In a recent interview with the Religion News Service, vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris expressed her support for the toleration of the religious beliefs and conscience of all Americans.
Her exact words were: "Religious freedom and tolerance have been core principles of this country since our founding, and Joe and I will uphold and protect them — while protecting believers of all faiths."
As a Rabbi and a Democrat, I was pleasantly surprised to see a high-profile Democrat say this. At Democrats For Life of America, we applaud Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' commitment to respecting all faiths equally. But as an organization representing 21 million pro-life Democrats, we ask if this tolerance will be applied to healthcare workers who object to abortion.
According to the abortion lobby and some Democratic lawmakers, conscientious objections have no place in healthcare. As recently as last year, the University of Vermont Medical Center came under fire for forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion despite her moral objections.
Katherine Ragsdale, interim president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, believes that pro-life medical professionals should seek employment in another field: "Those health care workers who do not allow them to provide compassionate care or to perform the duties their patients require and their employers assign should feel free and encouraged to find other work."
Democrats For Life believes that pro-life medical professionals of all faith backgrounds (or no faith) belong in healthcare, and those who entered the medical field to save lives should not be forced to perform abortions. We believe that the religious and moral objections of pro-life healthcare providers can be respected without compromising the high-quality care patients have a right to.
We also ask how a Biden-Harris administration's commitment to respecting all Americans' freedom of conscience squares with opposition to the Hyde Amendment. A January 2020 Marist poll indicates that 60% of Americans, including 41% of Democratic women, have serious moral objections to their tax dollars funding abortions.
The Hyde Amendment protects the consciences of millions of Americans who do not want their money being used to fund the killing of unborn children, and repealing it is contradictory to any statement about supporting freedom of conscience.
I’m a proud Democrat because my party has traditionally defended the vulnerable and the marginalized. My party has usually stood strong for human rights by opposing racism and discrimination, supporting the environment, and standing with those in need. The Democratic Party has traditionally been very tolerant and welcoming of diverse views, yet it has pushed away Americans who are moderate on this issue. If the Democratic Party cares about defeating President Trump, it should reject abortion extremism and actively embrace America's 21 million pro-life Democrats and their concern for religious freedom and human rights.
According to the last national Gallup Poll on abortion (2019), nearly 30% of Democratic voters, and 44% of Independent voters identify as pro-life. And according to a January Marist Poll, about two-thirds (65%) of all Americans, including 44% of Democrats, say they “are more likely to vote for” candidates who would limit abortion to at most the first three months of pregnancy.
Religious freedom and freedom of conscience is the bedrock of our country and must be protected at every turn, but it's only meaningful if the application is universal. It's never too late to inform voters where you stand, Senator Harris.
In the final days of this election, you and former Vice President Biden should clarify what exactly you mean when you say you support freedom of conscience. There are millions of pro-life Americans, many of whom are Democrats, waiting for your answer.
Rabbi Craig Miller is a former elected official in Passaic, New Jersey, and he is a Board Member of Democrats for Life of America.
Rabbi Craig Miller is a former elected official in Passaic, New Jersey, and he is a board member of Democrats for Life of America.