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Rev. Michael Smith Honored for Distinguished Service

Los Angeles, CA — Rev. Peter Laarman, Rev Jill McAllister, and other pro-choice religious leaders today explored the intersection of religion, politics, and reproductive justice during the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) annual interfaith breakfast in Los Angeles, CA. The discussion, which included how we provide space in the public square for religious views without allowing public policy to be dictated by the religious views of any one group, and the implications of the move by Evangelicals to the left on certain social issues, brought together religious leaders from different faiths and denominations in support of women’s health and reproductive rights.  Since before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood has worked hand in hand with religious advisors in communities all over the country to counsel women and families and help them secure abortion services and other reproductive health care.

“We are honored today to be joined by so many members of the clergy who support Planned Parenthood and its mission,” said Rev. Thomas Davis, chair of the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board.  “Despite the great misperception that all clergy are opposed to reproductive health care and Planned Parenthood, there has been a long tradition of clergy support for women's right to birth control and abortion services and a large block of clergy who are constant in their support for Planned Parenthood and its work today.  Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country continue to collaborate with clergy who view this work as part of their pastoral responsibilities.”

Rev. Peter Laarman is executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, a fast-growing ecumenical network of individuals and congregations headquartered in Los Angeles. Rev. Jill McAllister is a member of the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board.

The breakfast also honored the inspiring work of Rev. Davis and Rev. Michael Smith for their unwavering support for women’s health and safety.

“Clergy support has been the foundation for Planned Parenthood's work to protect and expand access to women’s health care, said PPFA President Cecile Richards.  ”Revs. Davis and Smith have committed their lives to building a better society by protecting and supporting women and families.” 

As part of the events, Rev. Smith was presented with The Reverends Betsy M. and Thomas R. Davis Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his service to the Planned Parenthood mission.  Before the nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973, Rev. Smith was part of the Clergy Counseling Service and helped women who needed abortion services seek care in California, Colorado, and New York, where abortion was already legal.  More recently, Rev. Smith has been a vocal advocate and fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona.  In the past year, he has organized a new Pro-Choice Clergy group and established a network of local clergy who counsel abortion patients.

The Reverends Betsy M. and Thomas R. Davis Distinguished Service Award was created in honor of the Reverends Davis, who devoted a lifetime of support to reproductive choice and women’s health.  Rev. Betsy M. Davis, who died in 2002, was a founding member of Planned Parenthood of Saratoga and of Saratoga Domestic Violence Services.  Rev. Thomas R. Davis was college chaplain and associate professor of religion at Skidmore College, as well as a board member of Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson and a member of the Clergy Consultation Services on Abortion. In 2005, his book, Sacred Work: Planned Parenthood and Its Clergy Alliance, was published, and he has spent the last year speaking with Planned Parenthood affiliates about his book and the role of clergy in Planned Parenthood’s mission. Rev. Davis, who founded and has headed the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board for the past 13 years, is stepping down as chair, though he will remain a board member.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


Andrea Hagelgans, 646-369-8617


May 13, 2014