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Religious Freedom Day

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coalition for liberty and justiceThe relationship between religion and medical practice has created a strange environment within which I provide medical care. Talk of religion happens early and often. Every staff meeting starts with religious reflections and my clinic has been blessed by a nun. I had to sign an employment contract that said I would uphold Catholic ethics. I believe it excludes good practitioners… by limiting the scope of their practice—you have to decide to provide birth control and risk being fired every time you do, or simply not work there.

Family Nurse Practitioner practicing in a catholic institution in a Southwestern state, 2014

L.M. is the sole provider at the only clinic in a rural Southern community. Her ability to provide quality reproductive health care to her patients has been severely limited because the clinic is part of a larger Catholic institution. At the Reproductive Health Access Project, we work with clinicians from across the country facing similar barriers to providing services due to religious discrimination from institutions, co-workers, administrators, and lawmakers. This is why RHAP joined the Coalition on Liberty & Justice (CLJ), an alliance of faith-based, secular, and other organizations that work together to ensure that public policy protects the religious liberty of all people. We join CLJ in opposing laws and policies that impose one religious viewpoint on all and in doing so restrict access to reproductive health care. We advocate for the rights of clinicians to practice safely and openly, and for the rights of patients to access necessary health care, free from religious discrimination.

As providers and advocates, RHAP honors and respects the personal beliefs of every individual, religious and non-religious. However, in our work we see how the anti-choice movement often uses religion as a means to deny people access to health care. We also see the consequences of religious imposition on medical education and training, and the risks faced by providers such as L.M.

On January 16, the Coalition on Liberty & Justice will be engaging in advocacy around Religious Freedom Day. This national day commemorates the 1786 signing of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the precursor to the First Amendment, which protects the religious freedom of all Americans. Religious Freedom Day has traditionally been claimed by religious conservatives as a way to push their harmful narratives into the mainstream. This year, CLJ is presenting an alternative view of Religious Freedom Day, reminding us that January 16 is a day to celebrate both religious freedom as well as freedom from religion.

For more information on the Coalition for Liberty & Justice, and how this affects reproductive health care access, take a look at this video.

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