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March 21st, 2012
10:45 AM ET

Progressive group starts training pro-abortion rights religious leaders

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – A Washington advocacy group training in-the-trenches religious leaders to speak out on hot-button issues like abortion is nothing new.

But a liberal beltway group training left-leaning clergy to speak out for abortion rights is.

“Religion does support a woman’s personal decision-making about whether she is ready to become a parent,” said Sally Steenland, director of the Faith Initiative at the Center for American Progress, a progressive group that launched its Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute on Tuesday.

“We felt that the harsh anti-choice rhetoric dominating the public debate stigmatized women making these important decisions and claimed a monopoly on God, morality, and family values,” Steenland said in an e-mail message.

The Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute “will provide new and seasoned leaders with the resources they need to be effective faith advocates for women’s reproductive health,” according to a Center for American Progress press release.

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For four decades, opposition to abortion rights has been the core issue for the Christian right, drawing countless evangelicals and Catholics into the political fold. In recent years, Democrats and liberal activists have worked to reclaim part of the religion and values conversation.

“Too often conventional wisdom pits religion against reproductive rights,” Steenland said. “But for most women there is no conflict between their faith and their commitment to reproductive freedom.”

Steenland said that the Center for American Progress has been working toward the launch of the institute for two years but that the controversy over the White House’s contraception mandate for employees, including those at religious institutions, made the new program especially timely.

Some religious leaders, most vocally the Catholic Church, have alleged that requiring religious institutions to offer free contraception coverage through insurance companies violates those institutions’ religious liberty.

“Attacks on women’s health have been especially strong in the past several months – sometimes disguised as a religious liberty issue – which makes the Leadership Institute more important than ever,” Steenland said.

The Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute is hosting an initial training session over two days this week and has scheduled another one for September.

This year, the institute will train 20 faith leaders from across the country, including clergy, activists and staff from mainline denominations.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Politics

soundoff (252 Responses)
  1. JC

    Religion. The source of all war, hate, prejudice and ignorance. God save us from religion.

    April 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  2. fernace

    Hurrah for FRJLI! Finally Christians with 21st century sensibilities have a voice! The Religious Right & Teavangelicals have been walking all over our freedoms, by acting as the "spokes people" for all christians & as they're trying to do w/the rest of the population! I don't understand the religious rights preoccupation w/the lawmaking process or a womans right to govern her own reproductive system! I hear your arguement, shalom 2u, no1 disputes the science behind a pregnancy, however abortion has been a fact of life since time began! For millennia women have relied on dangerous poisons or deadly invasive procedures, to end an unwanted pregancy! Abortion has been safe & legal for many decades & it's necessary to keep it that way! No matter how you feel about an unborn fetus, why would you think it's your job to decide such an important issue in other peoples lives? You are not advocating for a noble cause, you're meddling in other peoples personal business! That's not just or righteous! It's Wrong!!

    March 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Proven .

    March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Jesus

      -~`You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~`

      March 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  4. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    March 23, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things"

      ~`You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~`

      March 23, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      – ~You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!

      March 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  6. Reality

    All the Respect for Human Life training you will ever need:---–>

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

    Abstinence – 0% failure rate

    Masturbation- 0% failure rate

    And from the Guttmacher Insti-tute:

    1.One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent failure rate)
    2.Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    3.The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    4.Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    5.IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    6.Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    7.Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    8.Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    March 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  7. BoldGeorge

    “Religion does support a woman’s personal decision-making about whether she is ready to become a parent,” said Sally Steenland.

    Religion can support anyone's decision-making on any topic, but the bible does not support intentional abortion. You can slice it any which way you want (no pun intended) but that's the biblical truth.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Bob

      Religion can support anyone's decision-making on any topic, with any viewpoint.

      There, BG, fixed that for you. Do you get it yet?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Step

      Where does it say anything about an intentional abortion? And don't say "Thou should not kill." If that is what you are referring to, then Christians should not become soldiers or police officers. In fact, the death of a fetus is only mentioned in reference to violence against a woman and is treated as a loss of property not of human life UNLESS the woman is also harmed. (Exodus 21:22,23) Your biblical truth is man's lie.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.