- Nominally Catholic organization that supports the right to abortion-on-demand
- Heavily financed by several foundations that do not support any officially recognized Catholic charity
- Founded in 1973 by members of the National Organization for Women
Catholics For Choice (CFC), formerly known as Catholics For a Free Choice, is a nonprofit organization comprised of members who identify themselves as followers of the Catholic faith but take positions contrary to their church's doctrine on a number of moral issues. The group candidly approves of premarital sex, contraception, and most notably, abortion. CFC's stated mission is "to ensure public recognition of the existence, in substantial numbers, of pro-choice Catholics."
CFC claims to be composed of practicing Catholics who, after much moral soul-searching, have reluctantly but courageously chosen to embrace a "Catholic alternative" to the views endorsed by the Vatican and Catholic bishops. The secular media have embraced CFC as a legitimate organization whose positions and pronouncements are representative of a substantial number of Catholics.
However, the organization has no membership and is funded almost entirely by a small number of foundations and wealthy individuals whose interest in Catholic causes is otherwise nonexistent. Between 1996 and 2000, the organization raised approximately $15 million, more than 70 percent of which came from five sources that have never contributed to an officially recognized Catholic nonprofit: the Buffett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation (which gave a total of $4.4 million), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. All five of these foundations have supported the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the National Organization for Women, and Planned Parenthood.
Other funders of CFFC include the Compton Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Open Society Institute of George Soros, the Playboy Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Summit Charitable Foundation, and the Turner Foundation.
In addition, between 1996 and 2000 CFC's international subsidiaries, Catholics for a Free Choice Latin America and Catholics for a Free Decision, received over 50 foundation grants totaling more than $10 million.
CFC was founded in 1973, shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision, by three National Organization for Women (NOW) members -- Joan Harriman, Patricia Fogarty McQuillan, and Meta Mulcahy. According to the CFFC website, "At the time, little if any active dissent movement existed in the church. The impression was widespread that Catholics followed the bishops unquestioningly. … These three women … recognized the importance of organized opposition to the hierarchy's campaign. They were motivated by the simple conviction that the bishops did not represent the Catholic people on reproductive rights issues, including abortion.” In its early years, CFC was almost entirely a voluntary operation; it had no staff, no office, and no budget. Its work was conducted partly out of its members' homes, and partly out of office space provided, free of charge, by Planned Parenthood. The modest funding that CFC received in those early years came from the Unitarian Church, a strong advocate of abortion and population control.
A watershed moment for CFC came in 1979, when it hired Pat McMahon as Executive Director. She shifted CFC's legal status from a lobby to an educational association, thereby making the group eligible for tax-exempt status and opening the door to foundation support. Shortly thereafter, the Sunnen Foundation gave CFC a $75,000 grant to fund the group's first publications, the Abortion in Good Faith series.
In 1982 Frances Kissling succeeded McMahon as CFC president. Kissling greatly increased the group's fundraising efforts, and she initiated its publication of pamphlets, newsletters, and a quarterly magazine called Conscience. With Kissling still at the helm, CFC today ranks among Washington's most well-funded special-interest groups.
A member of the National Council of Women's Organizations, CFC was a Co-Sponsoring Organization of the April 25, 2004 "March for Women's Lives" held in Washington, D.C., a rally that drew more than a million demonstrators advocating that women be granted unrestricted access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.