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Three Faiths, Unified by Choice

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By: Frances Kissling, Rabbi Steven Jacobs, and Dr. Nazir Khaja, MD

As leaders in three faith communities, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim, we are well aware that the public often sees the differences in our faith traditions more clearly than the many values we share. One value that is important to all of our traditions is religious freedom. None of us wishes to impose our traditions teachings on others, and none of us wishes to have other traditions imposed on us. Another universal value is our commitment to the public good. Religious leaders have worked together and played key roles in achieving freedom of conscience and human rights. From civil rights to women’s rights, change could only come with a struggle. We desegregated schools in the South. We fought for the enfranchisement of all citizens. And we won the right to reproductive freedom. In all these triumphs, religious voices have been part of the call for liberty.

Today, our government is threatening reproductive freedom. We all strongly believe that individuals acting responsibly, not government, should make the very personal and private decisions about reproductive health. We each reached this belief coming from diverse cultures, personal histories, and faiths. With great respect for the opinions and approaches of each other, we join hands in support of choice, in support of reproductive health care and education, and in support of the liberties we hold so dearly.

We strongly believe that women’s health and reproductive rights are central to our religious traditions. These principles are evident in our life work and in our religious convictions. Catholics for a Free Choice believe choice is an issue of conscience. We support choice in all aspects of reproductive and sexual health care. At the same time, the Jewish faith community believes in the religious and civic freedoms rooted in the scripture of the Old Testament. Because Islam was revealed for all people and for all times, the principle of ijtihad invites the Muslim community to revisit and analyze the Koran and the Sunnah within their cultural and historical contexts when faced with challenging or problematic issues. This takes into the account the variability of laws over time, the choice between two harms, and the interest in the common good. Important Islamic scholars have pointed out that the Koran is supportive of reproductive health, including family planning, contraception, and in some circumstances abortion.


People of many faiths are alarmed by the threat that a single interpretation of religious thought on human reproduction might bind all people of faith to act in ways that violate their conscience or the teachings of their faith. When made by a president and administration that are not experts in either comparative religion or theology, this represents an imminent threat to the freedom of choice and freedom of religion. We believe that the government must create space for people of faith to freely act in accordance with their conscience, free of the fear imposed by governmental incursions on individual liberties. The faith community is spurred by a sense of urgency and a moral imperative to secure reproductive rights for current and future generations. Together, faith leaders and their congregations will rally in support of the March for Women’s Lives on April 25, in Washington, DC.

The March will make history as people of faith unite to support women’s health and reproductive rights. This is a call for our government to ensure the faith-based tradition of equality for men and women without fear of reprisal – a right honored by our nation’s founding fathers in the Constitution and instilled in us through the history of our faith traditions.

Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for Free Choice, Washington, DC; Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Woodland Hills' Kol Tikvah, Board Member, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Los Angeles, CA; Dr. Nazir Khaja, MD, Board Member, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and President, Islamic Information Service, Los Angeles, CA.

The March for Women’s Lives is co-sponsored by over 1,100 women’s, religious, civil rights, health care, labor, environmental, and other organizations and will be held in Washington, DC on April 25, 2004.

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