Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color

Friday, January 19th, 2018 @ 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Judson Memorial Church - 55 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012
Jan 19
Friday, January 19th, 2018 @ 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Judson Memorial Church - 55 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012

Friday, January 19th, 2018
Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color
Judson Memorial Church, Sanctuary Space
55 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

RSVP Required via Eventbrite:
2 CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Credits are available for eligible persons who attend the program.
For questions or further information regarding this program, please contact Liz Boylan at [email protected], or 212.854.0167.

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the decision in Roe v Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed a person’s constitutional right to an abortion. Yet today doctors and healthcare institutions are allowed to withhold this right in the name of religion. On January 19th, The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project is pleased to present a panel discussion upon the release of its report: "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color."  This report, written in partnership with Public Health Solutions presents new research finding that women of color in many states disproportionately give birth at hospitals that place religious ideology above best medical practice. Across the country, Catholic hospitals are governed by strict guidelines that prohibit doctors from providing contraceptives, sterilization, some treatments for ectopic pregnancy, abortion, and fertility services regardless of their patients’ wishes, the urgency of a patient’s medical condition, the doctor's own medical judgment, or the standard of care in the medical profession. In many states, women of color are far more likely than white women to give birth at Catholic hospitals, putting them at greater risk of having their health needs subordinated to religious tenets. This finding is especially troubling given that women of color already face a range of health disparities, which increase their need for comprehensive reproductive health care.

About The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project's mission is to bring legal academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights to equality and liberty. We undertake approaches to the developing law of religion that both respects the importance of religious liberty and recognizes the ways in which too broad an accommodation of these rights threatens Establishment Clause violations and can unsettle a proper balance with other competing fundamental rights. Our work takes the form of legal research and scholarship, public policy interventions, advocacy support, and academic and media publications.

Our Panelists Include:

Kira Shepherd
Director, Racial Justice Project, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Bio: Kira Shepherd is the Director of the Racial Justice Program at the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia Law School she was the Executive Director and Director of Campaigns at The Black Institute (TBI), an action think tank that leads advocacy work in the areas of immigration, education, the environment, and economic justice.  Prior to working at TBI, Kira was a Campaign Manager at, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, where she worked on criminal justice and corporate accountability campaigns.  She also worked at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center where she managed a city-wide youth advocacy project that was instituted in every public high school in Philadelphia.  Kira has also worked with Families for Freedom, a human rights organization by and for families facing and fighting deportation, and Make the Road New York, the largest member-led economic justice group in New York.  Kira graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, Newark with a Juris Doctorate degree.

Willie J. Parker, MD, MPH, MSc 
Author, Life’s Work, A Moral Argument for Choice
Southern Abortion Provider 
Board Chair, Physicians for Reproductive Health

Bio: Dr. Willie J. Parker is an OB/GYN specializing in abortions and a reproductive justice advocate. He is a graduate of Berea College in Kentucky and holds degrees from the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan. Board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and trained in preventive medicine and epidemiology through the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Parker currently provides abortion care for women in AL, MS, PA, GA, and IL, and is the former Medical Director of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington, DC.

He is the physician plaintiff in the federal lawsuit preventing the closure of Mississippi's only abortion clinic, a case currently in a request for hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court.

His work includes a focus on violence against women, sexual assault prevention, and reproductive health rights through advocacy, provision of contraceptive and abortion services, and men's reproductive health.

He is the chair of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health, and a board member of The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and URGE. He was recently honored by the United Nations Office of Human Rights as one of twelve Women’s Human Rights Defenders on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women. He has also received Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award, the organization’s highest award; the “Champions of Choice” Award from NARAL, the oldest abortion rights advocacy group in the US; the George Tiller, MD, Abortion Provider Award from Physicians for Reproductive Health; and the Personal PAC Leadership award, among others.

Candace Gibson
Staff Attorney, National Health Law Program 

Bio: Candace Gibson is a Staff Attorney in NHeLP’s Washington, D.C. office, where she focuses on reproductive health issues in Medicaid and in private insurance.

Before joining NHeLP, Candace worked at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and served as its Policy Counsel/Analyst, managing and implementing its reproductive and sexual health equity policy portfolio and served as its If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow. During her time at NLIRH, she led its advocacy and cross-mobilization efforts on religious refusals and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Before heading to law school, Candace worked at Comunidades Unidas in Utah, collaborating with refugee and immigrant communities on health reform and pursuing policy solutions to eliminate health disparities. She has a Juris Doctor from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and a Bachelors of Arts in Government and Spanish from Smith College. Candace is a member of the Utah State Bar. She is the first in her family to graduate from college.


Cherisse Scott
Founder & CEO, SisterReach

Bio: Cherisse Scott has worked as an educator, advocate, and activist in Reproductive Justice for over 10 years. In 2011, Scott relocated back to Memphis, TN from Chicago and later that year founded SisterReach, currently, the only Reproductive Justice organization in the state of Tennessee. Under Ms. Scott’s leadership, SisterReach released their 2015 report on the need for comprehensive sexuality education for southern youth of color, rolled out their ProWoman Billboard campaign in opposition to anti-abortion billboards erected in Memphis targeting Black men, rolled out their state and nationally based clergy cohort partnering with and training faith leaders on social justice issues and presented to the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice (UNWGDAW) regarding the impact of the fetal assault law on TN women. SisterReach’s work on the fetal assault law led to a victory of defeating HB 1660 which criminalized mothers struggling with drug addiction during this legislative session. Ms. Scott chairs the Education Advocacy Working group for Memphis Teen Vision, was recently featured in the NBCNews #31DaysofFeminism campaign, she is a 2016 Rockwood Institute Fellow, a sought out public speaker on reproductive justice and other human rights issues and works diligently with national partners and coalitions to bring awareness to the human rights injustices of Tennesseans.

Laurie Bertram Roberts
Executive Director, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund

Bio: Laurie Bertram Roberts is a freelance writer, full spectrum doula, and reproductive justice warrior based in Jackson, Mississippi. She is currently the regional director for Mid-South NOW and board member of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund which she co-founded. She has appeared in many national and international media outlets discussing abortion access and women’s issues in Mississippi. 

Faith Groesbeck
Doula, and Director, Birth Quest Home

Bio: Faith Groesbeck's first experiences in providing labor support were to complete the requirement of my childbirth education certification program over 15 years ago. She completed her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from Queens College, City University of New York in 1999, her birth and postpartum doula training was approved by DONA International in 2013, and she became a certified cooperative childbirth educator in 2014. Faith was trained and volunteered as a breastfeeding peer advocate for the WIC program and worked for seven years as a public health educator at Public Health – Muskegon County, specializing in infant mortality reduction. She draws on this professional and volunteer training, knowledge and experience to provide emotional support, physical comfort, advocacy, information and holistic care to prenatal, laboring and postpartum women and couples.

Information Regarding New York CLE Credits:

Columbia Law School has been certified by the New York State Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Board as an Accredited Provider of CLE programs. Under New York State CLE regulations, this live non-transitional CLE Program will provide 2 credit hours that can be applied toward the Areas of Professional Practice requirement. CLE credit is awarded only to New York attorneys for full attendance of the Program in its entirety. Attorneys attending only part of a Program are not eligible for partial credit for it, although they are most welcome to attend it. Attendance is determined by an attorney's sign-in and sign-out, as shown in the Conference registers. On sign-out, attorneys should also submit their completed Evaluation Form, provided at the Conference. Please note the NYS Certificates of Attendance will be sent to the email address as it appears in the register unless otherwise noted there."

CLE Program reading materials:

Tamesha Means v. United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops - Complaint, via the American Civil Liberties Union

Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color
(Report to be released on Friday, January 19th, 2018)

For questions or for further information about this program, please contact Liz Boylan, Associate Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at 212.854.0167 or [email protected].


Contact Info: 
For questions or further information about this program, contact Liz Boylan, Associate Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at 212.854.0167 or [email protected]