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Catholic Leader to Obama: We Still Hope for Change

November 7, 2012

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, made the following statement today:

“Catholics for Choice congratulates Barack Obama on winning a second term as president of the United States. We look forward to working with his administration for another four years. During the campaign we heard the president reassert his commitment to women’s reproductive health. Catholics across the country share this commitment, and reject the interference of the US Catholic bishops in politics and in women’s healthcare decisions and access.

“Initial results show that American Catholics rejected the bishops’ politicking and 50% put their support behind Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, reflecting polling that showed the majority of Catholic voters saw no obligation to vote as the bishops demanded. With the mandate of the American people behind him, we are anxious for the president to finish the work he began with his promise of change four years ago. While there have been significant and important advances since Mr. Obama took office, there is much work yet to be done, and millions of women in America will be watching to make sure their voices are heard after the election is over.

“We also hope Mr. Obama will stand firm in his promises to respect the religious liberty of all Americans. The administration should stop the preferential treatment that the US bishops have received in recent years. America’s 60 million Catholics are an important constituency, but policymakers should know that the US bishops do not speak for all Catholics in matters of public policy. In a poll released last month, Catholic voters overwhelmingly rejected the interference of the US Catholic bishops in politics and in women’s healthcare decisions and access. Catholics firmly believe that access to comprehensive healthcare is a matter of social justice, and no healthcare can be called comprehensive without reproductive healthcare including access to contraception and abortion. Catholics also believe that decisions about healthcare should be made by an individual and her doctor, not by her boss or her bishop.

“Unfortunately, the US government still puts too many restrictions on reproductive healthcare access at home and abroad, and too often the Catholic bishops are given license to run roughshod over the rights and consciences of people seeking care, or trying to provide it. In the coming years, we hope the president will make good on his promises to listen to women and their needs. In the next four years, we urge Mr. Obama to

  • Abolish the exemption for churches and other religious institutions from providing no-cost contraception in employee health plans;
  • Eliminate the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on federal funding for abortion;
  • Defend critical funding for reproductive healthcare under Title X, UNFPA and other family planning programs;
  • Provide access to safe abortion care for women serving in the military;
  • Remove the ban on support for family planning services under PEPFAR funding and programs;
  • Demand that healthcare institutions that take taxpayer money provide reproductive healthcare including contraception, emergency contraception and abortion;
  • Eliminate refusal clauses and exceptions for recipients of government grants that allow them to refuse to provide certain healthcare services, medicines or information; and
  • Respect the rights of the citizens of the District of Columbia to use their own tax money to help women who need access to abortion.

“Abortion and contraception are part of healthcare and they should be treated as such. Women’s reproductive health needs don’t wax and wane with the election cycles. Catholics for Choice commitment to women stands firm and we look forward to working again with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to do what’s right for women and their families.”