RCRC Challenges Federal Abortion Ban on Religious Grounds
September 21, 2006
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) today filed an amici curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart, challenging the first-ever federal abortion ban on religious grounds and urging the Court to strike it down.
“The Court’s decision in this case will have enormous consequences for every woman in this country, and for the men and children who love and depend on them,” said Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, President and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Although opponents of legal abortion claim the law before the Court would ban only one procedure that they call “partial-birth abortion,” the law actually would ban several procedures used early in pregnancy. RCRC informs the Court that many religions oppose such undue restrictions on legal abortion because of their belief that a woman’s health must be protected.
“This case will determine if the law will continue to protect the ability of women to choose the safest abortion procedure in cases where their health is at stake or when their baby has such severe problems that it will die shortly after birth,” Reverend Veazey said.
Fifteen other religious and religiously affiliated organizations, seven Episcopal bishops, other religious leaders and scholars, and the presidents of Andover Newton Theological School, the Pacific School of Religion, and Union Theological Seminary have joined the brief. It says:
“Because protecting the health of women is a core expression of the religious values of amici, amici agree that all women whose health is at risk should be free to seek the safest medical treatment, without governmental coercion or constraint, in making the difficult decision whether to terminate a pregnancy.”
Gonzales v. Carhart will review the constitutionality of the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,” which was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush just three years after the Supreme Court struck down a similar Nebraska ban (in Stenberg v. Carhart) as unconstitutional. The Bush Administration brought the current case to the Court after federal appeals courts in New York, Nebraska, and California declared the ban unconstitutional.
RCRC and the other signatories to the brief urge the Court to recognize “the abundance of religious voices speaking out against the failure of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (the “Act”) to protect women’s health.” The brief asks the court to “not allow Congress to force a moral consensus where there is none, but rather to let the individual women who face the agonizing decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy or risk their own health do so legally, in consultation and accordance with their own conscience and faith.”
Other groups submitting the brief are the American Jewish Committee, Americans for Religious Liberty, the Anti-Defamation League, Disciples for Choice, Disciples Justice Action Network, Episcopal Women’s Caucus, Hadassah-the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, Methodist Federation for Social Action, National Council of Jewish Women, The Rabbinical Assembly, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and Women of Reform Judaism.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, founded in 1973 by clergy and laypersons, is the national coalition of religious and religiously affiliated organizations with official positions in support of reproductive choice.