By BRIAN CLOWES
(Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 8 of The Facts of Life, “Christian Teachings on Abortion,” e-mail him at email@example.com.)
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The mission of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is nearly identical to its member organization Catholics for [a Free] Choice, but it is carried out on a wider scale.
RCRC’s mission has three elements.
The first component is to create confusion among the public as to what Christians actually believe about abortion. RCRC intends to cause doubt in people’s minds by claiming that the Church did not always oppose baby-killing. So, when the Church does publicly oppose abortion, it appears to be inconsistent and punitive.
Second, RCRC tries to convince people that abortion is essential to religious freedom. It claims that if access to abortion is constrained in even the most trivial manner, religious freedom is also restricted. RCRC alleges that a particular religious view regarding when life begins should not be forced upon the nation: “[We] oppose efforts to enact into secular law one particular religious doctrine on abortion or the beginning of personhood.”
Of course, it never occurs to RCRC that the Supreme Court has already imposed a religious viewpoint on abortion upon the nation — the Unitarian religious view that life begins at birth.
Finally, RCRC strives to persuade people that they can be Christians of any denomination and still be free to kill their unborn children with a clear conscience. In fact, RCRC insists that people cannot be good Christians unless they support abortion! This is in line with its insistence that every Catholic hospital must perform abortions and that every insurance plan must pay for abortions, even if the hospital or insurance plan is operated by a church that believes abortion is morally repugnant.
Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, a former RCRC president, described the group’s mission in more general terms when she claimed: “We must give up the idea that we can cling to some moral certainty.”
Except, of course, the moral certainties that RCRC pushes — that all abortions are moral, that homosexual behavior is perfectly acceptable, and that divorce, pornography, and fornication are nothing more than ethical lifestyle choices. RCRC leaders insist that “God doesn’t care about our sexuality,” despite literally hundreds of Bible quotations to the contrary. The RCRC philosophy is so far removed from Christianity that it represents more of a quasi-Buddhist pseudo-religion. Whatever dogma RCRC clings to, it certainly isn’t Christianity.
Any thinking person who reads RCRC’s glossy literature must — humorously — wonder if its writers have taken full advantage of the recent legalization of marijuana by some states, because some of its arguments can only be described as inane and entirely unfocused.
Frequent RCRC contributor John Swomley has criticized the “Christian right’s conspicuous silence about the tobacco industry….The tobacco issue clearly tears to shreds the white sheet of morality and other claims by the Christian Coalition, of defending ‘life’.”
The “white sheet” Swomley is referring to is undoubtedly the Seamless Garment, but his version is apparently fabricated from 100 percent spandex for him to be able to stretch it so far. And this is not the only moral principle that Swomley deforms beyond recognition. He also gives the same treatment to “double effect,” which allows that, in very rare cases (such as ectopic pregnancy), surgery may be performed to save the mother’s life, even though the procedure will inevitably (and indirectly) kill the unborn child.
Swomley asks: “Isn’t it just as reasonable to assert that the intention of most women is the separation of the fetus from the woman, not the killing of the fetus, though its death may be foreseen?”
Swomley obviously is not at all familiar with the principle of double effect, which requires that the act producing two effects must itself be a morally good or neutral act to begin with. The only purpose of an abortion is to kill the unborn child, and such an action can never be good or even morally neutral, regardless of the circumstances or intentions surrounding it.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice boasts: “The power of our collective voice for reproductive justice is in fact magnified by the unique, diverse views of our various member organizations.”
Let’s take a quick look at how much horsepower this “collective voice” really has.
RCRC claims to represent the “pro-choice” majority of Christians and Jews, and proudly lists an impressive 27 religious affiliates on its literature. However, this number includes only two actual mainline church denominations — the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church.
Significantly, four of the five Protestant churches that were RCRC members in the 1980s have dropped their membership. These are the American Baptist Churches, USA; the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), to be replaced with something called “Disciples for Choice”; the Presbyterian Church, replaced by “Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options” (PARO); and the United Methodist Church, replaced by “United Methodist Women.”
These last three member groups are small bands of radical feminists who bestow upon themselves grandiose and official-sounding names and promptly embrace the entire anti-life agenda in the name of their church. The parent church wisely refuses to become entangled with a group as obviously disreputable as RCRC, but the women’s subgroup deliberately attempts to convey the false impression that its entire church supports the entire radical pro-abortion agenda.
RCRC also lists numerous extremely small splinter groups and renegade organizations, whose combined membership represents about one thousandth of the total churchgoing population in this country. These theological toothpicks include the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Lutheran Women’s Caucus, and the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism. The only denominations currently represented on the RCRC rolls are the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Metropolitan Community Church.
These three denominations now possess a total membership of only 2.87 million, and they are dying quickly, declining by 37 percent since 1980. This means that RCRC represents only about 1.9 percent of all churchgoing Americans.
In fact, the combined memberships of all “pro-choice” churches in the USA are collapsing rapidly; from 23.1 million in 1980 to a current 15.9 million, a 34 percent decrease. Meanwhile, the total membership of churches with an official pro-life stand has increased from 105.3 million in 1980 to 133.9 million currently, an increase of 38 percent.
One of RCRC’s primary arguments is that abortion must remain legal because there is “no consensus of opinion on abortion.”
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “consensus” as “judgment arrived at by most of those concerned,” or as “general agreement.”
As of 2014, membership in pro-life churches is 8.4 times greater than that of “pro-choice” churches in the United States.
This means that there is indeed a “consensus” regarding abortion — a consensus against it, a consensus that is growing larger with each passing year.
The fact that RCRC represents less than two percent of the religious voice in this country regarding abortion certainly qualifies it as a “small and vocal minority”!
As with all of the other larger pro-abortion groups, the vast majority of RCRC’s funding comes from foundations, which have given RCRC more than $40 million since 1999.
The Buffett Foundation has donated $12.2 million to RCRC, a total of about one-third of its budget over the past decade. RCRC’s other major funders are the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI), the Huber Foundation, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. Like CFFC, RCRC is becoming less and less a religious voice and more and more a parrot of rich foundations.
Some of these foundations appear to suffer from an unhealthy fixation on suppressing the African-American population in the United States.
Some of their grant justifications include:
1) “To expand ‘Keeping It Real,’ a sex education program that serves youth through African-American churches” [Otto Bremer Foundation, 2006 and 2007]; “General support to protect and expand reproductive choice for all people in Missouri, with an emphasis on the African-American community” [Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, 2008]; “Program focuses on developing the leadership of women and girls in addressing teen pregnancy, STDs, and HIV/AIDS in black churches” [Chahara Foundation, 2004], and, in a dreadfully successful attempt to channel Margaret Sanger, “Grant for black church initiatives for teen birth control” [Engelberg Foundation, 2004].
RCRC claims that “the mission of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is to be the leading religious voice for reproductive justice in the country.” In light of its many past failures and its absurdly illogical arguments, perhaps the group should select a different mission.
At least we can agree with one thing RCRC has posted on its rather sparse web site. Pro-abortion Bishop Desmond Tutu has said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Pro-lifers should take this admonition to heart.
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Next article: “Why Do So Many ‘Pro-Choice’ Groups Support Forced Abortion?”