By Susanne Prochazka 2L
On April 18, Law Students for Reproductive Justice hosted an event titled “Pro-Faith & Pro-Choice.” The event was an open discussion forum that explored the relationship between reproductive rights and religion. Being religious and pro-choice has been portrayed as incompatible in recent media coverage and legislation exploring and discussing the relationship between reproductive rights and religion. Attendees presented their personal perspectives on the issues, discussing their respective religious backgrounds and the manner in which they approach contraception.
Professor Herald moderated the discussion, emphasizing the importance of understanding both sides of the debate. Currently, the debate is framed as polar issues, where it is either a “war on women” or a “war on religion.” This aggressive wording, which portrays the debate as a clash of two absolute beliefs, can ostracize those who do side with either perspective, and, thus it is important to understand the underlying issues, said Professor Herald.
The discussion began with questions regarding current legislation and its effects on reproductive rights and the religious implications behind the legislation. The first question dealt with the health care reform and the recent outcry by religious hospitals and medical institutions that did not want to be forced to provide contraceptives to employees. Discussion touched on how this may not represent the viewpoints of many of the religion’s followers, but that it is currently a very politically-charged issue and unlikely to appear in courts anytime soon. The U.S. Supreme Court hesitates to define any particular religion, just as it has declined to create a conscience clause, as this could water down the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Another initial question centered on the recent Arizona gestation law, which states that pregnancy, and potentially personhood, begins two weeks before conception. This law is troubling as it has far-reaching implications on many other areas of law, such as property law or criminal law.
Following this initial discussion, attendees shared their personal experiences as practitioners of particular faiths and the effect their religious upbringing had on their beliefs and practices regarding reproductive choices. From backgrounds in Catholicism to Judaism and Agnosticism, and from Wiccan to Unitarianism, attendees shared their stories. A dynamic conversation ensued, ranging from how to accommodate divergent rules and beliefs, to whether religious texts evolve with the times, and whether it is possible to reconcile certain rights, such as medical privacy and bodily autonomy with conflicting religious tenets.
The conversation was vibrant and engaging, and allowed attendees to hear, in a civil and educational atmosphere, perspectives on reproductive rights from followers of radically different faiths.