Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Pro-Abortion Religious Coalition RCRC Shrinks Further

Jeffrey Walton on November 17, 2020

In June my IRD colleague John Lomperis reported how, despite diminished church support, an ostensibly religious pro-abortion lobby continues on with help from secular philanthropies.

Financial and staff support for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) seems to have decreased further according to data from the organization’s recently posted 2019 annual report.

Notably, there is no mention in the latest report of the United Methodist Church (or any other Christian denomination). A 2018 RCRC report had listed congregations and a handful of liberal UMC annual conferences, seemingly placing them at odds with a directive from the 2016 General Conference instructing boards and agencies to cut ties with the abortion lobby. Separately, the group’s web site continues to list the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Presbyterian (PCUSA) Mission Agency, the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ as affiliates.

Only four staff are listed in the 2019 report, down from eight in 2018, while board members have dropped from nine down to seven on the organization’s web site. Support and revenues total $1,849,973, down from $6,869,436 in 2018 (significant year-over-year swings seem common between election years and off-years, as the 2017 support was $774,566). There was a 20 percent increase in 2019 foundation support, but bequests dropped 80 percent.


In announcing Interim CEO Katy Zeh’s selection as permanent CEO for RCRC, a press release stated that Zeh “shepherded the organization through profound structural changes” – an apparent reference to halving the number of staff.

RCRC’s blog featured only three postings in 2019, and a subsequent three in 2020. In press releases the group touted former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. Presidential election and stated that the Senate should not confirm any Supreme Court vacancy until after the inauguration.

In July, the group bemoaned the Supreme Court’s Trump v. Pennsylvania ruling, a key 7-2 decision on religious freedom that exempted employers with religious or moral objections from being required to pay for contraceptives or abortifacients for their employees. Two Democratic-appointed justices, Kagan and Breyer, concurred in the judgment, but RCRC was deeply dissatisfied.

“We condemn lawmakers and religious leaders who have the audacity to distort sacred texts and claim ‘religious liberty’ when their intent is to uphold white supremacist, Christian nationalist, classist, and patriarchal systems of oppression,” the coalition railed.

In September, the group decried alleged forced sterilization on immigrants held at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Those allegations appear to have lost steam since early autumn.

A Singular Focus

Access to family planning and sex education are among RCRC’s professed goals, but most of its activities are centered upon unrestricted abortion-on-demand.

Founded in 1973 as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, RCRC traces its origins to the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, a group of clergy referring women to abortion providers before the Roe v Wade court decision struck down state-level abortion bans. The group advocates “for reproductive freedom as a divine, sacred right that no judge, no law, and no government can ever take away.”

A handful of private foundations support RCRC, providing nearly 70 percent of the organization’s total support and revenue. In comparison, less than 12 percent originates from individuals, and only a token dollar amount comes from affiliates.

Foundations grants to RCRC came from The David & Lucille Packard Foundation, which has a population and reproductive health program “committed to promoting reproductive health and rights” and the Martin and Brown Foundation, which has a similar focus upon reproductive rights. Other supporters include the Reynolds Family Foundation and Modestus Bauer Foundation.

“We affirm the work of abortion care as sacred,” the group states on its web site. Among other activities, RCRC facilitates interfaith blessings of abortion clinics, as my colleague Chelsen Vicari has reported.

In its fight against “reproductive oppression” the coalition states – apparently without any self-awareness or inclusion of the unborn – that “we will fight so that every person may live with the dignity and freedom that they deserve.”

Update [11/29/2021]: The RCRC web site now lists only six board members, with zero blog entries in 2021.

  1. Comment by senecagriggs on November 17, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    “we will fight so that every person may live with the dignity and freedom that they deserve.” except the innocent pre-born. They will be killed for the convenience of others.

  2. Comment by Diane on November 18, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    Response to senecagriggs: yes, and conservative, pro-life Christians have fought and won to deny permanent contraception when a doctor recognizes pregnancy would put an end to the life of the mother. Let’s call that “mommy-killing.” Not all women are candidates for common birth control pills (I wasn’t after age 30 and neither was my aunt at age 40). In my aunt’s case, her fifth pregnancy was fraught with complications. Her doctor recommended she have a tubal ligation, citing his belief that another pregnancy would likely kill her. The procedure is in-patient, generally performed after a c-section delivery. My aunt, a devout United Methodist woman, consented to the procedure. However, she is among the thousands of Americans served by Catholic-run, so-called “pro-life” community hospitals. These hospitals use religious doctrine to deny needed. MMedically-advised reproductive care. Doctrinally, many so-called “pro-life” conservatives believe that while tubal ligation is a legal medical procedure, it essentially aborts the ability for an egg to become fertilized, ie, logically aborting a would-be unborn person.

    My aunt was denied the procedure on religious, “pro-life” grounds. She could, of course, use a less-effective, non-surgical form of contraception, risking the likelihood of an unintended pregnancy and her death. Hormonal birth control pills also posed a health risk. Unintended pregnancies account for the vast majority of abortions…so in cases where contraception is denied, unintended pregnancies and abortion are more likely. That’s what my aunt was left with.

    Why is there no acknowledgment of this faith-based encouragement for unintended pregnancies by denying contraception? I support reproductive choice – and vote the candidates that work for affordable and accessible contraception. Contraception is a leading factor contributing to the dramatic reduction of the abortion rate in this country. One would think the “pro-life” folks would be passionate in their support of affordable and accessible contraception. They are not. Their agenda supports healthcare providers who substitute religious doctrine for medical care, denying women (and men) contraception.

    I was lucky – my local hospital, different from that of my aunt’s, did not engage in faith-based discrimination. My husband and I chose permanent contraception after birth control hormone pills became a health risk for me. My husband had a genetic disease that we both knew had a high probability of. being passed to any offspring. He died from it at age 45. Permanent contraception was not denied us, even though logic insists that our decision was to abort the life of an unborn person we had the potential to conceive.

    So-called “pro-lifers” need to reckon with the fact that contraception is denied based on a political, faith-based discrimination agenda. The Reproductive Choice agenda, however, is very much focused on affordable and accessible contraception to all as an effective means to prevent abortions by putting an end to unintended pregnancies.

  3. Comment by David on November 19, 2020 at 7:33 am

    Meanwhile, the US has one of the worst infant mortality rates of any advanced country. It seems that right to life ends at birth.

  4. Comment by Patrick98 on November 19, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Hi Diane,
    There is nothing to stop you from starting your own hospital, run the way you want it to run. In fact, there are Methodist hospitals.

  5. Comment by Donald on November 21, 2020 at 11:10 am

    These aren’t “staff reductions.” In the words of the PCUSA’s Stated Clerk, they are “Reforming!”

  6. Comment by Brother Thom on November 29, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    If the progressive left and planned parenthood were really about reproductive health, the number of abortions in 1972 would not have double in 1974 following the Roe v. Wade decision. This had never been about planned parenthood, it’s been about abortion as a form of both controls while ensuring the black population never grew, which it has not. In New York City, more black babies are killed each year than are born. Let that sink in. Margaret Sangers eugenics is well in place in America. And Democrats like it that way.

  7. Comment by Al Winston on November 29, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Interesting comments. “Right to life expires at birth” eh? The life of the mother is meaningless relative to an unborn fetus that may not make it to term anyway? How thoughtful, godlike, and Christian you all are. I wonder what Jesus would do for the young girl raped and impregnated? Do you really think that, like most of you, he would berate her for her behavior, insist she carry it to term with the risk of death in childbirth or ruining her life with a child she cannot raise well? Hmmm. Yes, you are all very Christian indeed.

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