Volumne 5 No. 1                                        Return to Home   
June 2001                                                                              

Top (Table of Contents)

  Catholic theologian predicts Vatican will change stance on contraception and abortion
  Women living with AIDS
  The New York Debut of TRC
  Book News
 Unmet needs for sexual and reproductive health care
  Emergency Contraception -- A Too Well Kept Secret
  Putting It in Perspective
  Activities of Participating Scholars
  Speak Out Now
  Meet Two New Members of the Consultation's Board of Directors
  Sacred Choices: The Book, The Video


Catholic theologian predicts Vatican will change stance on contraception and abortion

Christine Gudorf, a prominent Catholic theologian teaching at Florida International University, has predicted that the Vatican’s position on contraception — and even abortion — will change in response to the world situation. In a forthcoming Consultation publication, Gudorf writes: “It is likely that within a generation or two, given the need for development in poor nations and the inevitable augmentation of present ecological pressures from such development, that Catholic hierarchical teaching will change to encourage contraception in marriage and to allow early abortion under some circumstances. As the Catholic Church hierarchy confronts the reality of a biosphere gasping for survival around its teeming human inhabitants, [the Church] will discern [that] the will of God and the presence of the Spirit exists in … those who choose to share responsibility for the health and prosperity of future generations without reproducing themselves, even if that choice involves artificial contraception and early abortion.”



The...Church...has, in the last century, drastically rethought the meaning of marriage, the dignity and worth of women, the relationship between the body and the soul, and the role of bodily pleasure in Christian life. All...have revolutionary implications for Church teaching...In effect, the foundations of the old bans have been razed...

According to Gudorf, the old bans on the use of contraception and of abortion as a backup when necessary were based on theological positions that have been undermined and proved false. She says: Christians can no longer assume that we stand under the Genesis imperative to increase and multiply, since to continue to do so in today’s fragile biosphere undermines the divine call to human stewardship over creation, also revealed in Genesis. The …Church …has, in the last century,drastically rethought the meaning of marriage,the dignity and worth of women,the relationship between the body and the soul,and the role of bodily pleasure in Christian life. All …have revolutionary implications for Church teaching …In effect,the foundations of the old bans have been razed ….

Second, the Roman Catholic Church (and Christianity in general) has, in the last century, drastically rethought the meaning of marriage, the dignity and worth of women, the relationship between the body and the soul, and the role of bodily pleasure in Christian life. All…have revolutionary implications for Church teaching on sexuality and reproduction. In effect, the foundations of the old bans have been razed, and their replacements will not support the walls of the traditional ban.

Gudorf maintains that not only is contraception NOT WRONG, but that heterosexual sex should normally involve contraception: the decision to use sex to have a baby is the decision that has to be justified. It can indeed be justified when prospective parents can give that baby all he/she deserves, including an environment that is not already overburdened.

Beginning to shift?

Catholic theologians did not used to talk that way. And it is not just theologians who are changing. In 1994, the Italian bishops issued a report by a panel of The Pontifical Academy of Sciences that stated: “There is a need to contain births in order to avoid creating the insoluble problems that could arise if we were to renounce our responsibilities to future generations.” They added that lower death rates and better medical care “have made it unthinkable to sustain indefinitely a birth rate that notably exceeds the level of two children per couple — in other words, the requirement to guarantee the future of humanity.” The same report recognizes the “unavoidable need to contain births globally.” That is a change. Catholic bishops were not putting out such reports a generation ago. Has the Vatican shift predicted by Gudorf already begun? Given the role that the Vatican has assumed in international discourse on family planning, we must hope that Gudorf ’s optimism is realistic.

By Daniel C. Maguire

Top (Table of Contents)


Women living with AIDS

Women’s lack of control over sexual activity and its consequences is a major factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS, now the fourth most common cause of death worldwide and the leading killer in Africa, where infected women now outnumber infected men.

UNFPA World Population Report 2000
Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic, June 2000. (Geneva: UNAIDS),
and 1998 Women of Our World (Washington, DC: PRB).

(To view the graphic, visit page 2 of the Acrobat Reader version)

Top (Table of Contents)


The New York Debut of TRC

It was an articulate and informative presentation of reproductive and ecology issues. The audience was responsive and involved — and I was impressed.” So says one of the New Yorkers who attended The Religious Consultation’s auspicious New York debut, which took place at The Top of the Times in New York City’s Times Square. The program, New Scenarios for Planet Earth: Examining the Role of Religion and Reproductive Health, Sexuality and Ecology, featured a panel of Consultation authors who presented six recent Consultation books.

We ran out of chairs as people filled the room. Our audience? Representatives of The United Nations Fund for Population Activities, The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service, US Mission to the UN, Planned Parenthood, The Population Council, Family Care International, UNICEF, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, The Aspen Institute, along with other organizations and many faculty and students from local colleges and universities.

The Consultation authors who spoke on their books were Radhika Balakrishnan, Dorothy Ko, John Raines, Laurie Zoloth, and Dan Maguire. The books presented were Good Sex • Visions of a New Earth • Sacred Energies • What Men Owe To Women • Ethics for A Small Planet • Sacred Choices.

(See the Home for information on these and other publications of The Consultation.)

Dan Maguire opened the session with an introduction to The Consultation and a brief account of its history. He pointed out how the Participating Scholars have produced — or are under contract to produce — nine books in the seven years of The Religious Consultation’s existence. He spoke of the generous support the Consultation has had from The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the General Services Foundation, and the UNFPA.

(For photos, see page 3 of the Acrobat Reader version of this newsletter.)

Top (Table of Contents)


BOOK NEWS: Excerpts from book reviews

Visions of a New Earth
Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption, and Ecology
Edited by Harold Coward and Daniel C. Maguire.
SUNY Press. Price: Paper $17.95 — Cloth $54.50.
Reviewed by Joseph A. Bou-Sliman for SOPHIA,
March/April 2000


This small but intense volume of 234 pages is exceptionally well written as to substance and form. The subject matter is one that has attracted much media attention especially via TV. This has spurred great but mostly superficial investigation by probers more interested in sound bytes and foto-ops by celebs…. Such treatment yields predictable superficiality.

By contrast, Coward and Maguire have gathered a coterie of well credentialed scholars addressing fundamental human issues peculiar to the late twentieth century. Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption, and Ecology could not be more vital to the perpetuation of the human species. How few have been the piercing insights delivered by serious scholars. The editors have remedied these lacunae in their work.

To bring together the perspectives of eleven major religions was a major task by the editors. They have succeeded in their mission. From Jewish thought to Christianity; from African animism to Hindu and Buddhist ethics; from Islam to giant China, the topic of an ethos relentlessly marches to conclusions.

…Of significance is a chapter penned by the Jesuit, Munera, who …places a sober spotlight on the haves and have-nots of the world. … [Loy’s] rifle-shot conclusion that the marketplace has swallowed ethics shocks the reader. This spawning of a new and frightening offspring gives one pause to reflectively consider WHERE is [humanity] going? WHAT is being created? WHO is being used? WHY is it all happening?

… This is a MUST-READ for all thinking persons concerned as to the future of planet earth and its peoples.


Good Sex
Feminist Perspectives from the World’s Religions
Edited by Patricia Beattie Jung, Mary Hunt, and Radhika Balakrishnan
Rutgers University Press. Price: Paper $20 — Cloth $50.
Reviewed by Christine E. Gudorf for Conscience, April 30, 2001

The various authors, most explicitly Jantzen and Jung, agree that one necessary component of feminist good sex is justice. Most of the authors want to consider pleasure as a component in good sex, but for many exposed to the suffering caused by unjust sex, sexual pleasure tastes like dessert, not the rice and beans that sustain life.

For example, Pinar Ilkaracan of Turkey presents …women in eastern Turkey as lacking any degree of autonomy due to the prevalence of arranged child marriage, lack of education, lack of economic resources and compulsory motherhood … pleasurable sex would not make immediate agendas for activism even if women could be persuaded that sexual pleasure for women was achievable.

… Feminists in developing nations are often unwilling to immediately add gay, lesbian, transsexual and transgendered rights to the feminist agenda of ending arranged marriage, outlawing honor killings and giving women the right to reproductive decisions over their own bodies … for fear that this addition will make these other reforms politically impossible.

Other feminists in developing nations point out the risks in pursuing only those rights that patriarchy sees as less threatening, however.

Radhika Balakrishnan’s treatment of capitalism as religion cautions feminists to balance capitalism’s problematic aspects against the comparative liberation that individual paid employment… present[s] for women in many traditional patriarchal social systems.

Judith Plaskow warns religious feminists to be consistent:[women] cannot attack and dismantle inherited authority structures for their exclusion or subordination of women and then invoke their authority concerning parts of the tradition that support feminism.

This project includes two very informative chapters on women and sex in Islam, four on Christianity, two on Judaism,and one each on Buddhism, Confucianism, and capitalism. This is a very useful collection in terms of both the data it provides and its methodological reflections.


Good Sex
Feminist Perspectives from the World’s Religions
Edited by Patricia Beattie Jung, Mary Hunt, and Radhika Balakrishnan.
Rutgers University Press. Price: paper $20 — Cloth $50.
Reviewed by Marianne T. Duddy for Conscience, April 30 2001

The development of this adventurous book involved two face-to-face meetings, as well as sharing of manuscripts in process. What must it have been like for the contributing authors to meet, discuss the concepts of good and bad sex from this wide range of perspectives, agree on guidelines that enabled collaboration without insisting on common language, write, critique, and discuss each other’s work, rethink and redraft their chapters?

The conversational element of this volume — the sense that these ideas have already been heard, acknowledged, taken seriously, even debated — is exhilarating, especially when one realizes how little room has been made for women’s experience and knowledge in the construction of sexual mores in virtually any current society or religious culture. This is a book that is best read with other people, especially other women, in order to allow the collaborative exchange embedded within to continue.

While it is clear from the outset that the contributors are not seeking to develop a single … norm, most seem to agree on certain elements of what good sex might look like in a re-imagined world.

In addition, the book calls for people to bring the discussion of their experiences into the open, rather than continue on paths of silent resistance [toward] existing cultural and religious sexual prohibitions. The authors generally agree that it is only by changing our power to name the ways in which current and historical formulations of sex violate women that we will effect the transformation in politics and polity needed to make good sex a possibility for the majority of the world’s women.

Wanda Deifelt documents the 1.4 million abortions performed illegally in Brazil each year and the high number of women who opt for sterilization as a form of contraception.The cultural veneration of machismo and marianismo that preserves male supremacy over women’s bodies and lives remains unchallenged while women make choices that allow them some level of control over their sexual selves.

…Relegating sexual rebellion to the private sphere is in direct opposition to the premise outlined by [Patricia] Jung that “sexuality draw us into one another’s arms — and consequently into an awareness of and concern about the needs of that other.”

Top (Table of Contents)


What Men Owe to Women

Men’s Voices from World Religions
Edited by John C. Raines and Daniel C. Maguire.
SUNY Press. Price: Paper $19.95 — Cloth $59.50
Reviewed by Sally Cunneen for the National Catholic Reporter

The editors have done something rare in compiling such an anthology: they brought the authors together several times to share their work and to hear from four distinguished feminist scholars before finishing their pieces. The result is an unusually coherent collection offering insights into religions about which most Westerners know little. Admittedly, the authors are from the progressive wings of their own religions: Muslim Asghar Ali Engineer, for example, lives under constant threat of death because of his arguments that the rights of Muslim women are based upon the [Qu’ ran] itself.

…The answers [to the question, what do men owe women?] vary greatly in style and content, though all acknowledge that the main problem is to inform the social reality of long-entrenched domination of women with the spirit of equality that often permeates sacred texts. In [the chapter] “A Hindu Perspective,” Anantanand Rambachan provides an informative introduction to the split between Hindu religious sources and entrenched social conditions … that have long treated women unjustly... [women] are routinely abused through the dowry system in marriage, widowhood, and in the overwhelming preference of sons. Yet the classical religious texts spell out a spiritual side that speaks of the sameness of the divine in women as well as men.

Mutumbo N’kulu-S’engha opens the window on the often-ambivalent attitudes within African traditional religions that hurt women, manipulating the will of the ancestors to preserve male power and privileges…. Mutumbo points out that this situation exists not only within traditional religion, but even more within the world economic order that surrounds and affects it today. He finds in Bumuntu a key concept of personhood. Bumuntu stresses the divine origin of personhood and the intrinsic equality of men and women. Mutumbo concludes that the struggle against sexism is not a charity but a duty, indeed, a matter of justice and common sense. As wisdom of the traditional Yoruban religion of West Africa puts it: …Good character is the essence of religion.

Buddhist Tavivat Puntarigvivat is equally damning in his description of how global capitalism is increasing the heart-breaking trade in girls and women in Asia, dooming them to slave labor and prostitution. His recommendation of restoring an ancient order of nuns … to rehabilitate women’s dignity in the face of such oppression seems only a small step, but the author has certainly informed us of problems we too often forget.

The volume is rich and diverse. Rabbi Ze’ev W. Falk finds prospects for a change in gender equality in the Torah…Gerard Sloyan’s overview of the history of Catholic treatment of women is realistic, balanced, and optimistic about the inevitability of change.

Native North American Christopher Ronwanien:te Jocks, a religious scholar of Mohawk descent, [cites] “Original Instructions” given to his people [to] make thanksgiving for all things in this world [the] first obligation. It is the women, throughout the clan system, who in many ways maintain and care for “the very heart of the community’s culture”— in the radical sense of the fertile ground, made up of the living and the dead, from which shared community grows.” Jocks believes that technological and economic influences have done far more to subvert traditional Mohawk life than Christian missionaries or soldiers. “Unless we stop exploiting the earth,” he asks, “how can we begin to relate more equitably to women”? He is not overly optimistic, offering only few historical precedents and ideas, but his analysis is accurate and moving, a clear challenge to his readers.

What Men Owe to Women should be both a resource and a springboard for further discussion. [It’s] a subject critical to contemporary life as well as religion.

ORDERING INFORMATION

You may order any of the Consultation’s Books through your local bookstore, or call the publishers at these numbers.

Fortress Press:
1 (800) 328 4648

SUNY Press:
1 (800) 666 2211

Rutgers University Press
1 (800) 446 9323

Top (Table of Contents)


Unmet needs for sexual and reproductive health care

    At least 350 million couples around the world lack information about or access to a full range of contraceptive services. This unmet need will grow as population
increases.

    Each year, there are 75 million unwanted pregnancies worldwide.

    Every day, at least 1,600 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth—585,000 women at a minimum die each year.

    11% of all births are to adolescent women. Pregnancy-related complications are among the major causes of death for girls aged 15–19.

    Only 65% of women in developing countries receive prenatal care, and fewer than 30% get postnatal care.

    Nearly half of all births take place without the assistance of a skilled birth attendant (a midwife, nurse/midwife or doctor).

    Each year, 20 million unsafe abortions take place—95% of them in the developing world. Complications of unsafe abortions account for the deaths of at least 78,000 women each year.

    At least 16,000 women, men, and children are infected with HIV every day. Half of all new cases are among young people between the ages of 10 and 24. In most countries, 40% of new HIV infections are in women, and the rate is rising.

    More than one million people a day are infected with a curable STD—the highest reported rates of STDs are found among young people aged 15–24.

Meeting the Cairo Challenge: A Summary Report. 1999
Family Care International, p. 20
.

Top (Table of Contents)


Emergency Contraception — a too well-kept secret

By Daniel C. Maguire

What is Emergency Contraception?
First of all, it is not abortion. Emergency Contraception (EC) prevents pregnancy. A woman who engages in unprotected sex and then uses EC too late — i.e., she is already pregnant — will not dislodge or destroy the conceptum by using EC. As Jane E. Brody of The New York Times says about EC, “there is no risk to a developing fetus if the woman should happen to be already pregnant.”

EC involves taking multiple doses of oral contraceptives within a few days of unprotected intercourse. This prevents pregnancy.

Pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. There is strong medical evidence that EC functions prior to fertilization. EC does not work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. If EC were to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting itself, this process could trouble those holding the eccentric position that fertilized eggs are people — i.e., folks like you and me. No evidence supports the theory that EC interferes with implantation. Anita Nelson, Medical Director of Women’s Health Care Programs at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, said women who revere fertilized eggs could still use EC if they use the pills before ovulation. Doing so prevents fertilization, not implantation.

A little-known option
Although EC has been available for more than a quarter of a century, most women — even in the United States — are unaware of its existence. Doctors have been poor educators on EC. One US physician, Edith McFadden, sees the lack of information as continuing “the conspiracy of silence about the specific medical needs of women by a male-dominated medical profession.” Thomas Purdon, President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called this lack of education,“abysmal and inexcusable.”

However, some areas show progress. In the state of Washington, EC is available from pharmacists without a doctor’s prescription. British Columbia, England, France, and Portugal also dispense EC this way. In Norway, EC is available over the counter. We are not dealing with an untested procedure.

Why Emergency Contraception is a great thing

According to Dr. James Trussell, a demographer specializing in reproductive health at Princeton, there are “about 60 million menstrual cycles each year in which women had unprotected intercourse.” For every 100 women who had intercourse even once during the second or third week of a menstrual cycle, eight could become pregnant. EC could cut in half the number of unintended pregnancies, making abortions that much more unnecessary.

In a utopian world where there are no contraceptive accidents, where sex education is perfectly effective, where sexual ardor in young or old is always under reasonable control, where there is no forced sex or even rape, where men and women have total respect for one another — in such a world, there might be no unintended pregnancies. Open your eyes. This is not Utopia. EC is a blessing. It should be made available “over the counter” so women can use it when they need it.

Top (Table of Contents)


Putting it in perspective

Professor Charles Derber of Boston College writes:

Consider this —

    450 billionaires today own more wealth than half of all humanity

    Wal-Mart is bigger than 163 countries

     GE is bigger than Israel or Finland

    Of the top 100 economies in the world today,50 are corporations.


Professor Derber continues, “The corpocracy unites economic,political, and ideological power, much as the Catholic Church did in the Middle Ages. The Church owned the most land, dominated new nation states, and created a global faith. With its concentration of wealth and political power, today’s corpocracy creates a new religion of the market.

From Boston Research Center Newsletter, Winter 2001

Top (Table of Contents)


Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Movers and Shakers

Jose Barzelatto attended the 17th Biennial Congress of ALIRH (Asociacion Latinoamericana de Investigadores en Reproduccion Humana – Latin-American Association of Researchers in Human Reproduction). This prestigious congress accepts only active and serious researchers in the field. Jose delivered the Roberto Caldeyro Barcia Memorial Lecture at the conference, where this distinguished international audience discussed emergency contraception. (See p. 7)

Radhika Balakrishnan spoke at the 15th Annual Conference for Student and Community Activists at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, March 30–April 1. The 3-day conference sponsored by the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program and the Population and Development Program was entitled, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom.

Julia Ching delivered a paper at a conference on Ethical and Religious Traditions and Weapons of Mass Destruction at Mt.Holyoke College in April 2001.

Susannah Heschel, winner of the 1998 National Jewish Book Award, has received the 2000 Award from the Institute for Jewish Studies from the University of Potsdam, Germany. Her recently published book, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998) has been translated by Christian Wiese into German as Der jüdische Jesus und das Christentum: Abraham Geigers Herausforderung an die christliche Theologie (Munich: Knesebeck/Jüdischer Verlag, 2001). Susannah has also published these articles:

— Beyond Heroism and Victimhood: Gender and Holocaust Scholarship
, Studies in Contemporary Jewry,Hebrew University, 2000.

— Emanuel Levinas in feministischer Perspektive, (German) Kirche und Israel vol. 15, no. 1 (January 2000), 41–46.

— When Jesus Was an Aryan: The Protestant Church and Antisemitic Propaganda, In God’s Name: Genocide and Religion in the Twentieth Century, Omer Bartov and Phyllis Mack (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000)

— Meeting of the Spirit, by the Spirit: The Relationship between Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King, Jr.
, Black Zion: African-American Religious Encounters with Judaism, ed. Yvonne Chireau and Nathaniel Deutsch (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). Also reprinted as “Theological Affinities in the Writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King, Jr., Conservative Judaism vol. 50, no. 2–3 (Winter/Spring 1998), 126–143.

Mary E. Hunt is currently a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School where she is exploring the efforts to legalize gay/lesbian marriages and to allow openly gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgendered people to serve in the US military.

Her research asks if such steps are real steps forward. Or are they, in fact, ways to re-inscribe and reinforce socially conservative institutions, e.g. marriage and the military? (Strategies to distract from the need to imagine new forms of relationships and to scale down the military after the cold war.) This dynamic of seeming progress masking social conservatism is a key issue in policymaking.

Mary is also working on a volume on same-sex love and religion for a series of books published by Columbia University Press on religions in the US. This book will be the first general overview of the remarkable progress made in virtually all mainstream religious groups to include gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgendered persons on their own terms.

In late May, Mary and Wanda Deifelt, another of our Scholars and a contributor to the Consultation’s Good Sex book, traveled to Brazil’s Lutheran Seminary in Sao Leopoldo, near Porto Alegre, to conduct a workshop on the book.

Patricia Beattie Jung and Joseph A. Coray are editing Sexual Diversity and Catholicism: Toward The Development of Moral Theology, The Liturgical Press, 2001. This volume brings a range of progressive Roman Catholic voices from a wide variety of disciplines (theology, philosophy, ethics, biblical studies and social science) into conversation with official Catholic teaching on gay/lesbian/bisexual/ transgendered realities. Mary E. Hunt and Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton are also contributing to this volume.

Paul Knitter was invited to participate in a program hosted by Bavarian State Television. The program focused on the theology and the theologians who were the object of Cardinal Ratzinger’s Dominus Iesus. The title of the program, which aired February 13, was Die Herausforderer — Wie gefährlich ist die pluralistische Theologie?( The Challengers — How Dangerous is Pluralistic Theology?)

The program included brief bios and detailed interviews with theologians whom Bavarian TV thought were on Ratzinger’s “hit list” — John Hick, Perry Schmidt-Leukel, a Catholic German theologian formerly of the University of Munich, Paul Knitter,Michael von Brück, a Protestant German theologian, and Francis D’Sa, a Jesuit teaching in India.

The various interviews converged on how the Divine can be as richly present in other religions as in Christianity. All the theologians agreed that the question of religious pluralism and Christians understanding themselves in relation to other faiths needs further exploration. All were, therefore, gravely concerned about the efforts of the Vatican to squelch such a conversation.

John Raines’ book, The Justice Men Owe Women: Positive Resources from World Religions, will be published by Fortress Press soon. The book is part of the Consultation’s Sacred Energies series. John has also completed work on a new anthology of the writings of Karl Marx on Religion, which should be published next year by Temple University Press.

At the end of May, John leaves for five weeks in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to teach in the new Comparative Religious Studies Program at Indonesia’s Gadjah Mada University. He will also be organizing a National Conference on Religion and Science hosted by Gadjah Mada in 2002. The conference is funded by the Templeton Foundation.

John and a natural scientist at Gadjah Mada, Achmad Mursyidi, have won a Templeton Course Prize and will be teaching a joint course on Religion and Science in 2003 at Gadjah Mada University.

John points out that Indonesia is the fourth-largest country in the world, and 90 percent of its population is Muslim — which means Indonesia has more Muslims than the combined total of all Middle East nations. Islam is primarily an Asian religion, not a Middle Eastern religion. The countries with the largest Muslim populations in descending order are Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, and Egypt.


Lloyd Steffen. Professor and Chair of the Religion Studies Department at Lehigh University has recently been elected to the Board of Directors of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. He will serve a three-year term.


Chun-fang Yu’s book, Kuan-yin, the Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara (Columbia University Press) is now available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

Top (Table of Contents)


Speak out — now


On the very first day of his presidency, George W.Bush responded to the will of his conservative supporters by reinstating the ban on federal funds for international family planning organizations that provide abortion information. While Bush may have been appeasing the anti-choice wing of his party, he did not hit the mark in preventing abortions. Instead, he curtailed the very programs that prevent pregnancy. And preventing pregnancy in the first place is one of the surest ways to prevent abortion.

Given the present atmosphere in Washington, it is time to speak out. As issues of family planning and sexuality education arise — as well as Supreme Court nominations, which could reverse the Roe v. Wade verdict — we need a voice to counter those who would see us turn back the clock to the days of alleged “family values.” These “values” were blind to the hardship of the world’s impoverished women, depriving them of the resources needed to space and limit the number of their children through contraception.

Please contact the Public Affairs department of your local Planned Parenthood affiliate or call their New York office at (212) 261-4721. (Web site: ww.plannedparenthood.org) This organization has position statements you can endorse and will keep you aware of ways to make your views heard. Many threats to reproductive rights loom ahead: for example, the issue of Title 10 funding may put funding for US contraception in jeopardy. Act now, so you don’t regret not doing so later.

Top (Table of Contents)


Meet two new members of the
Consultation’s Board of Directors

Nicola (Nikki) Jones has worked in the field of gender, population and reproductive health for almost 30 years as an activist, researcher, and teacher. Much of her time has been spent supporting women’s empowerment and reproductive health in urban poor communities and in developing countries — with a focus on social, cultural, ethical, policy, and gender issues that impede women’s equality and good health.

Nikki currently works with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as Chief of the Office for Results-Based Management, Strategic Planning and Coordination Division, which leads the mainstreaming of results-based management throughout the organization. She also chairs an informal Ethics and Reproductive Health Working Group, with members based in 35 countries. The Group works on issues of ethics and religion as they relate to reproductive health.

Before joining the United Nations, Nikki worked for the Ford Foundation where she was responsible for funding and managing the Human Development and Reproductive Health Program in the Philippines. Earlier, she developed the Ford Foundation’s first reproductive health program in West Africa, overseeing the Foundation’s efforts in Nigeria and the Francophone West African countries, including Senegal, Mali, Togo, and Burkina Faso.

As a consultant to UNFPA, she has also participated in missions in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Algeria, with special responsibility for women and youth. As a consultant on women and community development, she worked with international NGOs in Mali and Angola. As a faculty member at the University of Provence, France, Nikki taught a graduate program and carried out research in Senegal and Mali.

Nikki literally brings a world of experience to our Board. Besides working around the world, she earned her PhD in Social Policy and Administration from the University of Kent — based on research among Catholic and Muslim families in France. She received a Diploma in Specialized Advanced Studies in population policy from the University of Provence. In addition, she holds an MA in social work from the University of Kent, and a BA in linguistics and philosophy from the University of Lancaster, UK.

Lauire Zoloth is Professor of Social Ethics and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. She is President of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is also the co-founder of The Ethics Practice, a group that provides bioethics consultation and educational services to NASA, health care providers and health care systems nationally, including the Kaiser Permanente System, five San Francisco Bay area medical centers, and regional long-term care networks.

Laurie has also worked as a registered nurse in obstetrics and neonatal intensive care. She has taught, researched, and published extensively in the areas of ethics, family, feminist theory, Jewish Studies, and social policy in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, Theoretical Medicine, The Hastings Center Report, HEC Forum, Medical Humanities Review, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, and Tikkun Magazine. She has contributed chapters to 18 books, and has authored one book, The Ethics of Encounter that discussed justice, health policy, Oregon health care reform, and the ethics of community. She co-edited four other books: Notes from A Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics; Riding on Faith: Religion, Popular Culture and the World of Disney; Margin of Error: The Necessity, Inevitability and Ethics of Mistakes in Medicine and Bioethics Consultation; and Immortal Cells, Moral Selves: Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research.

Laurie is a member of the national advisory boards of the American Association of the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion • the Robert Wood Johnson Project on Excellence at the End of Life • The Louis Finklestein Institute for Jewish Social Ethics • Ethics Section of the American Academy of Religion • Geron Ethics Advisory Board. She is also on the editorial boards of Shofar: A Journal of Jewish Studies, Journal of Clinical Ethics, and Second Opinion.

She earned her PhD in Social Ethics as well as an MA in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley; her MA in English from San Francisco State University; her BSN from the University of the State of New York; her BA in Women’s Studies and History from the University of California at Berkeley. We welcome Laurie to the Board. She will enrich us all with her experience and her perception.

Top (Table of Contents)


Sacred Choices: the book, the video

Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions
by Daniel C. Maguire. Fortress Press, June 2001.
Price: Paper only, $13.00

Fourteen of our scholars have completed our project, Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The first fruits of the project are now out in paperback.

The book’s message is that alongside the well-known “no choice” position on contraception and abortion, 10 major religions of the world offer an equally



We could all agree that there are too many abortions! We might further agree that in Utopia, there would be almost no need for abortion. And we could certainly agree that this world is not Utopia.

orthodox “pro-choice” position on contraception, with abortion as a backup when necessary. All royalties from the book will be reinvested in the project and used to promote this message.

This book will be followed next year by a multi-author book from a university press. (Read the Preface to Sacred Choices.)


Top (Table of Contents)

Subscribe to Newsletter (free)

Back to Home