Manufacturing Stigma

In her article, “Manufacturing Stigma: How Pandering to Faith-Based Organizations Demonizes Abortion” (Vol. XXXV, No. 3), Jacqueline Nolley Echegaray seriously mischaracterizes an article published in our journal, the Guttmacher Policy Review. We believe it misinforms readers about the Guttmacher Institute’s work and policy positions.

As we clearly stated in the article, we are aware of the challenges that can come with faith-based organizations’ involvement with family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services. We have written about and criticized these problems extensively. In this piece, however, we sought to raise awareness of the special contributions these groups can make both in terms of their reach on the ground as well as culturally and politically at the global and country levels, including here in the United States.

As Catholics for Choice knows better than most, US policymakers responsible for allocating funding for US foreign aid programs often fail to understand that key elements of the faith community not only support a robust US government effort to promote family planning and reproductive health overseas, but also directly partner with the US government to deliver these services—and have done so for many years.

Ms. Echegaray also mischaracterizes some basic points. For instance, she claims we wrongly describe “Catholics” as opposing contraception, when in fact our article’s reference was to the “Roman Catholic Church” being in staunch opposition. Our article cites Guttmacher’s own research showing that the vast majority of Catholic women in the United States support and use modern contraceptive methods. The context makes clear that our article is referring to the views of the Catholic hierarchy, even if it failed to use that word.

The law regarding US-funded international family planning programs—which mirrors domestic law, as described in our article—is that an organization can qualify for US family planning aid and still provide less than the full array of contraceptive methods so long as they also provide information about the broad range of contraceptive options, ensure informed consent and refer clients for those methods they themselves do not provide. We accurately describe the law but did not attempt to examine compliance with the law, which would have been another article entirely.

Guttmacher’s unwavering commitment to voluntarism, fully informed choice and a comprehensive agenda to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad is clear. We need our policymakers to be clear, too, about the diversity of actors involved in implementing these programs and advocating for greater US investments in them to the benefit of women around the world. That is the reason we published this article.

Sincerely,

SUSAN A. COHEN
Vice President for Public Policy & Editor-in-Chief, Guttmacher Policy Review Guttmacher Institute
Washington, DC

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