- July 19 - The following is a statement of Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, president,
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:
Religions have varying views about
the beginning of life and of personhood that lead to different beliefs about the
permissibility of abortion -- beliefs that are grounded in theology, not science.
It is for this reason that the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice holds
that secular laws regarding abortion are unconstitutional if they impose a religious
viewpoint or require adherence to a religious belief.
This concern for protecting freedom
of conscience and religious freedom causes us to question the nomination of Texas
Supreme Court Associate Justice Priscilla Owen for a position on the 5th U.S.
District Court of Appeals. Justice Owen has consistently ruled against reproductive
choice since coming to the Texas Supreme Court in 1995. As an alliance of faith
groups, our particular concern relates to the case Jane Doe 1 (Texas 2000), in
which Justice Owen wrote that she would impose a religious counseling requirement
that had not been approved by the Texas legislature before recognizing the right
to an abortion in a judicial bypass case. A hearing on Owen's nomination is scheduled
for Tuesday, July 23.
In Jane Doe 1, Justice Owen questioned
whether Doe, a college-bound senior who had received information about her options
from friends, family, a parenting teacher, and Planned Parenthood, was aware of
the religious implications of abortion, despite the fact that the law in no way
involves religious considerations. She wrote:
"I would require a minor to
demonstrate that she has sought and obtained meaningful counseling from a qualified
source about the emotional and psychological impact she may experience now and
later in her life as a result of having an abortion.... She should also indicate
to the court that she is aware of and has considered that there are philosophic,
social, moral and religious arguments that can be brought to bear when considering
abortion.... (R)equiring a minor to exhibit an awareness that there are issues,
including religious ones, (that) surround the abortion decision is not prohibited
by the Establishment Clause."
Justice Owen would also rewrite the
criterion allowing judicial bypass if notification would not be in the minor's
best interest. Owen wrote that she would add a requirement that "a court
find... by a preponderance of the evidence that an abortion is in the best interest
of the minor." Owen did not state what evidence other than a woman's personal
choice should be relevant to this question but her statement on counseling requirements
raises the possibility that she would favor an unconstitutional religious test.
Since the Coalition's founding in
1973, our purpose has been to safeguard the ability of women to make reproductive
decisions according to their beliefs and conscience, without governmental interference
or imposition or religious tests. The nomination of Justice Owen is inconsistent
with this purpose.
The Religious Coalition
for Reproductive Choice is the national alliance of 38 organizations from 16 denominations
and faith traditions, including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA),
United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, and Reform and Conservative