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.
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.”