Before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, clergy and lay leaders from many faith traditions provided women with referrals to safe abortion services. The work of these clergy people remained largely off the radar of their congregants, nor was it connected to broader issues contributing to women's need for pregnancy termination through abortion.
In 1973, several clergy people came together to take their discreet abortion referral service out from behind closed doors and into pews and voting booths. The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) was formed and clergy voices were added to the growing national discourse about family planning and abortion. As it grew, the Coaltion exhibited its commitment to a broader framework of issues. In 1993, RCAR changed its name to become the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), encompassing a commitment to a broad spectrum of reproductive freedom, choice, equality, and justice. The organization serves as a unique interfaith voice in the larger conversation about reproductive justice. RCRC's member organizations are religiously and theologically diverse, yet are unified in the commitment to preserve reproductive choice as a basic part of religious liberty.
A brief visit to the RCRC website (www.rcrc.org) makes the connections between spirituality and reproductive justice very clear. RCRC'srational, healing perspective looks beyond the bitter abortion debate to seek solutions to pressing problems through clergy and congregational support and faith-based messages. The Coalition focuses on unintended pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS, inadequate health care and health insurance, and the severe reduction in reproductive health care services. The Coalition supports access to sex education, family planning and contraception, affordable child care and health care, and adoption services as well as safe, legal, abortion services, regardless of income. The Coalition's work centers on public policies that ensure the medical, economic, and educational resources necessary for healthy families and communities that are equipped to nurture children in peace and love.
The Coalition is currently comprised of over 40 organizations representing 15 different faith traditions and religious groups! The organization disseminates religious messages and resources while coordinating programming suitable for congregations and religious communities affirming reproductive justice. Signature programs include:
- Clergy for Choice Network:RCRC's Clergy for Choice community trains clergy to counsel women facing problem pregnancies and reproductive loss, connects clergy to public speaking events and worship services, facilitates advocacy efforts through lobby visits with elected officials and opportunities to testify before state legislatures, and produces materials to assist with educational programs for congregants about local and national issues
- Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom (SYRF):SYRF educates, organizes and empowers youth and young adults (ages 16-30) to put their faith into action and advocate for pro-choice social justice. SYRF creates venues for youth education and activism, designs youth-specific materials, and builds lasting relationships with youth oriented organizations, campus clergy, and youth programs of our denominations. Since young people lead this program, SYRF lifts up pro-faith youth and young adult perspectives on reproductive choice issues and provides young people with tools and opportunities to advocate for choice on their campuses, high schools, congregations and communities.
- Black Church Initiative:The Black Church Initiative addresses teen childbearing, sexuality education, unintended pregnancies, and other reproductive health issues within the context of African American culture and religion. Within the Black Church Initiative, several specific programs include:
- Keeping It Real!:A Faith-Based Teen Dialogue Model on Sex and Sexuality provides African American Christian educators, ministry leaders and youth ministers with a sexuality education model to address teen pregnancy prevention and better provide young men and women with the resources needed to make healthy, responsible decisions as spiritual and sexual beings.
- Breaking the Silence:A Faith-Based Sexuality Curriculum for local congregations is a sexuality education model developed to assist local congregations, parents, guardians, and clergy address sex and sexuality to assist teens in making healthy life choices.
- Generation toGeneration: From Silence to Shouting:A special mothers and daughters (13-18) project developed to reduce teen pregnancy in Ward 8 in the District of Columbia. The year-long effort is designed to collaborate with faith and community-based agencies to strengthen relationships, engage participants in cultural and skills building activities, increase self-esteem and self
- La Iniciativa Latina:The goal of La Iniciativa Latina is to assist Latino communities in addressing human sexuality from a faith informed perspective. This assistance will be made possible through education, training, and open forums on subjects including but not limited to, comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health and justice education, teen pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS from a religious perspective that reflects an understanding of Latino culture.
For more information, please visit the RCRC websitewww.rcrc.org