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ENS - Episcopalians show support for reproductive freedom at
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
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] 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
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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