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National Religious Coalition Deeply Concerned by HHS Secretary's Disregard for Women's Reproductive Health

Leavitt's Statement Is Contrary to Widely Held American Values

Statement of Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

WASHINGTON, March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the national coalition of mainstream religious and religiously affiliated organizations, is deeply concerned about the disregard for women's reproductive healthcare and for women themselves in the statement issued late Friday by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. The Bush Administration official called for the rejection of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' (ACOG) fair-minded new policy to require its members who object to abortion to refer their patients seeking abortion to another physician.

Leavitt's position--that the moral objections of a physician take priority over the moral decisions and medical needs of the woman--is contrary to widely held American values of church/state separation and respect for individual conscience, as shown in RCRC's ground-breaking study of health care decision-making.

This three-year study, "In Good Conscience - Guidelines for the Ethical Provision of Health Care in a Pluralistic Society," which was released in 2007, was conducted with Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, ethicists, theologians, healthcare providers, and healthcare advocates. A major finding was that American religious and secular values hold that medical professionals have a responsibility to provide timely and adequate medical care and that, while an individual's conscientious objection must be protected, it cannot be at the cost of good patient care and it cannot control or restrict the legal and moral decisions of the patient.

ACOG's principled and sensible policy would leave untouched a physician's right to refuse to provide abortions--a right that has been spelled out in law since 1973--but would ensure that the patient received the services she needed and wanted. Secretary Leavitt's dogmatic indifference to the patient is bad medicine, misguided ethics, and political pandering. A great nation must make room for diverse beliefs--especially a nation founded on the principle of religious freedom.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice includes the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, three bodies of the Presbyterian Church (USA), two agencies of the United Methodist Church, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Catholics for Choice, and other groups. RCRC's programs include Clergy for Choice, Seminarians for Choice, Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, the National Black Church Initiative, La Iniciativa Latina, public policy and public information and advocacy.

SOURCE Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
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