The 2nd Annual ProFaith/ProChoice Event was an enlightened discussion on often controversial issues surrounding sexuality, reproductive freedom and abortion. It was presented by TJSL’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) on March 20, and was moderated by Professor Joy Delman.
The guest speakers were from three different ideological backgrounds; Rabbi Scott Meltzer, a Lecturer on Religious Studies at San Diego State University; Reverend Katherine Schofield, who is the director of Spirituality and Sexuality at the University of Southern California; and Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at the University of San Diego, who teaches Buddhist Faith and Practice.
All of the speakers stressed that they weren’t speaking on behalf of their entire religion or affiliations, but all of them spoke about general traditions within their faiths and shared personal beliefs as well.
Asked what their faiths and religions say about reproductive freedom, Rabbi Meltzer said, “Individuals within our tradition have the right to make their own decisions. No entity can command another in sexuality or reproduction.”
Reverend Schofield, an ordained United Church of Christ minister, said that she “comes from a more liberal Christian background that favors choice. If people don’t have the freedom, we can’t live the Christian life.”
Karma Lekshe Tsomo said that, “The Buddha’s teachings value life and there is a monastic code against taking the life of a fetus. At the same time, people are responsible for their own decisions and the consequences that go along with them.” She stressed that these consequences are not “just a one-life decision,” but also have karmic consequences in future lives in Buddhist belief.
On the question of contraception, Reverend Schofield feels that it “allows people to be responsible for any life they bring into the world,” while Tsomo says there is no prohibition on contraception “in early Buddhist tenets and texts.” Rabbi Meltzer said that “it’s important to separate contraception from sexuality," and he “has no problem with sexuality that is not for reproduction. We have a long tradition of celebrating a lifetime of loving sexuality. Sexuality is a sacred part of the human experience. “
Professor Delman asked the speakers about their positions on abortion within the context of their religious and spiritual traditions.
Tsomo said, “It’s the people’s own choice.” In Buddhism, she said, “the status of the fetus is ambiguous,” however,” the taking of a life could be a non-virtuous action.” Reverend Schofield feels that, “abortion is a difficult situation all around. It’s not celebrated in anyone’s tradition, as far as I know.” She feels that “some circumstances do call for abortion.” Rabbi Meltzer asked the question: “Is abortion murder? Science doesn’t have a clear voice on that. In Jewish tradition, life does not begin at conception. The fetus is part of the mother’s body and in some cases you are obligated to have an abortion. However Judaism doesn’t fit clearly into any category. We live by the First Amendment and don’t believe in forcing religious beliefs on anyone.”
On the subject of same-sex marriage, Reverend Schofield says she has “no issue with same sex-couples being different” than heterosexual couples. Tsomo said that “marriage is male-female in Buddhist tradition – there is a bias.” But in her own opinion, “there should be no discrimination in same- sex marriage.” Rabbi Meltzer said, “I don’t understand why our country cares about the gender of people who wish to get married.”
“I found the discussion very enlightening,” said Meghan Powell 3L, Co- President of LSRJ. “It was wonderful to hear the different perspectives of three very prominent religions.”
“I thought the panel discussion about reproductive justice and religion was fascinating,” said Development and Alumni Relations Coordinator Stephanie Marquez, who attended the event. “Although I don’t come from a religious background of any of the panelists, I felt that their viewpoints were very insightful. What I found most thought provoking was how undefined the concept of when life really begins is, and if that is how all faiths and the justice system determine how they make judgments and conclusions about these issues, then is it inevitable that as long as that definition remains undefined then we will continue to have differing views about abortion, contraception, sexuality and reproduction.”
“I think it’s amazing that we were able to bring these people from such different ideological backgrounds together to talk about such sensitive topics,” said Cris Kinsella 2L LSRJ Secretary. “The conversation was great and I think everyone in the room walked away with something they didn't know before.” “This year's Pro-Faith, Pro-Choice Panel discussion surpassed my expectations in respect to the material discussed, and attendance,” said Amy Louttit 3L Event Chair of LSRJ. “Being able to have these folks at the table today was a valuable experience for me personally. I grew up Catholic, but my mom did not want me to confirm my faith if it was going to be forced and I never did subscribe to any religion after that. Today allowed me to hear from three religions I had not experienced growing up in the Deep South. I was not aware that even within devout religions entrenched in traditions there was this much wiggle room for interpretations. It was quite inspirational!”