Respecting Individual Conscience

Victims of human trafficking must be ensured access to the reproductive health care they need. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act funds organizations that provide direct services to trafficking victims. However, the organization that administers these funds, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), prohibits the direct service organizations it supports with these dollars from providing the full spectrum of reproductive health services.

The case of ACLU of Massachusetts v. Leavitt contests the government's allocation of funds to the USCCB on the basis that taxpayer dollars should not be used to impose religious beliefs on victims of trafficking. The case provides yet another example of how sectarian religious beliefs have been privileged in the United States, especially during the past eight years. We have witnessed this in the abstinence-only earmarks included in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the recently issued refusal clause regulation and, in this case, the allocation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act funds.

Allowing religious institutions to impose their beliefs on others using government funds not only calls into question the separation of church and state, it also puts the lives of people around the world on the line. Victims of human trafficking, people living with HIV and AIDS and patients are being denied reproductive health care that is crucial to their livelihood.

One of the core tenets of Catholic teaching is the freedom of conscience. The Catechism states that "a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience." Unfortunately, often where reproductive rights are concerned, imposition of values is often favored over this freedom. For the Catholic hierarchy to lay claim to be the arbiters of any person's good conscience is clearly disingenuous. In doing so, the right of every individual to follow her or his own conscience is gravely disrespected.

Representing a majority of Catholics who disagree with the institutional church on issues such as abortion and contraception, Catholics for Choice believes that institutions should not seek to impose an ideology; rather, they should defer to the conscience of the individual — in this case, the victims of trafficking, when deciding what services should be offered.

Catholics for Choice stands with the ACLU in calling for an end to this misuse of funds so that victims of trafficking can, using their individual conscience, access the reproductive health services they need.

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Ben Fischer

It is a pathetic day in the history of mankind when there is a group called "Catholics for Choice". It sickens me that people try to call themselves Catholic and not only believe in the elective death of children unable to speak or defend themselves, but go so far as to try to convince others that it is moral or just. That is the problem with a relativistic society, people's consciences change from generation to generation. Less than a century ago, virtually all Christians opposed abortion. What happened? Moral Relativism. That is why the Catholic church will always oppose abortion, and no small political action group will every change that.
By abortion, it is also included chemical means of abortion such as the pill and the morning after medications designed to kill a baby.

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