Faith leaders call for religious liberty and Reproductive Health Act during Clergy Day at the Capitol



In meetings at the Capitol today, clergy leaders from around the state urged lawmakers to pass the Reproductive Health Act. “The Reproductive Health Act protects the religious liberty of all New Yorkers,” said Rabbi Dennis Ross, director of Concerned Clergy for Choice (CCC). “Given the strong religious support for access to contraception and abortion care, we clergy believe that each woman and her family should be able to arrive at their own spiritual decision as supported by their religious teachings. The Reproductive Health Act will protect this basic religious freedom.”


CCC is a multi-faith network of 1,000 clergy advocates. The organization’s legislative focus is passage of the Reproductive Health Act which is supported by seven out of 10 New York voters, including clergy and 70 percent of Catholics. 


“Every individual is entitled to honor the teachings of his or her own faith. New York policy makers must ensure that this religious liberty is upheld by passing the Reproductive Health Act,” said Ross. The Reproductive Health Act affirms the right to use or refuse contraception and access to abortion care if a woman’s health is endangered during pregnancy.


“The beliefs of one faith cannot be thrust upon all New Yorkers through legislative or regulatory policies,” said Ross. “All New Yorkers,” he continued, “are entitled to the same religious liberty—freedom from religion—in the laws they must live by. The Reproductive Health Act protects the religious liberty of all New Yorkers.”


Key activists represented Concerned Clergy for Choice, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice and Catholic Women Speak.


“When a woman experiences a serious health complication during her pregnancy, she may well be forced to choose between protecting her health or continuing that a very wanted but risky pregnancy. When this crisis happens late in pregnancy, a troubling gap in New York law compounds the tragedy, making it a potential crime to provide an abortion to protect her health. The Reproductive Health Act will ensure she can get safe, legal abortion care if that’s what she decides she needs, consistent with her faith, her spiritual wishes, and her religious leader’s recommendation. This is all about religious liberty because it’s about her honoring the teachings of her faith.” 


Clergy Day coincides with the publication of Rabbi Ross’ new book, All Politics Is Religious: Speaking Faith to the Media, Policy Makers, and Community, released by SkyLight Paths Publishing. All Politics Is Religious presents religious perspectives supporting access to reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion care, sex education for teens and marriage equality for same-gender couples. Ross’ commentaries on faith perspectives around reproductive health care policy have appeared online and in print, including in the New York Times. 


“Many faiths, including mine, recognize the moral good in making birth control available to women and families,” Ross said. “We hear all too much from clergy who see something sinful in birth control and expect  the government to impose their birth control restrictions onto the intimate lives of Americans. These birth control opponents do not speak for our diverse, thousand member clergy network.”