But in a press conference at St. John’s Church near the White House yesterday afternoon, religious leaders argued that women who have survived rape in war-torn areas and want to terminate their pregnancies do not fall under the category of “family planning.” As such, they argued, President Obama should take executive action to allow federally funded relief programs to offer abortion services.
“In cases of rape or incest, or when the life of a woman is at risk, abortion is clearly not family planning,” Rev. Harry Knox, head of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said. “Despite that clear distinction, administration after administration has incorrectly interpreted Helms to be a complete ban on abortion. We’re here to say that not only is this interpretation wrong, it is morally bankrupt.”
“Our faiths demand that we use our voices to insist that President Obama take executive action now,” he added.
The gathering sheds light on the growing issue of women and girls who are raped by violent extremist groups — particularly Boko Haram in Africa and ISIS in the Middle East. Women who have escaped from both groups describe forced marriages and systematic rape at the hands of their captors, resulting in hundreds of pregnancies. This includes the harrowing example of a nine-year-old Yazidi girl who was raped by 10 ISIS fighters, and who aid workers say will likely die if she is forced to deliver a baby. In Kurdish-ruled sections of Iraq, where many Yazidi refugees have fled but where abortion is illegal unless a woman’s life is in danger, local lawmakers are discussing options to legalize abortions for ISIS rape victims. But this sort of support is rare, and many are worried women will pursue other grim options in the meantime — usually unsafe, illegal abortions — sparking a need for access to higher-quality services.
Faith Leaders To Obama: Give Women Raped By ISIS Access To Safe Abortions | ThinkProgress