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A woman should never feel ashamed or judged when making the deeply personal and often complex decision about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child.

Our pastoral care experience teaches us that health care decisions are best left to the patient in consultation with her family, her health care provider and her faith, without interference from politicians or the courts. As clergy we assert that it is the sacred right of a woman, guided by her wisdom, her faith and her conscience, to make the complex determination to end a pregnancy.

Too often, we see politicians impose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion in an effort to place barriers between a woman and her doctor. More laws were enacted to restrict abortion access during 2011-2013 than during the entire preceding decade. The result: more than half of American women of reproductive age now live in states where access to abortion is being restricted by their state legislatures.

The efforts to restrict access to safe and legal abortion have a particularly harsh impact on women and families struggling to make ends meet, who often can’t afford to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest health center — if they can make it to a doctor at all. Rather than helping Americans in need, these politicians are making it more difficult for those without resources.

The reality is that millions of women face unplanned pregnancy each year. Many, especially young women, feel alone or have questions when considering abortion. It is important for all women to have access to nonjudgmental information about all the options that are available — including safe and legal abortion.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has written, “[L]egal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature."

The gift and responsibility of reproductive decisions lies with the woman and should not be usurped by politicians or the courts.

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The Planned Parenthood Federation of America Clergy Advocacy Board (CAB), dating from 1994, leads a national effort to increase public awareness of the theological and moral basis for advocating reproductive health and justice. CAB members are dedicated clergy and faith leaders from different denominations and communities throughout the U.S. who work with Planned Parenthood at the national and state levels to further the goal of full reproductive freedom for all women and men.

August 2014

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