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Catholic Leader says Bush’s Overtures to US Bishops Increase Threat to Religious Freedom

April 20, 2001

Religious Freedom Key in Support for Legal Abortion

Washington, DC—Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling, speaking this Sunday at the Emergency Action for Women’s Lives protest march in the nation’s capital, will say that the most serious threat to legal abortion and to all reproductive choice is the continuing political opposition from the US Catholic bishops and the Bush administration’s efforts to bring the Catholic bishops into the Republican Party.

Organized by the National Organization for Women, the rally will decry the extremes of Bush’s policies towards women.  Kissling will join other leading progressive and women’s rights leaders including Patricia Ireland, Kate Michelman, Eleanor Smeal and Gloria Feldt outside the Capitol building at Upper Senate Park at 11:00 a.m.

Frances Kissling issued the following statement on Sunday’s action:

“There are many reasons to support a woman’s right to choose, but none is more central to American values than religious freedom. When the Republican Party, the Catholic bishops and the Supreme Court ignore the core value of religious freedom and coalesce to undermine a woman’s right to decide, not only are women’s lives threatened, but the constitution is endangered.

When one looks at George Bush’s record on reproductive health and rights, it appears that Bush has become more of a conservative Catholic than the pope. Not only has he opposed safe and legal abortion in the US and abroad, he has opposed family planning for women in the developing world, sexuality education for adolescents, and contraception for federal employees. In an attempt to win the favor of the Catholic bishops, he plans to provide even more money to Catholic healthcare agencies who routinely deny women access to these services.

A Republican Congress and an anti-choice Republican president present a major threat to women’s reproductive health and rights. We are one Supreme Court justice away from overturning the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade, which provided American women with the constitutional recognition that they are moral adults with the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

The most serious threat to legal abortion, indeed to all reproductive choice, is the political power of the US Catholic bishops and Bush’s efforts to bring the Catholic bishops into the Republican Party.

There are one billion Catholics worldwide and almost 25% of the US population is Catholic. The vast majority of these Catholics do not support the policies of George Bush nor the positions of the US bishops on reproductive health. The vast majority of Catholics place women’s lives and women’s health worldwide above the efforts of those in the church and in the state to control women’s lives and decisions.

NOW’s Emergency Action for Women’s Lives comes not a day too soon. Catholic men and women will work alongside people of other faiths as well as all women to protect religious freedom and reproductive choice.”

A delegation from CFFC and The “See Change” Campaign will also march on Sunday.  The “See Change” Campaign, endorsed by over 600 international organizations, calls for a review of the Vatican’s privileged status at the UN.