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Women Have the Moral Capacity to Make Their Own Choices

April 25, 2004

Statement of Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for a Free Choice

WASHINGTON, DC—We stand here hundreds of thousands strong, and we know that for each of us, there are countless people around the world who join us in spirit. We stand here and demonstrate to the Bush administration, the US Congress, and the world that millions of Americans of all persuasions – Catholic and non-Catholic, people of faith and no faith, female and male, young and old, gay and straight, affluent and disadvantaged – fervently assert the health and well being of women as a central concern.

We are here to send a message to the government that American people are prochoice. We want to make it clear that Catholic people both in this country and worldwide support family planning. Catholics support condom use to prevent the spread of HIV. Catholics believe in emergency contraception and comprehensive sexuality education as means of preventing unintended pregnancy. Catholics believe that women must have the right to make personal, private decisions about when, whether, and how to have children.

Catholics make up 23% of the US population and a full two-thirds of Catholics want abortion to be legal. Catholics believe that women are moral agents who can make their own decisions on complex moral issues. Catholics believe that women can be trusted to make sound choices based on ethical reasoning.

It is sometimes hard for Catholics, who are overwhelmingly prochoice on all reproductive health issues, to call their own religious leaders fundamentalists. But the fact is that every form of fundamentalism has as one of its central tenets the control of women’s lives, especially over reproduction. There is no religion that is more rigid in its attempt to control women’s reproductive lives than the Catholic church. No other religion has blanket prohibitions against contraception for married couples and against abortion for all reasons, including when a woman’s life is in danger. The Vatican uses its influence and authority to prevent Catholic hospitals throughout the world from providing education and services that would prevent HIV/AIDS and the loss of women’s lives in childbirth. They deny women access to abortion and emergency contraception. The Vatican is exporting its anti-women, anti-family planning, anti-condom agenda to the rest of the world, and people are dying.

For too long, fundamentalists – be they the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family or Catholic bishops – have monopolized the moral lexicon of reproductive rights. I stand before you today to announce that people from all walks of life believe that women have the right, the responsibility and the moral capacity to make sound decisions about childbearing.

Our message to all policy makers, in the US and abroad, at the UN and in other international institutions, is that Catholics are prochoice, and you will hear our prochoice voices ringing in your ears until such time that you permit all women to make our own reproductive choices.

—Statement ends—