by NCJW Staff
On September 29, 2021, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), along with our partners Catholics for Choice, UltraViolet, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, MoveOn, and Moms Rising, delivered a joint petition (text below) urging the Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA, S 1975). The petition received more than 400,000 signatures from advocates and allies in all 50 states urging our lawmakers to safeguard the right to abortion care. While WHPA passed in the House of Representatives on September 24, 2021, it is still awaiting a vote on the Senate floor — which made the delivery of these signatures crucial for protecting abortion rights across the country.
NCJW CEO Shelia Katz stressed the following in her remarks during the delivery: “Since 2011, lawmakers have passed more than 500 restrictive abortion laws through state legislatures… The people most impacted [by this] are Black, Indigenous and People of Color, women, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and those working to make ends meet who already face obstacles to health care. This is a racial justice issue. This is an economic justice issue. This is a health care issue. And this is an issue of compassion and dignity.”
CEO Sheila Katz was joined by the President of Catholics for Choice, Jamie Manson, who emphasized how important crafting an interfaith petition is to protecting the moral values of everyone who made their voices heard: “I am honored to be here today representing the overwhelming majority of Catholics and people of faith who tirelessly advocate for reproductive freedoms, not in spite of our religious and moral values but because of them. Our petition reflects our diverse traditions but what we share is our commitment to compassion and dignity for all, particularly the most marginalized members of our society and our dedication to defending moral agency and true religious liberty.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, also joined the delivery of this petition. Both members of Congress have helped lead the charge of ensuring access to abortion care. As Sheila Katz concluded, “This Congress, with the full support of the Biden administration, must do everything possible to pass this critical legislation. The majority of voters, including people of faith, support reproductive freedom. The midterm elections are only a year away and we will remember whether this Congress represented the values of voters.”
People of Faith and Conscience Call on Congress to Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act
Abortion access and freedom of and from religion is under a coordinated and sustained attack. Indeed, Texas’ Senate Bill 8 and Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban (which the United States Supreme Court will consider this fall) represent just two examples of the nearly 500 state laws restricting access to reproductive health care — which range from outright abortion bans to biased counseling mandates to medically unnecessary regulations imposing onerous requirements on providers and patients — passed since 2011. And, as if this terrifying trend wasn’t enough, the Hyde Amendment has denied abortion coverage to those enrolled in federal health programs for over forty years, despite tireless efforts to end this discriminatory policy.
Even where abortion is available in theory, structural barriers resulting from long-standing social and economic inequities often make this basic health care inaccessible or unavailable, disproportionately harming Black communities and people of color, young people, low-income people, people living with disabilities, rural communities, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals.
As people of faith and conscience, we refuse to remain idle while the moral autonomy, health, and lives are at stake. We advocate for abortion rights and access for all because of the religious and moral values outlined below, not in spite of them.
- We believe in compassion and dignity for all and are committed to ensuring equity and justice for the most marginalized members of our society — particularly for Black communities and people of color, young people, low-income people, people living with disabilities, rural communities, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals.
- We value every individual as a moral agent free to make personal choices about their reproductive health based on their own circumstances, beliefs, and conscience without political interference.
- We reject efforts to impose a single religious viewpoint on all through law or regulation as well as efforts to manipulate and weaponize our nation’s founding principle of religious liberty to block access to or delay care.
Ultimately, we support the right of every person to access the full range of comprehensive, affordable, compassionate, and equitable reproductive health care, including abortion. We call on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), an important bill that would enact protections on the federal level to safeguard access to care and to secure constitutional rights, as a means to this end. It is the right thing to do.