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Catholics Speak Up for Consciences of DC Workers

June 23, 2014

Today Catholics for Choice presented testimony supporting the District of Columbia’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014—a bill that would ensure all workers in the city are able to make their own reproductive health decisions without fear of retribution from their employers. This bill would guarantee that no matter what happens at a national level, DC residents will still have the freedom of conscience guaranteed to them by our Constitution and supported by our Catholic faith.

Catholics for Choice shared why Catholics support the bill in testimony presented by David Nolan, communications director:

“Our support for this bill is grounded in our Catholic faith. As Catholics, we believe that every person has an ability and obligation to follow his or her own conscience when making critical moral decisions, including decisions about reproductive healthcare. Conscience may be guided but never coerced, and one cannot use one’s conscience to trample on the rights of others. Workers therefore have a conscience-based right to make reproductive healthcare decisions without interference from their employers.

“As Catholics, we also believe in social justice and human dignity for all people—no worker should be relegated to second-class status just because of where she works. We also believe, in accordance with our Catholic tradition, that religious freedom has two sides: freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Employers have a right to their beliefs, but they do not have a right to use those beliefs to interfere with the exercise of another’s conscience.”

Domestic program associate Katie Breslin testified on behalf of two Catholic women who both have worked for DC-based employers that restricted their rights to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions:

“As a Catholic woman, I urge you to pass this legislation to ensure that women have safe access to birth control and other reproductive health needs. I have been an employee at a Catholic church in Washington, DC, and were I to still be employed by the Archdiocese of Washington, I would not have had the freedom to make this statement to you, for fear of losing my job. So I feel the need to say this on behalf of the women employed by religious institutions who fear getting fired for using reproductive health services, and on behalf of the women and men who fear voicing support for reproductive health rights.” – Margaret

“Yes, I’m one of the 99 percent of sexually active Catholics who has used contraceptives. And because of loopholes, I had to pay out of pocket for what should be a basic healthcare right. That’s why I support this bill. I know what it’s like to have a healthcare decision made for me because of someone else’s interpretation of our faith. I’m not sure when federal protections will be in place for women like me, so I commend the DC City Council’s effort to protect the conscience rights of Washingtonians who want to work without fear.” – Katie (a third-generation DC resident)

You can view their full testimonies here and here.

Catholics for Choice urged the members of the committee to support the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 and expressed their hopes that the council will pass it into law.