Jo Ann Dale of KRCRC Talks Faith and a Pro-Choice Attitude

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. Today we are talking to Jo Ann Dale, board member of the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC) about the organization, faith, and a pro-choice attitude.

Tell our readers a little bit about Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC).

KRCRC, in existence for three decades, is an affiliate of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The backbone of RCRC was a network of religious leaders who had been quietly helping women locate abortion services in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They formed RCRC following decriminalization (Roe v. Wade) because they believed it would take several years for the right to become firmly established. As time went on, RCRC broadened from a specific focus on the legal right to abortion to address larger matters of reproductive justice, including contraception and structural impediments to women’s access to reproductive rights.

KRCRC carries on this work in Kentucky. Our primary focus is on abortion, contraception, and sexuality education. We maintain contacts with faith leaders from many traditions, and we provide speakers and materials for community and congregational programs. We attempt to reassure and educate those women who have been confused by the misleading or outright inaccurate statements of so-called “crisis pregnancy clinics,” whose goals are actually to eliminate abortion from the options facing a pregnant woman. We provide spiritual and emotional support for escorts and abortion provider staff, who are faced with scorn and ridicule from the protestors who gather at the clinic. We partner with other groups, such as Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, to further shared goals. We maintain a list of pastoral counselors who can provide true “all options” counseling to the woman who is confused or conflicted about an unwelcome pregnancy or about perinatal loss. We monitor activity in the state legislature, and we talk with legislators to make it clear that the religious voice does not speak only from the far right, but from the middle and the left as well.

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“October Baby,” and the Insidious Propaganda Which Forgets the Quiet Awe of God

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The anti-choice film “October Baby” was inspired by the true story of a young woman who, in late adolescence, discovers that her health issues are related to a late and failed abortion. (The woman whose story is credited with inspiring the film,  Gianna Jessen, is now an anti-choice activist.) And like all individual true stories, this represents a slice of reality.

One can be moved by the tears of the heroine who fights against health problems and does not know where she is in her own life. When the heroine says “life is a lie,” that could affect anyone. Of course, this story can also touch people because anyone going through difficult times, whatever they may be, in life may enter into an identification process with the heroine. This could even be a catharsis for some. But pay very close attention to the intentions of the filmmakers.

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A Faithful Feminist

Inspired by Merle Hoffman’s new book Intimate Wars, we’re sharing some of our own most memorable pro-choice/social justice personal actions this month. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

I am a believer. If I had to name my religion, it would be “Judaism-Islam.” As the believers of both religions believe in One God, my heart stays indivisible. It is a paradox. I cannot choose between these two religions, the two principals of my family (in which there are also devout but very tolerant Catholics). In recent months I have attended evangelical churches in France, not to convert myself, but to study the Gospel and Scriptures that I know very little about. I accompany my best friend, who is an evangelist.

Hold a Dialogue With Believers
Thus, in recent months my feminist “action” has taken place with people I meet in evangelical churches. I have learned a lot from them; they are very warm people. I listen and ask them what they think about the low status of women. Women find it normal: “woman is a help for man,” “with gentleness and patience, a woman can get everything from her husband.” But I cannot talk openly about feminism – if I do, my friend may be removed. So I ask questions, I ask them their opinions. And that makes us think together. [Read more...]

People of Faith are Pro-Choice

Editor’s Note: Feminist Conversations is a regular column, where we talk to pro-choice activists from across the interwebs to find out what folks are up to in their neck of the woods.

Today we’re talking to Meghan Smith, the Domestic Program Associate for Catholics for Choice, which was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health. Meghan integrates CFC’s US policy activities and advocacy throughout the country by fostering relationships with collegial organizations and compiling legislative and policy analyses. Meghan also develops educational materials outlining CFC’s unique perspective on issues of reproductive health and rights and engages in other efforts supporting CFC’s mission at the state level. She holds a bachelor’s of arts degree in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

When did you get involved with Catholics for Choice, and what was your motivation for working with them?
When I began working for Catholics for Choice several years ago, I knew that it was an organization that perfectly complemented my upbringing and my theological and political inclinations. I grew up in rural New England, where the interplays between Catholicism and public life were as obvious as the photos of the my mother’s big Irish clan, the Pope, and the Kennedys hanging side by side on my grandparents’ walls. From union organizing to initiating an elementary school penny drive to make sure that everyone had mittens, I saw my family members living out their faith, one centered in sisterhood, compassion and social justice.
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Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Rights

Editor’s Note: Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to feminists from across the interwebs to find out what type of activism they’re engaged in, and what feminism means to them. Today we’re spotlight Marissa Valeri from Catholics for Choice. Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.

1. What was your motivation for working with Catholics for Choice?
It sounds clichéd, but this is the organization I was always meant to work for. From an early age, I knew that I was a prochoice Catholic and have constantly worked to resolve my faith with my belief in the ability of women and men to make the decisions that are best for them and their families. I was even sent to the principal’s office back in grade school for asking questions about abortion in cases of rape or incest so I knew even back then that there truly was no space for Catholics to engage in even the slightest bit of conversation on the topic of abortion and I knew that was wrong.

I started off my volunteering and marching and protesting before I dedicated myself to finding a job within the progressive community so that I could work on issues close to my heart. I enjoy the ability to help others to feel comfortable being both prochoice and Catholic and I enjoy sharing resources on our faith tradition and the support for a prochoice position within church teachings.

2. When did you first call yourself a feminist? And what inspired that decision?
I remember being a young girl and talking to my dad a lot about feminism. He was a high school teacher, and we would have these great long conversations about movements and important issues of the day since he loves to talk politics and I do as well. We had one such conversation about Geraldine Ferraro and her bid to become the first female vice president. I remembered watching her speak at the Democratic National Convention and being in awe – not quite understanding everything she said since I was just 7 years old at the time but just seeing her on the stage was a powerful visual for me. It was only afterward that the enormity of the moment hit me: not only was she a woman but Catholic and prochoice as well. It was in talking about that moment and what it meant to me personally that I realized that I truly was a feminist.
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Sex, so many little choices…

So, I realize that generally this post is full of specific information or advice around having safer sex, but this month I seem to be without a good question. Instead I thought I’d try to spark a discussion about one of the hardest aspects of sexual actions to identify, name, or teach: Decision Making. [Read more...]