This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
By Harry Knox
and Alethea Smith-Withers
Special To The Washington Post
It is a cliché and a false one that the community of faith has only one opinion about reproductive rights. Believers often feel compelled to offer compassion and support to individuals and families who are making the profound decision whether to continue a pregnancy, become a parent, plan for adoption or seek an abortion. But just as people from different traditions (and even people inside the same tradition) hold varying views on these issues, so do their clergy.
For too long, the shouting of a few strident voices has closed off the space for nuanced and empathetic conversation. There is no monolithic religious opinion about contraception, abortion or sex education. Decisions about reproduction are morally complex. And clergy do not always use Bible verses as political weapons a misrepresentation too often promoted in the media. The wisdom found in our faith traditions is rich, nuanced and rarely absolute. Here is the good news: Most people of faith in the United States support access to compassionate abortion care.
Our faith is what compels us today to speak out for access to comprehensive sexuality education in schools so that young people are provided with information and tools to make informed decisions and protect their sexual health. It is why we push for affordable access to contraception because we know that it is better for children and families when a woman can plan and space her pregnancies. And it is why we absolutely believe that every woman should have the ability to make her own decision on whether and when to raise a child. Her health insurance should honor the full spectrum of care that she might need, including abortion.
There are some politicians who do not want abortion to be legal and use the mantle of religion to demand legislation that would close clinics or withhold insurance coverage, making care unaffordable. This is wrong. It is not our place to impose our religious beliefs on others, and it is certainly not the place of a politician. Unfortunately, the Hyde Amendment, which denies Medicaid coverage of abortion care, is exactly that kind of policy. It has discriminated against low-income women since it was enacted 37 years ago as a way to force the religiously held beliefs of a minority of the country onto others.
It is not our place to impose our religious beliefs on others, and it is certainly not the place of a politician.
People cannot truly make the best decision for their lives and families if they are denied access to the health care that they need. That is why people of faith should speak out about discriminatory and harmful policies like the Hyde Amendment, which targets low-income people who utilize federal health programs for health coverage by withholding coverage for abortion care.
People of faith, as well as those with no religious affiliation, have widely varying opinions about moral questions. That's OK. Freedom for differing views and beliefs is a core American value. The problem is when one particular religious viewpoint gets written into law, in direct violation of our national commitment to religious liberty. Every person in the United States should be able to make decisions according to his or her own conscience and faith tradition, especially in deeply private matters, such as accessing health care.
Deciding whether to become a parent, or become a parent again, is among the most important decisions any of us will make. As clergy we are called by our faith to promote compassion, respect, and justice for all in other words, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are passionately dedicated to the belief that every person not just those with the loudest voices or most money should be able to make their own decisions about pregnancy and parenting.
We call on decision makers to lift the restrictions on health coverage for abortion care. It is time that politicians get out of the business of playing doctor and preacher. It is time to ensure that health-care decisions are made in consultation with a health professional and the family members, friends and faith leaders each person trusts to bring into the conversation.
The Rev. Harry Knox, who holds a master of divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, is the president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The Rev. Alethea Smith-Withers earned her masters of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Howard University.