Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yes, We Can -- The Sexual and Reproductive Rights Goals for President Obama

You're probably receiving emails from a number of organizations about their hopes for the new Obama administration.

I thought I'd share with you the letter we sent to both campaigns in August, with a little bit of updating just for the President elect. Let me know what YOUR priorities are.

Dear President-Elect Obama: [i loved typing that right now!!]

Too often in the public debates around moral issues, it would seem that the only religious perspective is a conservative one. In your experience, however, you have heard the voices of thousands of religious leaders who hold progressive views on such issues as reproductive choice, sexuality education, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Our hope is that you will make sexual and reproductive justice a priority of your campaign – as a matter of sound public policy, and as an expression of faith.

The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing is a national, multifaith organization dedicated to promoting sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society. Our network of more than 3,500 clergy, theologians and religious leaders supports reproductive choice, access to sexual and reproductive health care, comprehensive sexuality education, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.

Specifically, we call for the following commitments to be included in the platform and your public addresses:

1. An end to more than 10 years of federal support for ineffective, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and a renewed commitment to comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education throughout the life span.

As religious leaders, we hope that young people will learn about their sexuality not primarily from the entertainment media or their peers, but from their parents, faith communities and school-based programs that address the biological, psychological, cultural, ethical and spiritual dimensions of sexuality.

The research is conclusive: Teaching about contraception is not associated with an increase in sexual activity or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Adolescents who receive comprehensive sexuality education have a substantially lower risk of teenage pregnancy than those who receive abstinence-only education or no sex education at all. Abstinence-only education has no impact on reducing teen pregnancy, delaying sexual initiation, or reducing STIs.

2. Full access to affordable, high-quality sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, emergency contraception, abortion, prenatal care, adoption, HIV/STI prevention and treatment, and safe and proven assisted reproductive technologies. We also urge support for a global HIV/AIDS program free of abstinence-only restrictions.

It is precisely because we regard life as sacred that we believe it should not be created carelessly. As religious leaders committed to women's moral agency, we cannot support any strategy to make abortion more difficult to obtain. Rather, we must ensure that women have both the motivation (good education, jobs and hope for their futures) and the resources (including comprehensive sexuality education and access to high-quality family planning services) that will enable them to avoid unintended pregnancies.
We oppose measures that would limit access to reproductive services, such as coercive parental consent and notification requirements, and denying international family planning assistance to agencies in developing countries. We call instead for providing resources for parental and adolescent counseling, and for offering women full and accurate information about pregnancy options.

Recognizing that rates of unintended births are five times higher among low-income women, that more than half of the unwanted children in the U.S. are born into poverty, and that HIV/AIDS infections disproportionately affect poor communities and people of color, we must ensure that all citizens, regardless of income or geography, have access to sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services.

3. Full equality – including marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act – for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families.

Following the recent defeats at the polls, this is more important than ever. I loved that you mentioned gay and straight people in your acceptance speech. I also pray that you are more open to marriage equality than your last statements in the campaign indicated. Earlier on you indicated that you believed that religious marriage belonged to religions to decide; but that no one should be denied civil rights. Marriage equality is about equal rights.

Living in a time of rapid social change calls us to recognize the diversity of God’s creation and to honor the many ways that people live and love. America is the most religiously diverse nation in the world. No single religious voice can speak for all traditions on issues of marriage and sexuality, nor should government take sides on religious differences. Rather, religious groups must have the freedom to decide for themselves who is eligible for marriage in their own tradition, and clergy should be free to solemnize marriages without state interference.
America also is a nation of diverse families. Civil rights protections and the legal benefits of marriage strengthen families, enabling them to build stable, empowering and respectful relationships. Yet current law excludes married same-sex couples from 1,138 federal benefits, including Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits and tax benefits. Civil rights protections and marriage benefits are particularly vital to the well-being of millions of American children being raised by same-sex couples. I hope that you and the Democratic Congress will move to revoke the DOMA legislation.

Our positions on these issues are grounded not only in social and scientific research, but also in the experience of individuals and communities who are frequently overlooked or marginalized in our society. Our positions uphold a consistent Biblical mandate, expressed in other sacred texts as well, to love, do justice, seek equality, and act with compassion. Most important, they reflect a faithful affirmation of sexuality as a divine blessing, an embodied capacity for expressing love and generating life, for building relationships of mutual respect, and for promoting the well-being of people and society.

We stand ready to be of help. We look forward to working with you to achieve the dreams of equality for all. Yes, we can.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this, Debra, and for sending to our next president.

In solidarity,
marlene pray