Christianity No Longer the Focus of Christian Group

Nov 13, 2002 03:00 AM EST

Even though the initials YWCA stand for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), a spokeswoman said it's been a "very, very long time" since the organization focused on promoting Christian values.

"Now, the focus is on empowering women and their families," Crystal McNeal, a spokesperson for the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee, Wis., said Monday. That empowerment, she said, includes dispensing birth control bills and condoms to girls and women.

Recently, the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee announced it had partnered with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to open two community-based health clinics. The unique partnership arose out of a shared desire to provide low-income and homeless women with free health services including cancer screening and "family planning."

According to McNeal, family planning services provided by the clinics are limited to dispensing birth control pills and condoms to the walk-in patients. Unlike the vast majority of Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, she said abortion would not be offered at the two inner-city Milwaukee locations.

When the reporters asked McNeal if providing contraceptives to women violated the YWCA's Christian values and beliefs, she said the group has been practicing a "progressive" approach to women's health issues, including contraception and abortion, since the feminist movement heated up in the 1960s and 1970s.

McNeal said the YWCA of Milwaukee has never encountered any opposition to its abandonment of its Christian foundation or the family planning programs that have taken its place. "For years, people have known that the focus of the YWCA has been on empowering women," she said.

Since the 1960s, the YWCA of the USA has refused to identify itself as a pro-abortion organization, persistently denying such allegations during the group's yearly national conventions. However, according to its statements, the group does support a woman's "right to choose in the matter of abortion based on her own religious and ethical beliefs and her physician's guidance."

In addition to the religious, ethical and medical concerns surrounding abortion, the YWCA of the USA has lobbied for "the repeal of all laws restricting or prohibiting abortions performed by a duly licensed physician and supports public funding for abortions and pre and post-abortion counseling."

The YWCA has even adopted a position in support of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. "No one religious belief should be mandated by law," according to the YWCA, so as not to stir debate on the beginning of "personhood."

Time For a Name Change?

"If they want to reject Christianity, they need to change their name," said Wendy Wright, the senior policy director for Concerned Women for America. "Because the YWCA continues to use that name, they are misleading people."

Wright said the YWCA is just one example of the many Christian organizations that have been taken over by people who disdain Christianity. The true empowerment, dignity and respect that women receive today can be attributed to the way Jesus is depicted as treating women in the Bible, Wright said.

"That was the beginning in history of women being treated with respect and dignity," Wright said. "That's why you find that it's in Western culture that women are treated the best; Western cultures are based on a Judeo-Christian ethic."

Despite the YWCA's denials, Wright said the group does fit the definition of a pro-abortion organization.

"They are 'pro,' which means 'in favor of,' and they're in favor of abortion," Wright said. However, it is apparent the YWCA recognizes the stigma still attached to abortion, she added.

"It's a proper stigma because abortion is bad for women and it's also fatal for the unborn child and it destroys relationships," Wright said. "What this really shows is that abortion still is not acceptable in today's society."

Although the YWCA's McNeal maintains that the two new Milwaukee clinics will not perform abortions on their premises, Wright noted that those clinics are still capable of referring women for abortions elsewhere.

"One of their main reasons for not providing the abortions may be government funding," Wright explained. "To receive Title X funds, you can't be providing abortions, so they just put them under another roof or they refer to another abortion clinic in the area."

By Michael L. Betsch