Denying Abortion Coverage Is Not a Religious Value

We must ensure that each of us has quality health care, encompassing the full range of reproductive health-care options, including abortion. 

[Activists hold signs that read
We are people of faith and we are pro-choice. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Image

As leaders of organizations that represent countless people of faith across the nation, we want to set the record straight: We are people of faith and we are pro-choice. We believe in the dignity and worth of all people, and that belief drives our commitment to ensuring universal access to affordable health-care coverage, including coverage for abortion care.

Recently, Democrats for Life, an anti-abortion group claiming to represent the faith community, sent a letter from 100 Christian pastors and theologians to the Democratic National Committee urging the party to rescind its support for ending the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. 

But Democrats for Life doesn’t represent the faith community. Many people of faith support access to abortion and oppose the Hyde Amendment and its restrictions, which further enshrine systemic racism and strip the poor of access to abortion. Policies that deny abortion coverage to individuals based on their income level or the type of health insurance they have contradict shared core values and principles of our faiths. Supporting this injustice goes against everything clergy of all faiths should represent. 

That’s why we are calling on Congress to pass the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act. This bill, if enacted, would eliminate abortion coverage bans in federal health insurance programs and prohibit local, state, and federal political interference in the decisions of private health insurers to offer abortion coverage. 

People in the United States are facing severe economic duress compounded by a growing health-care crisis and firmly institutionalized racism; we cannot afford to further wrong the most vulnerable. Inflicting further injury on those whom our traditions are called to support is morally bankrupt. As people of faith, we believe in the inherent dignity and equal worth of all people. We are, therefore, called to treat all individuals with respect, no matter their income, insurance, gender, race, or other factors. 

We also believe in the power of compassion to build a just and fair society. Our nation is at its best when our laws match our compassion. A compassionate nation ensures that every single person can access quality, timely medical care from trusted providers when they seek abortion careregardless of how much they earn or where they live. Because of our faith traditions, consciences, and deep respect for an individual’s moral agency, we support policies grounded in compassion that protect each person’s right to health and foster their safety and well-being irrespective of income.

Those with means will always be able to secure the reproductive health care they want and need, and low-income people should be able to as well. We must ensure that each of us has quality health care, encompassing the full range of reproductive health-care options, including abortion. 

It is long past time for our elected officials to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and all bans that interfere with people receiving the care they need. In addition, we cannot permit organizations like Democrats for Life to erase the many people of faith who support ending restrictions on federal funding for abortion. It is wrong for a few religious leaders representing an outlying ideological position to hamper the just and moral reasoning that eliminated the repressive Hyde Amendment from the Democratic Party platform in the first place.

A hundred pastors should not determine the direction of abortion policy in the nation, any more than a few hundred Catholic bishops should. Neither represents the millions of people of faith who are tired of having their religion weaponized to deny others health care. No person of faith can claim to speak for people of all faith. The National Council of Jewish Women, for example, has a network of nearly 1,000 rabbis who have committed to using their platforms to advance reproductive freedom, but they do not claim to speak for all people of faith or attempt to impose their views on the entire country. 

Religious freedom is an essential shared principle undergirding our support of policies that ensure equitable access to abortion. The United States is home to people of many different faiths as well as people with no religious affiliation. We cannot limit an individual’s religious liberty by enshrining one set of beliefs into law and restricting their ability to make personal decisions about their pregnancy, health, and family according to their own religious or moral beliefs and conscience. No government committed to human rights and democracy can privilege one religion over another. 

Today, we are coming together to say not in our name. Eschewing insurance coverage bans is a moral good. No one should be denied an abortion because of where they live or how much they earn. 

We urge Democrats to stand firm on their platform and to encourage all members of Congress to support and pass the EACH Woman Act.