Catholics for Choice Protest Appointment of Anti-choice Advocate to Senior Position at HHS

News--Catholics for Choice, the leading pro-choice Catholic organization reflecting "the great
majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who disagrees with the
dictates of the Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family
life and motherhood," called the appointment yesterday of Alexia Kelley as Director of Faith-based and Community Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services "a defeat for reason and logic."

Kelley is the co-founder and former executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), which:

"promotes a consistent ethic
of life that honors the sacred dignity of the human person, born and


"believe[s] the right to life is foundational in any just society and
work[s] to promote bipartisan, common-ground solutions to preventing the
tragedy of abortion [and opposes efforts to] undermine reasonable restrictions on abortion
such as waiting periods and parental notification."

In a report on Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, Catholics for Choice found that:

Alexia Kelley's leadership of CACG reveals a vehement
antichoice stance that is focused on reducing the number of, not the
need for, abortions. In voter's guides the organization Kelley led
characterized abortion as akin to war or torture.

Jon O'Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, stated that:

Ms. Kelley's appointment is whether President Obama's administration is serious about reducing the need for abortion. And, while it may not gain many headlines, the impact and significance of this appointment should not go unnoticed.

O'Brien continued:

If Ms. Kelley had been appointed to another position in the administration, there might be less reason for concern. However, the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for providing and expanding access to key sexual and reproductive health services. As such, we need those working in HHS to rely on evidence-based methods to reduce the need for abortion. We need them to believe in men and women's capacity to make moral decisions about their own lives. Unfortunately, as seen from her work at CACG, Ms. Kelley does not fit the bill.

In the American Prospect, Sarah Posner writes:

In her 2008 book, A Nation for All, co-written with Chris Korzen,
Kelley wrote, "Each abortion constitutes a direct attack on human life,
and so we have a special moral obligation to end or reduce the practice
of abortion to the greatest extent possible."

Posner, who has followed CACG and other groups, also states that:

Kelley and CACG have made clear they are committed to Catholic doctrine
on abortion and birth control. CACG has supported the Pregnant Women's
Support Act, aimed at stigmatizing abortion and making it less
accessible. In discussing legislation on reducing the need for
abortion, Kelley has written that various pieces of legislation
concerned with women's health "are not all perfect; some include
contraception -- which the Church opposes." Never mind that more than
90 percent of American Catholics use it anyway.

Kelley's appointment raises the question of whether the President's common ground initiatives will focus on securing women's rights and access to safe abortion services while ensuring full support for measures--such as universal access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education--that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, or whether the focus will be on further stigmatizing and limiting access to safe services.

According to Posner, for example:

Under George W. Bush, the faith-based centers didn't play a policy
role. But Obama has expanded the faith-based project to include a
policy side, and one of its chief goals is to reduce the need for

O'Brien, who clearly sees Kelley's appointment as a threat to women's access to safe services, states that:

From the beginning, Alexia Kelley directed CACG to ignore the question of access to abortion and reframe the debate in terms of reducing the number of abortions--although polls consistently show that the majority of Catholics support abortion rights. This language around reducing the number of abortions should be a huge red flag to anyone who believes in and seeks to defend a woman's right to choose. While evidence-based prevention methods can go a long way towards reducing the need for abortion, some women will always need access to safe and legal abortion and we must recognize that and ensure public policies support that access.

Kelley is on record for supporting restrictions on access to abortion. According to Catholics for Choice:

In an audio press conference prior to the 2008 election, Ms. Kelley agreed with other speakers who spoke out in favor of restrictions on abortion, saying, "Catholics in Alliance supports these restrictions as well.

O'Brien also asserts that:

Under Kelley's leadership, CACG used flawed economic data to support anti-poverty measures as a means to reduce the number of abortions. While such measures are obviously beneficial for many reasons, poverty reduction will not by itself reduce the need for abortion. As Ms. Kelley's group opposed evidence-based prevention methods such as contraception and comprehensive sexuality education, its "abortion reduction" rhetoric is simply a newly packaged antiabortion message.

Rhetoric around "finding common ground" (or common good, as Ms Kelley would have it) and "reducing the need for abortion" has framed the abortion debate for the past few months," said O'Brien. "But,

while this rhetoric and subsequent efforts may indeed help to move us past the culture wars over abortion and contraception, it is dangerous when these efforts devolve into an abandonment of ideals. In appointing an antichoice advocate to a key position in HHS we are seeing crucial principles abandoned--principles upon which so many men and women rely to lead healthy lives."

Posner also criticized CACG because it did not issue any public statements about the Tiller assassination, noting that CACG

signed one by Faith in Public Life condemning the murder. But the statement did not condemn the inciting rhetoric of the anti-choice movement. Rather, it made a kumbaya plea for common ground (which as we have seen, is not so common after all).