From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ENS - Episcopalians show support for reproductive freedom at

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Tue, 27 Apr 2004 13:53:07 -0700

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Episcopalians show support for reproductive freedom at march

By Matthew Davies and Maureen Shea

ENS 042704-1

[ENS] Episcopalians joined more than one million people, representing 100 
religious and religiously-affiliated organizations and congregations, to 
march on Washington, D.C., April 25 in support of womens reproductive 
rights at home and abroad. The march recorded the largest ever crowd count 
for women's rights in the nation's capital.

The "March for Women's Lives" was co-sponsored by the Religious Coalition 
for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), an alliance of national organizations from 
major faith groups, local affiliates, the national Clergy for Choice 
Network, Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, and the Black Church 
Initiative. According to its mission statement, RCRC supports the 
constitutional right to abortion and solutions to problems such as the 
spread of HIV/AIDS, inadequate health care and health insurance, and the 
"severe reduction" in reproductive health care services. The Episcopal 
Church and the Episcopal Women's Caucus are both members of RCRC.

RCRCs president, the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, welcomed the gathering with 
assurances that the religious community is behind them. "You can't sustain 
a movement on outrage," she said. "We are here to support the providers, 
politicians, women and activists, and let them know that we respect them 
for their work and their commitment." Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest, added 
that a punk rock concert was held in Washington April 24 to enlist young 
people in the movement.

Also marching behind the Episcopal Church banner were the Rev. Margaret 
Rose, director of the Episcopal Church Office of Womens Ministries; 
Executive Council members Louie Crew and John Vanderstar; long-time women's 
rights activist and General Convention deputy Marge Christie; and Maureen 
Shea, director of the Government Relations Office.

Before the march, the RCRC also held a "Prayerfully Pro-Choice Interfaith 
Worship Service."

Call for justice

In 1994, the 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church reaffirmed 
that all human life is sacred from its inception until death and that all 
abortion is regarded as having a tragic dimension. "While we acknowledge 
that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a 
medically safe abortion," the resolution stated, "as Christians we believe 
strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme 
situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, 
family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience."

General Convention resolutions have expressed unequivocal opposition to 
any legislation abridging a womans right to make an informed decision 
about the termination of pregnancy, as well as the pain and possible 
support that may be needed for those making difficult life decisions, Rose 
said, adding that participating in the march shows that supporting women's 
rights is essential to our call for justice.

By publicizing this march and other events through our network, we are 
able to enlist and inform Episcopalians about important events, explained 
Mary Getz, director of the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN). This is 
one of the ways we are continuing to build our grassroots advocacy network.

The march came in for criticism from the Institute on Religion and 
Democracy (IRD), which issued a press release calling it a scandal and 
suggesting that a majority of church members...would be disgusted if they 
knew that their denominations have joinedin backing this kind of cause. 
IRD president Diane Knippers, an Episcopalian, said that the churchs 
proper role in this issue is to offer godly counsel and ministry to persons 
involved in crisis pregnancies. But in this case some...are adopting the 
strident arguments of the secular culture.

Other Episcopalians participating in the march included delegations of 
women and men from California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, 
New Jersey, and Virginia.

--Matthew Davies is staff writer of Episcopal News Service. Maureen Shea is 
director of the Episcopal Churchs Office of Government Relations.

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