By Gaby Garcia-Vera
New Jersey has a profound opportunity to protect and expand access to necessary and time-sensitive reproductive health care, including abortion, by passing the Reproductive Freedom Act. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has come out against this bill, as well as frequently and consistently against all abortion care. But I am one of the majority of the faithful in the Catholic Church who understands that our tradition supports a person’s right to follow their conscience on important moral matters like abortion. I know that protecting reproductive health care is undoubtedly a Catholic value.
I am proud to work for Catholics for Choice, an organization that for more than 40 years has served as a voice for the majority of Catholics — everyday people like you and me who support access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion. We advocate for policies that allow each individual the freedom to make their own moral decisions about their health and their lives.
Catholics believe in prioritizing the needs of the poor and oppressed to advance the cause of justice. The Reproductive Freedom Act provides just that, by acknowledging that personal health care decisions must not only be legal, but free from financial and logistic concerns as well, or else these “rights” become reserved for the wealthy and well-connected. The Reproductive Freedom Act protects and expands access to reproductive health care in three key ways: affirm the right to abortion in state law; easing financial restrictions by requiring insurers to cover abortion care without out-of-pocket expenses; and lifting medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers that serve only to block access.
As my organization’s President Jamie Manson has noted, “The obligation to not just care for the vulnerable but to actively privilege them over everyone else lies at the heart of the Catholic faith; it’s the guiding principle of the church’s work with the poor and the marginalized.”
And lack of access to abortion care hits hardest among those most oppressed by systemic racism and misogyny, including Black, Indigenous and brown communities and other communities of color, immigrant communities, the LGBTQ community, communities with low income, and all of the areas where these communities intersect.
I stand with millions of Catholics in supporting the Reproductive Freedom Act, a bold declaration that all New Jerseyans have a fundamental right to access reproductive health care, including abortion, and that all people in the state have the right to make their own health care decisions without interference by politicians.
Catholic teaching regards our conscience as the final arbiter in any moral decision each of us must make. We regard it as both a gift and a responsibility in that we are called to follow our conscience and to respect the right of others to do the same.
Far too often I hear my faith used as the sword and shield that our opponents brandish to hide behind. They would stop at anything to derail us from progress; we know because they frequently harass and intimidate people entering clinics, lie about medical facts and downplay their violence in the name of their faith.
I am here to say: not today. Today we stand and bear witness to the moral arc of the universe; for today, it bends toward a more just, thriving New Jersey.
Gaby Garcia-Vera is the domestic states program manager at Catholics for Choice.