of organizations and individuals from around the world that is pledged to identify and report on priority health problems, maintains that the shift of funds would increase infant and child death by 75,000, and increase unintended pregnancies by two million, one million of which would end in abortion. (Cohen, Susan A., (1999). "Robbing Family Planning to Fund Child Survival: Undermining Women and Children." The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 2(August), 3-5.)

The Pitts proposal failed, but the transfer idea is included in a penalty provision of the recent complex legislation that authorized payment of U.S. arrears to the United Nations in exchange for legislating a global gag rule that would deny U.S. funding to organizations that, with their own non-U.S. funds, either provide or promote abortion overseas. The extension of the theology of abstinence, evidenced in the transfer idea, is particularly insidious — it would pit the interests of mothers against those of their children.

How can people embrace a theology that leads to so much human misery? One suspects that these people appreciate the complexities of life in their own personal lives. Perhaps they proclaim a principle — no sex outside of marriage — as a way to avoid those very complexities. Then, they attempt to pass legislation in order to force others to conform to their ideal world, regardless of the disastrous consequences that would result.

The translation of a theology into public policy requires a process of compromise and trial and error, together with an understanding of the value of human experience. In refusing to participate in this process, those who espouse an abstinence theology make the principle of purity paramount. By worshiping purity, they abandon the Biblical principle of love.

Rev. Thomas R. Davis, chair of the PPFA Clergy Advisory Board, retired as Chaplain and associate professor of Religion at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs in 1997. (784)

"Come Now, And Let Us Reason Togther, Says The Lord"-Isaiah 1:18

Rev. Stephen Mather Reports on Another Wye River Conference

The Aspen Institute and the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice invited people of faith to spend a few days together last October to discuss what faith traditions had to say about the conduct of civil discourse over contentious issues, with abortion as the case study. The 26 participants came from both sides of the abortion debate and from Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, and evangelical and liberal Protestant backgrounds. Rev. Bethany McLemore, a fellow member of the PPFA Clergy Advisory Board, and I attended.

We assembled at the Wye River Conference Center, the same place where delegates from Israel and Palestine met to iron out details for achieving the aims of the Oslo agreement. Could it be possible for God's lighting to strike twice in the same place? I was not optimistic. Not since the debate over slavery has there been such an intractable squabble among people of faith as now exists over abortion.

The Common Ground approach entails agreement to a set of rules for discussion. The hardest to accept requires that we understand that none of us has the whole truth and that therefore, together, it may be possible to achieve a greater understanding of truth than is likely to occur when we are fractured. I am not sure that I can "learn" anything from the pro-life (the term that Common Ground asks that we use, while those opposed to abortion must call us pro-choice) folks. I know their position; I can recite it ad nauseum. But I must admit that their zeal propels them to work for their cause, just as my quest for justice propels me. Can God be present in both?

Late the second night a consensus began to emerge among at least 10 members of the group. We cannot agree on the definition of when life begins, but we do agree that every effort should be made to prevent the need for abortion, and we affirm the value of family planning and sexuality education in this effort. I shock the pro-life contingent by remarking that Planned Parenthood longs for the day when abortions are not necessary.

Shortly after I returned from the conference, I attended an affiliate event where Emily Lyons (the nurse who was severely injured and permanently disabled in the bomb blast at a women's clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, in January 1998) spoke about the danger of misguided zealots. This is war, I think, and I still feel at times a reluctance to converse, to dialogue, or even to take prisoners.

Then I think of the new friends I made in October. I can no longer caricature or ridicule the ideas that I disagree with. Relationships have been built, language clarified. We agree to continue the dialogue. A Web site has been created to foster the free-flow of discussion, clarification, and rebuttal. Chasms remain that are unlikely to be bridged and cannot be ignored. Yet, if the Israelis and Palestinians can come to an accommodation on the shores of the Wye River in Maryland, then maybe the American divide over abortion can find people of faith heeding the words of Isaiah in a new way.

Rev. Stephen J. Mather is a member of the PPFA board and of the PPFA Clergy Advisorty Board.

Clergy Advisory Board (CAB) Members Go Back To Seminary

Revs. Tom Davis, PPFA CAB chair, and Mark Bigelow, board chair of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic in New York, both graduates of Union Theological Seminary (UTS), returned there for a visit. Rev. Donna Morton, a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and executive director of Planned Parenthood of Louisville, joined them. The three ministers came to kick off a new effort to educate young seminarians about the clergy connection to problems of reproductive health. Nearly 20 students turned out to hear them discuss "Pastoral Counseling and Reproductive Health Issues: Questions You Will Be Asked and Opposition You May Face." The UTS Women's Center co-sponsored the afternoon.

The remarks of the three ministers came as a surprise to the students, all of whom grew up well after Roe v. Wade. They had never heard of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (see Clergy Voices, January 1998). Rev. Davis told them that he joined the service in 1967 after a group of young women came to him, as the newly appointed chaplain of Skidmore College, seeking help for a friend who was pregnant and desperate. The service referred women to doctors who would perform safe abortions at a fair price, at a time when abortion was largely illegal in the U.S.

The seminary students then listened as Rev. Morton described life in the trenches at a Planned Parenthood affiliate that does not even provide abortions. She talked about the protests, threats, and personal attacks, including letters written to her bishop urging that she be defrocked. "Yet," she said, "knowing that the affiliate provides services that improve women's lives and sometimes save them makes it all worthwhile." She listed four ideas that she hoped the young people around the table would take with them: 1) sex is a gift from God, 2) women are capable of making moral decisions, 3) reality-based sexuality education matters as much as math or science, and 4) "just say no" is not enough — it takes reality— based sexuality education and the availability of contraception to prevent pregnancy and the spread of infection.

Noting that he, too, had grown up after the Roe v. Wade decision, Rev. Bigelow declared that waiting periods and parental notification laws are tantamount to denying abortion rights to the poor and the young. He also mentioned his efforts to prevent a pending merger between a Catholic and a non-Catholic hospital that threatens to reduce the availability of reproductive health services on Long Island, as such mergers have succeeded in doing across the country.

A student asked about counseling women and their families about abortion and noted the lack of information in the literature. Rev. Bigelow pointed out that the Bible may be interpreted both to permit and to prohibit abortion and that his primary responsibility is to listen and guide, not dictate. Rev. Davis noted his advice to newly ordained male clergy: "Preach at least one sermon on human sexuality so that the congregation knows your views. Otherwise, you will hear only from women who regret their decisions."

Rev. Davis told the group, "Reproductive rights are fundamentally a matter of justice for women."He asserted that opposition to reproductive rights ultimately reflects the fear that giving women control over their bodies threatens the patriarchy that is so central to fundamentalism. After all, he noted, women had always had illegal abortions. It was only when Roe v. Wade made safe abortions readily available that certain religious groups moved these issues to the public arena.

Regretting that 26 years after Roe v. Wade, it is still necessary to defend reproductive rights, Rev. Davis urged the young seminarians to enter the fray. A number of those around the table accepted his challenge and joined the PPFA Pro-Choice Religious Network on the spot.

The PPFA CAB plans to carry the young seminarians program to other institutions around the country. If you would like to arrange such a program at your alma mater, please call (212) 261-4721.

More Than Prayer — A Roundup Of Affiliate Activities

Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge (PPBR) Breaks New Ground

Four members of the clergy — Rabbi Kathy Cohen, Rev. E. T. Burton, Rev. Bethany McLemore (PPFA Clergy Advisory Board member and PPBR staff member), and Bishop Neff Powell (PPBR board member) — participated in the groundbreaking last July for PPBR's new headquarters in Roanoke, VA. The new clinic is a groundbreaker — it will be the first Planned Parenthood facility in the world that will house prenatal, adoption, and abortion services under one roof.

The PPBR clergy opened the ceremonies with a very beautiful and deeply personal invocation, composed of excerpts from selected psalms and accompanied by prayers. These prayers included a reference to opposition to the clinic from some community residents, including clergy, who fear that protesters might be disruptive or violent and from others who simply oppose abortion.

From Psalm 15:
"Lord, who may sojourn in Your tent, who may dwell on Your Holy Mountain? He who lives without blame, who does what is right, and in his heart acknowledges truth; whose tongue is not given to evil; who has never done harm to his fellow, or borne reproach for his acts toward his neighbor. . . ."

"Dear God, favor us with good grace so that we may be a blessing to this neighborhood and those who reside among us. "
"Help our neighbors to be accepting of our works and to find blessing in the services we provide."
"Help us to recognize the humanity of all those who would oppose Planned Parenthood and its mission."

From Psalm 27
"One thing I ask of the Lord, only that do I seek: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. . . . God will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, grant me the protection of His tent, raise me high upon a rock."

"Dear God, thank you for bestowing humanity with the sacred gift of sexuality."
"Help your flock to make thoughtful and responsible choices regarding sex and pregnancy, as we seek to be fruitful and multiply."
"And grant our political leaders the wisdom to let families make their own decisions regarding sexuality without undo interference."

From Psalm 127
"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain; unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman keeps his vigil in vain."

"Dear God, protect those on this construction site from accident and injury."
"Protect the staff and patients from physical harm and from those who would seek to commit violence against Planned Parenthood in your name."
"And ensure that the stone, wooden braces, and building materials that will stand at this site provide shelter and security for those within for generations to come."

Idaho Clergy Oppose Parental Consent

When the Idaho legislature, as expected, takes up a parental consent bill in the beginning of January, Planned Parenthood of Idaho (PPI) in Boise will be ready, and the work of Idaho pro-choice clergy is one reason why. As part of PPI's efforts to mobilize various constituencies to oppose the bill, PPI board chair and PPFA Pro-choice Religious Network member, Rabbi Daniel B. Fink, crafted a statement to be signed by seven clergy. Rabbi Fink also sought to publicize clergy support for reproductive rights — vital and difficult work in an area of the country where groups like the Christian Coalition and the Roman Catholic Church enjoy wide support. With the most Republican state legislature in the nation (89 seats out of 105) and a new governor who has announced that he, unlike his predecessor, will sign the bill, the need for pro-choice clergy to stand up and speak out is especially urgent.

The statement, which will be submitted to two regional papers, calls on legislators to have compassion for "young women whose families are dysfunctional and even abusive..... [T]eens from such homes will be put at risk of ... even further abuse and perhaps death if parental consent becomes the law in Idaho."

The statement points out that the time when, according to the prophet Malachi, "God would turn the hearts of all the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents," is still far away for a significant minority. Therefore, the statement urges, "we must not sacrifice the health and welfare of our precious youth to the extremism of the religious right and the politics of expediency."

If you would like copies of the statement, please contact Nicole Prehoda at the Idaho affiliate.

Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County (PPHC) Makes a Clergy Connection

Located in McAllen, TX, one of the more religiously conservative areas of the nation, PPHC nevertheless decided to reach out to local clergy in an effort to demonstrate the common goals that Planned Parenthood and people of faith share. Twenty-five ministers and lay religious leaders representing different religious perspectives, including Baptist and Roman Catholic, accepted the invitation to lunch.

Dr. Jorge Lara-Braud, president of Planned Parenthood of Austin, was the featured speaker. He is also a visiting scholar at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas, and an adjunct professor at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. In his talk, "Biblical Religion and Human Sexuality," he took Christian theology to task for being unfaithful to Biblical teachings about sexuality. (For a copy of his remarks, please call (212) 261-4721.)

To stimulate discussion during lunch, PPHC handed out a list of reproductive health issues that clergy might face as pastoral counselors. In the course of the discussion about how to handle these situations, clergy had a chance to learn how PPHC could help, and PPHC had a chance to clear up a number of misconceptions about Planned Parenthood. Although the Baptist and Roman Catholic clergy disagree with Planned Parenthood in many areas, the discussion at least helped to foster greater understanding.

PPHC polled those who attended to find out their views on confidentiality for minors seeking reproductive health care, sexuality education, and abortion, as well as their interest in becoming more involved with Planned Parenthood. Given the makeup of the assembled clergy, the affiliate was delighted that so many clergy stated that they share Planned Parenthood's views on these issues and expressed interest in taking an active role in PPHC. It was particularly gratifying since four of these clergy constituted new sources of support. In view of how enthusiastic the clergy were, PPHC is looking forward to organizing its own clergy group.

In addition to PPHC, a number of affiliates have recently taken the first steps to strengthen ties with the clergy in their communities. If your affiliate would like any information about starting a clergy group or would like to contact other affiliates with clergy groups, please call (212) 261-4721.

1999 Is Y6B — The Year Of Six Billion

On October 12, 1999, in a household in Serbia, according to some accounts, the birth of a baby boy brought the world's population to six billion. Family and friends surely rejoiced that day at the arrival of a new life. But that day was also a time for reflection about the implications of the continuing increase in the number of inhabitants on this earth. There are or soon will be one billion 14-25-year-olds, the largest such generation in world history. The decisions they make about when and how many children to have will determine how much and how fast population will continue to grow. If current trends continue, the United Nations projects a world population of between 7.7 and 11.2 billion by 2050, with 9.4 billion, or more than one and a half times what it is today as most likely. In a worst-case scenario, population could grow to 15 billion by that time.

In connection with the meetings earlier this year at The Hague and at the United Nations in New York to assess progress in the five years since the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), PPFA President Gloria Feldt issued a paper titled, "Youth Quake," which addressed the problems posed by the generation of one billion. Excerpts appear below, along with a report on three Planned Parenthood affiliate events to mark Y6B Day that included or featured clergy.

Gloria Feldt Urges The Deveoped World To Increase Funding For Reproductive Health

"Developing countries will likely suffer the harshest impact of the economic crunch associated with youth quake. Because nearly 79 percent of the current world population lives in the world's poorest countries, the great bulk of the population surge is expected to occur in those countries...."

"Continued rapid population growth will wipe out the [economic gains] already underway ... and such growth will work against progress in the future...."

"Unfortunately, programs designed to meet young people's reproductive needs are limited worldwide. Sexuality education and reproductive health services, if available at all, are often inadequate and do not reach the intended population...."

"There is a clear link between sexuality education and responsible behavior among adolescents. A comparison of youth behaviors between the United States and Western Europe... [shows that] European teens wait longer to lose their virginity and have lower incidents of teen pregnancy, abortion, and HIV infection...."

"Why? Because in these nations teens receive honest messages about sexuality from their schools, media, and health care providers. Their governments fund . . . public education campaigns that portray responsible sexual behavior. Adolescents have confidential access to contraception, sexual health services, and reliable information...."

"The Planned Parenthood Responsible Choices® Action Agenda presents responsible choices as an essential social value. It's a forward-looking advocacy and service campaign designed to help women, men, and young people make healthy, responsible choices through

    * increased services that prevent unintended pregnancy

    * improved quality of reproductive health care

    * ensured access to safe, legal abortion

"In pursuit of its mission, the campaign... is grounded in the philosophy that services must be adapted to meet the needs of specific communities." [Ms. Feldt then described several PPFA projects in developing countries that put this philosophy into practice.]

To learn more about the agenda and how you can help achieve its goals, call 1-888-755-PPFA.

"Reproductive health services are among the most cost-effective interventions for stabilizing the world's health and economy.... The United Nation's Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 estimated that, by the year 2000, $17 billion would be needed to cover the annual cost of providing reproductive health services in developing countries...."

"Yearly world investment [in these services] ... is now only $10 billion, with 80 percent of it being borne by developing countries. This is not acceptable. All nations throughout the world, including the U.S., must contribute their share to achieving a stable population and a future in which all people have opportunities to flourish."

For a copy of the paper, Youth Quake, please call (212) 261-4721.

Affiliates Mark Y6B

Delivered in different forms, each of the following three affiliate events held to mark Y6B conveyed similar messages: The "haves" of this world have a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and human beings have an obligation to preserve and protect all of the earth's creatures and its resources.

Come to the Fair

To mark October 12, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma (PPAEO) in Tulsa invited a variety of organizations concerned about population and the environment to set up booths and tell their stories to members of the University of Tulsa community. PPAEO also sponsored a panel discussion with members of the University of Tulsa faculty; a representative from the Oklahoma Environmental Alliance; Eric Ramirez, vice-president of education for PPAEO; and Rev. Russell L. Bennett, pastor of the Fellowship Congregational Church, a member of the Public Affairs Committee of the board of PPAEO, and a member of the Pro-Choice Religious Network. Mayor Susan Savage served as moderator. More than 70 people, mostly students from the University, attended.

Rev. Bennett noted that a spiritual crisis lies at the heart of all the concerns that his fellow panel members expressed about the environment, the threat of continued poverty in the developing world, and the subordinate role of women in many of those same areas. Religious people, he maintained, who ignore Y6B or, in some cases, applaud it, can do so only if they assume that human beings have a privileged position in the eyes of God. Rev. Bennett believes that this reading of the scripture is wrong.

God grants human beings dominion over the creatures of the earth and sea, but this grant is not a license, it is a responsibility. When God pronounced a blessing, it was on the creation, the whole. What is good, what is of value, inheres in the whole of creation, not in any one part of it. Thus, Rev. Bennett urged, "All human behavior must be measured by whether it contributes or detracts from the quality and . . . sustainability of life on earth."

Come for Breakfast

Planned Parenthood of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle (PPATP) sponsored a prayer breakfast for 35 area clergy at the Polk Street United Methodist Church. Rev. Dr. James Garrett, pastor of the church, offered the invocation, and Sue Cohen, a PPATP board member, presided.

The program addressed the significance of Y6B for the economy, environment, and population. All the speakers emphasized that these issues are not separable. Susan Arnold, a seminary intern at the church, warned that the concentration of wealth in the developed countries "is going to come back to haunt us, if we are not very careful." Mavis Belisle, director of the Peace Farm, an environmental group that monitors the local nuclear power plant, took the discussion a step further. She urged that we must begin to consider the relationships between our sheer numbers, how much we consume, how much we ought to consume, the limits of our natural resources, and the degree to which resources could be more equitably distributed. "We must," she said, " . . . put these questions on the table, and try to reach some agreement together."

Come for Lunch

Members of the staff and the board of Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County (PPTC) in Ithaca, New York, marked Y6B by devoting its annual luncheon for pro-choice clergy to a program titled, "Stewardship of an Over-Populated Planet."

The principal speaker was David Pimentel, a professor of Insect Ecology & Agricultural Sciences at Cornell University. A distinguished scientist with a long record of public service, he studies various aspects of the food supply and its relation to population growth. In his view, world population is fast outgrowing its natural resources. Professor Pimentel urged the adoption of democratically determined programs to contain population growth that entail voluntary participation, together with effective resource-management policies.

The assembled clergy got the message and, in the discussion that followed, participants shared resources on faith-based sexuality education. One United Church of Christ pastor encouraged her peers to speak out in their communities and to their elected representatives in support of sexuality education and family planning, including international family planning programs. Professor Pimentel noted that when he had been a White House advisor, the accepted wisdom was that one letter represented the views of 10,000 people.

If you would like to write a letter and/or wish to receive information on these issues, please call (212) 261-4721 or your local Planned Parenthood affiliate.

PPFA Clergy Advisory Board Urges Passage Of The Equity In Prescription Insurance And Contraceptive Coverage Act (EPICC)

We strongly support legislation to require insurance companies to provide coverage for contraceptive care for women as fully as they now provide for the health and pleasure of men. We believe that such legislation is justified as a matter of simple equity.

It is therefore as intolerable as it incongruous that, in less than two months after Viagra appeared on the market, more than half of the prescriptions for it received some insurance reimbursement, while it took 40 years for oral contraceptives to reach this level of overall coverage. Coverage for diaphragms and IUDs still lags far behind. Moreover and more important, plans that provide some coverage for contraception typically do not allow women to choose among all of the five most commonly used reversible contraceptive methods.

Contraceptives have been shown to improve the health of women and their children, prevent unintended pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and more than half of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion (Henshaw, Stanley K. (1998). "Unintended Pregnancy in the United States." Family Planning Perspectives , 30(January/February), 24-29). Increasing access to contraception will not, by itself, solve this problem, but it is a big step in the right direction, and a step that we urge be taken. More than one million women employed by the federal government now enjoy these insurance benefits. Isn't it about time that every woman with health coverage had them?

As members of a group of clergy drawn from many different faiths, we view contraception as the means by which human beings can graciously receive and responsibly enjoy the great gift of sexuality, a gift that we believe was given by God at creation. The Hebrew Bible reassures us that we are all formed "in the image of God" (Gen. 1.27). Throughout history, this difficult phrase has been understood in the Jewish and Christian traditions to mean that a spark of divinity resides in all of us, giving the uniqueness of sanctity to each of us.

The decision to bring a new life into the world is a sacred choice, for in making that choice we add another spark of divinity to the world. Indeed, the right to choose whether and when to have a child is deeply embedded in many religious traditions. Christianity affirms that Mary, the holy mother of Jesus, assents to bear the Son of God by her response, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1.38). Similarly, in the Jewish tradition, Leah becomes pregnant only after she has pleaded with God for a child, "And God heeded Leah, and she conceived" (Genesis 30.17).

The availability of, easy access to, and the use of contraception make a woman's sacred choice meaningful. Contraception is part of basic health care for women. Requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for such care is, in our judgment, a way to fulfill the holiness that resides in each of us.

Ed. Note - The PPFA CAB urges members of the clergy to adapt this statement for a letter to state and federal legislators, an op-ed, or letter to the editor.

Professor Proves That Rep. Barney Frank Was Right

Jean Schroedel, in her new book, Is the Fetus a Person? A Comparison of Policies in the Fifty States (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, forthcoming 2000), examined the relationship between state laws regulating access to abortion and state spending to benefit children. An associate professor at Claremont Graduate University, she found that states with more restrictive abortion laws provide less funding for children. They spend less to assist the adoption of special needs children and on foster care. Welfare payments are also lower, and on a per-child basis, these states spend less on all forms of assistance for poor children. In addition, they spend less, on a per-pupil basis, on K-12 education. In short, the evidence tends to support Representative Barney Frank's classic remark that legislators who would vote against abortion and against any aid for those who do get born apparently believe that "life begins at conception and ends at birth."

Professor Schroedel also considered whether states with more restrictive abortion laws consistently value fetal life. She found that they do not. Six of the states with the strongest anti-abortion laws prosecute women for prenatal drug offenses, but do not make it a crime for a third party to kill a fetus. By contrast, states with far less restrictive abortion statutes criminalize third-party fetal killing.

The fact that third-party actions (i.e., beatings, knifings, shootings, etc.) are the major way that men harm fetuses led Professor Schroedel to examine the relationship between state laws regulating access to abortion and the status of women. She again found an inverse relationship - in states with more restrictive laws, women enjoy lower economic, political, and social status.

Taken together, these last two findings suggest that the moral imperative invoked by many anti-abortion activists based on the claim that the fetus is a "person" as fully deserving of protection as a born human being is nothing of the kind. It is rather a smokescreen to cover up a broad-based attack on women.

Presbyterians Resolve To Challenge Hospital Mergers

The 211th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which was held at the end of June, adopted a resolution to challenge hospital mergers involving Roman Catholic hospitals. Rev. Kenneth Applegate wrote the report that formed the basis of recommendations to the General Assembly to support such a resolution. Rev. Applegate is a member of the PPFA Pro-Choice Religious Network and former Director of Concerned Clergy for Choice at Family Planning Advocates of New York State (FPA). FPA has been a leader on this issue and has encouraged local communities in their efforts to stop hospital mergers that adversely affect the availability of reproductive and other health services.

Rev. Applegate's report considered Biblical statements about treatment for the sojourner, for the outsider in our midst, as well as in the healing ministry of Jesus. It also examined previous Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) studies and policy statements on reproductive health decisions and national health care. Finally, the report looked at the effect of mergers on the availability and access to reproductive health care in the community.

The General Assembly resolution on hospital mergers is believed to be the first such action by a religious body. It encourages all members to inform themselves and to raise community awareness about these issues. Further, it encourages all members to voice their concerns to hospital officials and to appropriate state officials in communities where mergers have occurred or are pending. The resolution also advocates, but only as a last resort, legal action in cases involving Presbyterian hospitals.

You do not have to be a Presbyterian to follow the directives in the 211th General Assembly resolution on hospital mergers involving Roman Catholic hospitals. Find out what is happening in your community and take a stand. The members of the Clergy Advisory Board and PPFA staff are ready to assist you. Please call 212-261-4721 for more information.

Published: 03.01.00 | Updated: 03.01.00
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