CFC Testimony in support of DC Council bill B23-434, the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019

Council of the District of Columbia

Committee on Government Operations

John A. Wilson Building, Room 123

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20004


Dear Chairman Todd and Members of the Committee:

My name is Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe and I am the Acting President of Catholics for Choice. Our organization advocates for and affirms the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their reproductive health. We work to ensure that all people have access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare services across the United States, in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa—and we have done so from our headquarters on U Street in the District of Columbia for more than 45 years.

On behalf of Catholics for Choice, I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to express our strong support for B23-434, the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019.

During our four decades, Catholics for Choice has served as a voice for the majority of Catholics—more than one-half million here in the District of Columbia—who support access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion. We advocate for policies that allow each individual the freedom to make their own moral decisions about their health and their lives.

As a prochoice Catholic, I am proud to represent the vast majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who believe that our tradition supports a woman’s right to follow her conscience on important moral matters, such as deciding whether to continue a pregnancy or not.  Decades of polling tell us that a solid majority of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in the United States and that six in 10 Catholics believe abortion can be a moral choice.

This should come as no surprise when we consider that Catholic women seek abortion and contraception at rates identical to women of other faiths and those who do not identify with any particular faith.

Catholic teaching regards our conscience as the final arbiter in any moral decision each of us must make.  It is both a gift and a responsibility that we are called to follow our conscience and to respect the right of others to do the same.

Opponents of B23-434 disrespect the rights of others.  They would have you believe the misinformation put out by those who disregard an individual’s rights to reproductive autonomy and freedom and ask you allow them to usurp those individuals’ decisions for their own ideas. We have seen the ghastly lies about this legislation and the brave moral leaders who support it not just here in our nation’s capital but in the many states where we work.

I have been fortunate to call the District and the surrounding area home for thirty-two years.  My time in college here in the city and the decades I spent working here since have seen time and again District residents’ beliefs and needs ignored by those who would undermine the autonomy of this body to make decisions in the best interests of our home.  As a former government employee, and spouse of a current federal employee, my access to care might well have been curtailed by federal policies which ignore my conscience-based healthcare decisions were it not for this Council’s continued fight to protect the bodily autonomy and our personal right to decide our own healthcare.

To be clear, the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019 would acknowledge the inherent dignity of each person by ensuring equitable access to reproductive healthcare services—including abortion—for all the people of the District of Columbia, regardless of their individual situations and what happens nationally.

I urge you to resist the pressure and intimidation from a vocal minority seeking your help in restricting the moral autonomy of their neighbors—be it the US Catholic Conference or the antichoice groups determined to curtail a basic human, civil and moral right.

Catholics for Choice is proud to join our partners in support of B23-434, the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019 because we care about the people of the District of Columbia, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, and trust them to make their own decisions based on their own conscience. I urge you to support this important bill. It is the right thing to do and it is what the residents of the District of Columbia should be able to expect from this body in representing them and their interests.

Thank you.

Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe

Acting President

Catholics for Choice

1436 U Street NW

Washington, DC 20009

Catholics for Choice