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Another Voice: Reproductive Health Act has supporters among clergy

By Dennis Ross

Religious leaders across Western New York and the rest of the state applauded the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which ensures that each New Yorker receives the protections of Roe v. Wade throughout pregnancy.

So it was disappointing to see local news recently report only one side of the religious story about RHA, told by clergy abortion opponents who mischaracterized the intent and content of this badly needed legislation. The public can easily arrive at the wrong impression about clergy and RHA, mistakenly concluding that all faiths are against. This rabbi would like to set the record straight, first about RHA.

RHA moves laws regulating abortion into the public health code, where they belong. It ensures that New Yorkers receive the protections of Roe v. Wade especially when a pregnancy threatens someone’s life or health, or when the pregnancy is not viable. RHA was not an expansion of abortion rights. Instead, it codified the current federal protections in New York law. As Roe continues to come under attack in Washington and state capitals across the country, thank God RHA is now the law in New York.

Let’s also make the religious record clear. I direct Concerned Clergy for Choice, a multi-faith, statewide network affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York and Planned Parenthood across New York State. More than 60 clergy from Buffalo and nearby communities – as many as were cited as opposed – have signed an open letter affirming the moral goodness in access to contraception, sex education for teens and ensuring that abortion remains safe and legal.

These local and regional clergy are among 500 New York State clergy endorsers, ministers – from Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ communities and more – rabbis, and leaders of other faiths. We come to these supportive positions as pastoral counselors to people making medical decisions.

We know the importance of protecting a woman and her medical provider as she decides whether to raise a child, place a child into adoption or foster care, or end her pregnancy through abortion. Life is complicated enough without politicians barging into the doctor’s office with unwanted faith restrictions.

We religious leaders remind all New Yorkers that RHA upholds religious liberty by protecting each woman as she follows her faith teachings and the demands of conscience, as she determines the path that is right for her. We are grateful that New York is blessed with elected officials who refuse to impose their religion into the private lives of others.

Rabbi Dennis Ross directs Concerned Clergy for Choice.

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