A new national survey of Catholic voters taken during early voting and on election night reveals a diverse group of voters who broadly support abortion rights and access to reproductive health care, including contraception covered by health insurance. Data also show Catholic voters place little importance on the views of U.S. bishops when deciding between candidates, and affirmatively reject the bishops’ attempts to use religion to discriminate.
“This poll shows what we’ve known for some time about Catholic voters; a majority believe abortion should be legal and covered by insurance, and that it can be a morally acceptable decision for someone to make,” said Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, which lifts up the voices of this majority of Catholics. “These numbers also show that the attempt by the bishops to redefine ‘religious liberty’ as a license to use our faith to deprive others of services, health care access and human rights has been soundly rejected by the laity. Ninety percent of people we surveyed felt strongly that no one should be denied health care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds agreed that companies should not be allowed to use the owners’ religious beliefs to discriminate against their employees or customers. Lay Catholics understand that these actions by the bishops are fundamentally unjust.”
See the full survey here.
The following can be attributed to Catholics for Choice President Jamie Manson:
“Americans must now contend with a Supreme Court that is even farther out of step with the rest of the country with it comes to birth control, abortion, LGBTQ rights and a number of other basic freedoms.
“With the confirmation of Judge Coney Barrett, six of the nine Supreme Court justices will now be Catholic, and – with the notable exception of Justice Sotomayor – extremely conservative. In its far-right positions, the court neither represents American Catholics nor the whole of the American people, and we are deeply concerned about the implications for reproductive freedom and religious liberty for all. . . .
“The fundamental Catholic value of conscience, as well as our constitutional rights as Americans, are made less secure by today’s Senate vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.”
Read the full statement here.
Jamie Manson Joins CFC as President
An internationally recognized, authoritative voice on gender equality, sexuality and reproductive health, thought leader, advocate, journalist Jamie Manson joins CFC as president.
“In her work, Jamie has exemplified the majority of Catholics, who we know support reproductive health access and who consult their conscience, not the hierarchy, on moral decisions,” said CFC Board Chair Victor Reyes. “We welcome her leadership in our mission to shape and advance sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being, and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.”
Jamie Manson bio.
Letters & Op-Eds
“. . . Our vote is our voice when defending, supporting and empowering those on the margins of society. We are also called to follow our conscience in all matters of moral decision-making and to respect one another’s right to do the same. There is no way that 300 bishops—or three—can represent the views of American Catholics. The church is the people in the pews. The people are pro-choice, and they vote like it.”
Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, Acting President
In the News
Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, acting president of Catholics for Choice, condemned Cardinal Raymond Burke’s comments as “out of touch,” and accused him of “weaponizing the Sacraments.”
“The majority of Catholics oppose denying candidates Communion for positions they hold,” she said. “In addition, the vast majority of U.S. Catholics support access to reproductive healthcare services for those who need them.”
For Immediate Release: September 29, 2020
WASHINGTON – Catholics for Choice, which lifts up the voices of the majority of Catholics who believe in reproductive freedom, is pleased to announce that after a nationwide, months-long search, Jamie Manson, a long-time Catholic journalist and thought leader, will take over as president of the organization starting October 19.
Statement from the Catholics for Choice Board of Directors Chair, Victor Reyes:
“As we set out on our search for a new president for Catholics for Choice, we knew we would need someone who has dedicated their life to boldly living Catholic values of social justice, formation and consultation of conscience, and profound respect for the moral agency of other people.
“We are proud to announce that our search has led us to Jamie Manson, a singular thought leader who is unafraid to forge a path that is deeply Catholic in its uplifting of the primacy of conscience in reproductive decisions. We are invigorated and inspired for the future under Jamie’s leadership.
Read the full statement here.
Catholics Reject Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett
26 September 2020
WASHINGTON – Catholics for Choice calls on the U.S. Senate to safeguard the fundamental freedoms of all Americans, by ensuring that any nominee to the Supreme Court is willing to apply the law impartially and equitably, and rejects discrimination based on religion. Based on her public statements and judicial record, the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett does not meet this critically important standard.
View full statement here.
Life after Roe
The US Supreme Court recently affirmed individual moral agency and access to essential, time-sensitive abortion care for all women, including the most vulnerable. Despite the reassuring decision in June Medical Services v. Russo, that affirmation may soon shift with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the political brawl that has ensued with the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. What happens next for the Court will determine whether Roe v. Wade will stand, along with the right to decide our own best path, in pregnancy and in life, or whether our bodily autonomy will be restricted by the ideas of an ultraconservative few. In this issue of Conscience we explore the possibility of Life after Roe. Whether overturned outright by an increasingly right-leaning Roberts’ Court or slowly shredded by state policymakers in collaboration with US Catholic bishops and conservative allied groups, we invite you to join us in exploring what Life after Roe might entail in a world where the landmark law remains under attack on several fronts.
Catholics for Choice Mourns the Loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Urges the Senate to Honor Her Wishes
WASHINGTON – Catholics for Choice mourns the passing of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a defender of the rights of women and consistently supported the precedent of Roe v. Wade which has been the basis of protecting access to safe, legal reproductive healthcare, including abortion since the Court ruled on the landmark case in 1973.
Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, acting president of Catholics for Choice made the following statement:
See full statement.
CFC Statement in Support of Helms Amendment Repeal
Washington, DC—Catholics for Choice has joined coalition partners in endorsing the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which would repeal the Helms Amendment, which bars U.S. foreign assistance funding for abortion, expanding abortion access globally.
Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, Acting President of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement:
Catholics for Choice is proud to stand with moral leaders like Rep. Jan Schakowsky to right the wrong of the Helms Amendment, an affront to our values as Americans and as Catholics—freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the Catholic call to care the marginalized of society. For more than four decades, the Helms Amendment has endangered the lives of the most vulnerable people in the world— depriving them of both moral autonomy and basic reproductive health care. It is unconscionable for this dangerous and unjust policy to continue. Congress should pass the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act, now!
See the full coalition press release.
Supreme Court Deals Double Blow to Religious Liberty
Washington, DC— The US Supreme Court has issued two decisions that corrupt one of our most sacred freedoms.
In Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania (consolidated with Trump v. Pennsylvania), the Court upheld a Trump administration rule allowing broad exemptions to an Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that obligated insurers to provide free birth control coverage as part of most health care plans. This decision allows employers to obstruct women’s access to contraceptives on religious or on “moral” grounds.
In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berry (consolidated with St. James School v. Biel), the Court ruled that federal employment discrimination protections do not apply to employees whose duties include “religious instruction” as defined (however broadly) by the employer, creating a huge exception to the nation’s fair employment laws.
Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, Acting President of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement, condemning these consequential decisions in a statement.
Read the full statement.
CFC Commends the Court’s Common Sense Decision to Vacate Restrictive Louisiana Law
Washington, DC— Catholics for Choice is relieved to see the common sense decision announced today by the US Supreme Court in June Medical v Russo, upholding its own 2016 landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Today, the Court affirmed individual moral agency and access to essential, time-sensitive abortion care for all women, including the most vulnerable.
Catholics for Choice was proud to help lead a coalition of 38 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and interdenominational organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief that highlighted our shared belief regarding an individual’s right to make moral choices based on her own conscience when deciding on reproductive healthcare options.
Catholics for Choice Applauds US Supreme Court’s Decision as a Win for Social Justice
Washington, DC— Catholics for Choice applauds today’s decision of the US Supreme Court on Bostock v. Clayton County, GA and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, affirming employees’ protection against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and use of reproductive health services under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The economic hardship wrought by the COVID-19 recession, with 40 million unemployed, profoundly illustrates that people, especially the poor and hardest hit, need legal assurances that their livelihood will not be subject to the religious beliefs and prejudices of their employers.
Catholics Believe Black Lives Matter.
Catholics for Choice affirms the value and dignity of every person and stands in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in the movement for racial justice. As the nation and indeed world grieves the black lives lost to the violence of racism and bigotry, we mourn their lives and say, “No more!” This is a watershed moment in which our faith’s fundamental principle of social justice demands we stand in solidarity with the vulnerable and lift up the voices of the marginalized in our society.
Catholics for Choice’s work is rooted in our core values. Three of these—Commitment, Compassion and Courage—compel us to shout our deep feelings from the rooftops. Two others—Honesty and Respect—call us to step back to honor those most affected by the injustices still present in our society.
As we honor and amplify the authentic voices seeking racial justice, we recognize that reproductive equality without racial equality is no equality at all. Reproductive justice without racial justice is no justice at all.
Informed by our faith’s tradition of social justice and the belief in the dignity of each person, we vow to act justly, show mercy, walk humbly and continue to and affirm: Black Lives Matter.
CFC condemns USAID’s opportunistic efforts to block humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations
Statement by Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, CFC Acting President
Catholics for choice is proud to join the International Women’s Health Coalition and dozens of other social justice and civil rights organizations as signatories on a letter that defends the work of the United Nations and the World Health Organization against USAID’s zealous, dangerous attacks.
In the NewsLetters & Op-Eds
Conservatives privilege ideology over expertise in this global health crisis
Medical professionals across the country are on the front lines of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, putting their own health and well-being at risk every single day. Shame on Fr. Frank Pavone for attacking any group of dedicated health care providers at such a time as this in the name of imposing his ultraorthodox, ultraconservative politics on Americans and for his misleading claim to speak for all Catholics.
And shame on states like Ohio, Texas and Louisiana for exploiting this medical crisis to advance their politics at the expense of women exercising their moral agency in seeking the full range of reproductive health care services.
Read the full op-ed in The Hill.
Kansas is home to more than 400,000 Catholics, making up 14% of the state’s population. Decades of polling tells us that a solid majority of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in the United States and six in 10 Catholics believe abortion can be a moral choice. And the Catholics in Kansas agree.
We respectfully submit this testimony in opposition to HCR 5019 and SCR 1613. These measures are a violation of the core principles our Catholic faith teaches, namely the primacy of conscience, the imperative for social justice and the respect for religious freedom.
National Religious Freedom Day Statement by Acting President Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, January 16, 2020
National Religious Freedom Day commemorates the 1786 adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. In this landmark legislation, which inspired the First Amendment to the US Constitution, Jefferson asserts that efforts to coerce the faith or conscience of others “tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.”
It is just this sort of hypocrisy and meanness that we have seen from the Trump administration for the last three years.
Statement by Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, CFC Acting President, on the Trump Administration’s new final rule mandating separate premiums: “This is yet another of the Trump administration’s blatant attempts to move abortion out of reach for any and all who need it. The onerous rules will force insurers to stop offering coverage for abortions services in many if not all of the private insurance plans. Not only does this places an additional financial burden on some of the most marginalized in our society, it represents yet another attack on American’s ideal of religious freedom by imposing one narrow set of religious views into public law.
Read the full statement.
A Message from Acting President Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe
For more than 45 years, CFC has worked to engage, educate and embolden prochoice Catholics in the US and abroad. With all that we have to face, there has never been a more important time to lift those voices, bolster our community, strengthen and support prochoice Catholic elected officials, and equip advocates and allies with tools to confront the continued onslaught of antichoice policies around the world. That is why I am excited to take up the mantle as Acting President of Catholics for Choice and lead our organization into the future of faith-based advocacy for reproductive health, rights and religious liberty for all, both at home and abroad.
After a successful 24 years at CFC, Jon O’Brien had decided to move on to pursue other career opportunities. Jon will continue to work with us through the end of the year to help with our transition. As we begin a new chapter in our organization’s history, I think it important to recognize all we have accomplished together. Since Jon became president 12 years ago, CFC has:
- Conducted our unique and dynamic trainings in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States, helping more than 4,200 activists, partners, providers, thought leaders, and policymakers to hone their skills and ready their tools to fight for reproductive freedom for every individual;
- Engaged and empowered prochoice Catholics across all 50 US states and the District of Columbia to send more than 40,000 messages supporting prochoice policy to their elected representatives, , including our network of prochoice policymakers;
- Played a critical role to help push for abortion law reform in Chile, Ireland and (hopefully soon) in Argentina;
- Worked to help make possible contraceptive law reform in the Philippines;
- Hosted in person screenings of CFC films and videos for more 3,500 activists, partners and policymakers and allowed countless more to watch, share and engage online; and
- Made the case for prochoice Catholic thought and opinion with US and international audiences through well over 800 news media interviews, mentions and original opinion pieces in outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Ms. Magazine, The Irish Times (Ireland), El Mundo (Spain), National Catholic Reporter, Agence France Presse, Religion News Service, PBS Newshour, National Public Radio (NPR), Time Magazine, Fox News, The Hill, MSNBC and CNN en Espanol.
I’m proud to say I have spent 10 of these past 12 years working closely with Jon to help make these achievements possible. My decade at CFC has been more rewarding than I can truly say. Those who know me have often heard me say this is my dream job, allowing me to marry my faith and my political experience with a deep sense of commitment to a cause near and dear to my heart. I’m ready to take on the opportunities and challenges ahead and am committed to continue raising the bar for CFC’s future work.
Most of all, I am awed by the renowned history of this important organization I am now privileged to lead. I stand on the shoulders of the dynamic leaders who have come before me. Together with our CFC team of staff, activists, and supporters, I know we will carry our work to new heights and I look forward to what’s next!
What is life? When and how does it begin? How do we know it’s present? Can we end it? And, if so, under what circumstances?
Around the world people are debating, discussing, arguing and advocating about when human life begins and when it begins to have a moral value. At the very center of the abortion wars is a fundamental difference of opinion about the importance that people assign to life in the womb.
The Value of Life: Scientific and Moral Reflections on Abortion, the new film from Catholics for Choice, explores these critical questions for our age. We brought together experts from science, psychology, medicine and theology to wrestle with questions about the value of life in the womb.
Watch the full film above, or check out each lecture from our experts below.
Life, Abortion and Psychology
Associate Professor in Psychology
National University of Singapore
Life, Abortion and Science
Progress Educational Trust
Life, Abortion and Medical Care
Life, Abortion and Patient Care
British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)
Life, Abortion and Religious Ethics
Associate Professor of Religion
University of Southern California
November 22, 2019
Catholics for Choice and 25 faith groups today urged members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to block the Trump administration’s implementation of the Title X rule and restore integrity to the program.
The signers “are united in our alarm that family planning providers are caught between meeting the needs of their patients and being forced to follow an unethical policy that robs clinicians of their ability to properly care for their patients.”
“As organizations and communities committed to the protection of religious freedom for every individual, we both expect respect for our own sincerely held beliefs and believe it is wrong to impose those beliefs on others. We are deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s deliberate misinterpretation of the foundational principle of religious liberty as that which protects only the expression of one narrow set of religious beliefs. We strongly believe, as people of faith, that it is wrong to allow the imposition of one set of beliefs on society as a whole at the behest of a powerful few. The religious freedom guaranteed by our Constitution encompasses both freedom of religion and the freedom from any one set of religious beliefs being encoded into public law.”
Put Patients First!
Read the whole letter here.
The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—exists throughout recorded history. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure and other techniques. The sole mention of the practice in the Bible is, in fact, an herbal recipe for inducing abortion.
In 19th-century England, after it was found that a spike in miscarriages was the result of lead poisoning caused by the metal pipes that fed the water supply, women began using diachylon, a substance with a high concentration of lead, to induce miscarriage. Despite bans on both sides of the Atlantic, women found ways to end unwanted pregnancies. The 20th century saw technological advances, such as manual vacuum aspiration, allowing even the most modest facilities to provide safe abortion care. In this issue of Conscience, we take a look at what’s next for abortion care in the decades ahead.
In the News
Mimicking the Global Gag Rule that prevents overseas health-care providers from presenting their patients a full set of reproductive health options, the administration has enacted what amounts to a domestic gag rule that restricts free speech and freedom of choice within our own country. Clinics receiving family planning grants to provide contraception, STD tests and other much-needed services to low-income patients will have to stop providing abortion referrals or lose their funding.
Catholics in particular should be especially angered by people trampling the rights of the already downtrodden. Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, Catholics use birth control and Catholics also access Title X services.
Ninety-eight percent of sexually active Catholic women have used a form of birth control banned by the Vatican. Though our own church hierarchy has labored to prevent Catholics in the pews from using birth control and historically overridden rights, choice and conscience, they failed.
Read the full op-ed at The Hill.
On Sunday June 23, 2019, Catholics for Choice published a full-page ad, running throughout the Chicago area, which addresses these timely issues around the proper role for church and state when it comes to matters of public policy.
Click here to see the full ad.
Letters & Op-Eds
Alabama’s HB 314 is an immoral, extremist action by anti-abortion zealot’s hell bent on taking America backwards and is a slap in the face to core American values of freedom and liberty. Having failed time and time again to persuade the majority of Americans to embrace their anti-freedom agenda, abortion opponents are using the legislative process to put safe medical care out of reach.
The grotesque irony is that the 25 men who voted for this despicable measure will never have to face the realities of unsafe abortion. Insulated by privilege and power, the rich can circumvent any restriction with their pocket books — it is the poor who suffer when choice is denied.
Of course, these legislators freely admit that their extremist bill is just a play to trigger a Supreme Court battle over Roe v Wade. Drunk on the reckless rhetoric of a president beholden to them, these anti-abortion fundamentalists are spoiling for a fight. They want to play their political game and if that means sacrificing the health, safety and freedom of women and girls in Alabama, so be it.
It is a dark day for freedom in America.
Click here to read the rest.
Letters & Op-Eds
Re “The War of Words on Abortion” (Op-Ed, Jan. 10):
Charles C. Camosy is wrong in throwing up a smokescreen to pretend that the abortion debate is a struggle over language.
Pro-choice victories in Ireland, Chile and likely soon in Argentina clearly demonstrate that increasingly, on a global scale, people in Catholic-majority countries are taking a stand for the values, morals and ethics of defending a woman’s right to choose.
Those who favor women’s rights are not running away from fundamental principles like conscience; they are embracing the reality that women’s rights are human rights. They understand the challenges to women’s health and well-being when we deny their right to make free choices over their bodies.
This letter was originally published in the New York Times.