“Justice for all just ain’t specific enough.”
From Glory by John Legend and Common
This Oscar-winning song from the movie “Selma” was used to frame the many conversations that took place at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) council meeting I attended in Washington DC this week. The focus of much of this was how we could most effectively and respectfully be faith-based allies with the groups of women of color across the country that have been pursuing reproductive justice for many years now. Reproductive Justice, it has come to be understood, is work that fights against all of the cultural, political, economic and structural restraints, that limit women’s access to healthcare and full reproductive choice. To seek comprehensive social justice for women and girls; and in doing so, secure the right of all women to have children, not to have children, and to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment.
It is still about continuing to fight back efforts to restrict access to contraception and abortion, and it is now more than ever also about combating the many other ways in which women can be blocked in having the final say about pregnancy.
The priority commitment for UUWF to focus on reproductive justice has led us to sign on to numerous letters and petitions to our elected officials on pertinent issues outside what we have commonly understood as reproductive rights. Under this expanded definition, we have opposed the cynical strategy, in the guise of religious liberty, that would enable companies and local governments to deny covering medical procedures and other services should they offend a particular religious sensibility, or refuse to employ people whose lifestyle (GLBTQ, single parenthood) that may be in violation of a particular set of beliefs.
In recent months, we have also weighed in on better reporting of and processes for stopping sexual assault in the military; on the culture of rape and its poor policing on college campuses; on drug-testing for food stamp recipients and the chilling impact it may have on seeking prenatal care, and coming up wholeheartedly supporting the FAMILY ACT, which calls for a national policy of paid family and medical leave insurance.
We’re not stretching too thin. We are in fact stretching our understanding of what specifically hinders or helps women’s lives.
Torpedoing Aid to Sex Trafficking Victims
In the course of our gathering in DC, my RCRC council colleague Reverend Susan Burton, who does advocacy for women and children for the United Methodist Church, gathered signatures for an urgent letter to our Senators urging them to oppose a bill — as it stands now — that would establish a fund for trafficking victims, paid into by the convicted perpetrators. This previously bipartisan legislation has been amended with a provision that specifically prohibits any of the money being used for abortion.
While federal law has long prohibited the use of budgeted funds for abortion except in very limited circumstances, this would be a crippling new twist on such a ban: instead of the annually-voted-on budget provision, this injunction — except for rape, incest or maternal endangerment — would be permanent. And it would now additionally extend to this privately financed fund.
Our Senators need to hear from us with a message that commends their humanitarian focus on the many victims of enslavement while urging them to remove the mean spirited and unnecessary anti-choice language.