Published by The Religious
Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics
Volume 8 No. 1
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The chastity mask
Catholic and Pro-choice pamphlets
Water for sale
and going to the
Estimated HIV-positive adults and young
people living with HIV/AIDS
The shaky future of Roe v. Wade
Fundamentalism ironically strong
in the U.S.A
The defrocking of bishops authority
Two new Consultation projects launched
New Sacred Choices video documentary
News from Indonesia
Putting population growth in perspective
Movers and Shakers
Reader pdf version
By Daniel C. Maguire
President, The Religious Consultation on Popultion, Reproductive
Health and Ethics
you are up to a lot of immoral mischief and even criminality,
you must either admit you are evil or find some way of looking
sensitive and good, preferably in some area that will not
inconvenience you much. In other words, you need a mask.
The United States is a rogue nation, armed to the teeth with
Weapons of Mass Destruction while preaching disarmament, the
only nation to use atomic weapons on population centers in
a classical example of terrorism, having today 800 military
installations sprinkled all over the world, rushing into wars
without declaring them in the way the Constitution requires,
overturning more than 25 governments around the world since
1945, ranking 22nd of the 22 richest nations of the world
in per capita foreign aid, welching on its bills to the United
Nations, and having millions of its children bereft of health
for a mask!
The first tactic of mask-making is displaced indignation. Minor
issues stir fervent moral passions. Rigid pelvic orthodoxy
is a favorite masking technique. Get really serious about
sexual and reproductive issues. President George W. Bush deserves
a masking award.
Of course he requires a good mask. He is marked out by the fact
that he is the first president in United States history to
start and be losing two wars simultaneously. (Neither Iraq
or Afghanistan could be described in terms of "victory."
Chaos, yes, but victory, no.)
So suddenly, same sex marriages threaten our civilization, our
families, and our own heterosexual marriages. The Constitution
(that document he violated by going to war without a declaration)
must be amended to stop them. Abortion decisions by women
are more serious and abhorrent than the carnage of our military
adventures and the deaths from our foreign aid penury. In
a weird contortion, resulting no doubt from an excess of puritanical
zeal, contraceptive aid to the United Nations Fund for Population
Activities (aid that would prevent abortions) is stopped by
the president's imperial decree. On top of all that, our reformist
president, who should have been a bit more tolerant on the
subject of drugs, even agonized in his 2004 State of the Nation
about performance enhancing drug use by athletes. Horrors!
Meanwhile Rome burns
Of course it is an old gambit. If you are allegedly sexually
abstemious and judgmental, you can swallow big doses of evil.
A United States delegate to the Baptist World Alliance congress
in Berlin in 1934 gave this telling comment on Nazism:
It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious
sex literature cannot be sold, where putrid motion pictures
and gangster films cannot be shown. The new Germany has burned
great masses of corrupting books and magazines along with
its bonfire of Jewish and communistic libraries. Commenting
on this, biblical scholar Walter Wink writes: "Surely,
so the reasoning went, a leader who does not smoke or drink,
who wants women to be modest, and who is against pornography
cannot be all bad. Evil is always parasitic of the good and
must masquerade as good in order to remain in office."
There were German chaplains accompanying the Wehrmacht in its
ruthless invasion of the Netherlands who preached sermons
warning the troops against the Dutch prostitutes, overlooking
a few other problems like World War II and the holocaust of
Jews, Poles, gypsies, and homosexuals.
Evildoers wearing chastity masks make other hypocrisies seem
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and Pro-Choice pamphlets available
Consultation has recently published an English version of
its Catholic and Pro-Choice pamphlet, which had originally
been available only in Spanish and Portuguese.
Nearly all 100-plus Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide
have ordered copies to place in clinics to alert visitors
to the Catholic Churchs strong theological tradition
in favor of the right to choose an abortion.
Catholic and Pro-Choice is also a valuable informational tool
that can be used in the classroom or parish adult education
programs. Pamphlets are available in quantities of 85. If
you are interested in using the pamphlets, call the Consultation
office (414) 962-3166 or fax your order (414) 962-9248 or
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pamphlets are free;moreover, Spanish
and Portuguese translations are still available.
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and going to the highest bidders
The earths poor are (once
again) being deprived of the earths resources.
by Daniel C. Maguire
It is amazing to think that we are drinking the
same water the dinosaurs bathed in. Of course,
some changes have been made as to purification, but the fact
is that we have a closed hydrologic system.As
the authors of Blue Gold: The Corporate Theft of the Worlds
Water, Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, put it, Water is
continually being recycled through rain and evaporation, and
none of it leaves the planets atmosphere.
Sounds like a great system. It is.
Heres the problem. The species that calls itself sapiens
is fouling up the planets water and rendering much of
it unusable.Water waste is at crisis levels. To make matters
worse, corporate grabbers are also trying to monopolize the
precious commodity and sell it to the highest bidder. Fact:
65-70% of all water is used in irrigation, increasingly for
huge industrial farms. These water hogs are subsidized
by governments and so have little motive to employ conservation
practices, such as drip irrigation.
If anything is a basic human right, the right to water is.
Yet this ancient and natural resource is moving into the marketplace
and becoming increasingly available only to the well salaried.
By 2025, demand for water will exceed availability by 56%.
The main losers, of course, as ever, will be the poor. All
the world religions preach compassion for the poor. Nice thought,
but few of them address water needs or the corporate grab
for water which is taking it out of the hands of those who
live on the planet and turning it into a sellable commodity.
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proportion of HIV-positive adults and young people living
The greater an HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the more
long lasting it is, the more feminized it becomes as heterosexual
intercourse becomes the main method of transmission. Indeed
women are more at risk than men. This is partly for biological
reasons; they are the more likely to be infected during intercourse.
Young women are particularly vulnerable. They tend to have
sex earlier than young men, and with older partners, who may
already be infected; one study in Zimbabwe, for example, found
that nearly a quarter of women in their 20s were in relationships
with men at least ten years older. They are also often even
less able than older women to resist pressure for unsafe sex:
many also experience rape and forced sex, which increases
the danger of transmission even further.
Our Planet, The Magazine of the United Nations Environment
Programme, Vol. 15, No 2, p. 17.
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shaky future of Roe v. Wade
How likely is it that Roe v.Wade
could be reversed by the Supreme Court?
a question that deserves attention, especially now that Republicans
have won the White House and control the Senate and the House
of Representatives. An article last October in The Boston
Globe by Jim Abrams of the Associated Press analyzed the threat.
Here are the highlights. According to The Center for Reproductive
Rights, if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 ruling, 30
states would likely make abortion illegal within a year. Many
states have old laws on their books that would be quickly
reinstated if the landmark Roe v.Wade decision were reversed.
The Centers research reports that 18 states have pre-Roe
laws that either totally or partially ban abortion. Other
states would look to their state constitutions or turn to
their strongly anti-abortion legislatures to swiftly reverse
the federal protection for a womans legal right to an
The Boston Globe quoted Nancy Northup, Center for
Reproductive Rights President, as saying, The
building blocks are already in place to re-criminalize abortion.
Here is where the states stand: 21 are termed high-risk and
9 are termed middle-risk, totaling 30 states capable and determined
to ban abortion within a year of Roe being overturned. The
Center concluded that more than 70 million women of childbearing
age would be affected by the law.
The Boston Globe quoted Representative Louise Slaughter, Democrat
of New York, one of 11 abortion-rights lawmakers to attend
the Centers Capitol Hill news conference: We are
in some peril now. Republican Representative
Christopher Shays of Connecticut concurred. He said that Roe
v.Wade was an extraordinarily important document,
and we need to elect more pro-choice Republicans to
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ironically strong in the U.S.A.
Americans cherish the idea that
the First Amendment made us a
modern, secular society. Not so.
Consider these findings: Nicholas Kristof (New
York Times, August 15, 2003) pointed out that Americans are
three times more likely to believe in a literal virgin birth
of Jesus parthenogenesis than in evolution.
83% for virgin birth and 28% for evolution.
Stunningly, 47% of U.S. non-Christians also accept the miraculous
conception of Jesus.Mainstream biblical scholars see the virgin
birth as a metaphor, a literary device to signal the importance
of Jesus and his mission, and not as a biological stunt.
58% of Americans say belief in God is necessary to be moral,
compared to 13% in France. Says Republican author Clyde Prestowicz
(Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good
Intentions, Basic Books, 2003): Tocqueville noted in
the 1830s that Americans were the most religious of people,
and that has remained true to this day. On any given weekend,
more than half of all Americans will attend a place of worship,
as compared with 10-20 percent in most European countries
and Canada. In this regard, America is more like the Muslim
President Bush talked to his heavenly father, not his earthly
father, before launching his crusade into Iraq
and the mass of Americans seem to accept that with
a quiet Amen. On the basis of faith, President Bush considers
little clusters of embryonic stem cells to be the moral and
civil equivalent of himself and other born persons
citizens in a word. (Could they be called for jury duty?)
And then there is the Fundamentalist website, www.dutyisours.com/gwbush.htm,
that said of the 2000 elections: God defeated armies
of Philistines and others with confusion. Dimpled and hanging
chads may also be because of Gods intervention on those
who were voting incorrectly.Why is GW Bush our president?
It was Gods choice. (God certainly has a lot to
Said the English poet, Alexander Pope, The worst of
madmen is a saint gone mad.When the saint is infused
with a superstitious anti-intellectual fundamentalist piety,
when the saint is the most powerful military and economic
nation on the planet, and when that saint feels called by
God to impose its concept of freedom on others
by force, small wonder the people of the world are scared.
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defrocking of bishops authority
for a Free Choice commissioned a significant national opinion
survey of likely Catholic voters that illustrates how the
bishops have squandered their moral authority by pontificating
on issues about which they have no privileged expertise. (See
Conscience Summer/Autumn 2004.) Here is what the Catholics
- 83% think Catholic politicians should not follow the bishops
lead in voting.
- 78% do not agree with the bishops on denying pro-choice
politicians the sacraments.
- 76% say the bishops should not deny communion to pro-choice
- 61% of Catholics agree that abortion should be legal.
When bishops speak, Catholics still listen, but increasingly,
they dont agree. Not only are the bishops out of
touch with contemporary Catholic and ecumenical theology,
but they more and more embrace a right-wing agenda, bashing
Democrats in ways that promote Republicans.
As businesspersons, the bishops should see perils here:
the bishops are endangering the taxexempt status of their
properties. Tax exempt is a fiction
it should read tax shifted since other citizens
are expected to pick up the tab. Why should other citizens
subsidize the bishops political partisanship! Thats
a question whose time has come.
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new Consultation projects launched
Two groups of Participating Scholars met last summer
at the Temple University SugarLoaf facility in Philadelphia
to begin their projects on The Religious Roots of Violence
Against Women and Heterosexism: Roots and Cures in World Religions
(For more details on these projects, see past issues of this
newsletter: Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 8; and Vol. 7,No. 2, p. 3, respectively.
Violence Against Women
The Violence Against Women project includes scholars from
Judaism, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Islam, Hinduism,
Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and African indigenous religions.
The project recognizes that all religions some more,
some less encourage the subordination of women. Yet
there are better insights in all those religions to combat
this subordination. After spelling out some of the horrors
that religions inflict on women, the scholars will seek out
the cures within those same traditions.
Heterosexism project will do the same, showing how religions
in subtle and not-at-all-subtle ways have engendered and fomented
homophobia. Then those religions will be called before the
bar of their own professed ideals to fight this prejudice.
This project will also defend, on religious grounds, the right
to same sex marriage.
Watch future issues for updates as the studies progress.
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Sacred Choices video documentary available
The Consultation has produced a new 55-minute video,
Sacred Choices and Abortion: Ten
New Things to Think About. It is available on request for
$10.00 in DVD or VHS formats, in English or in Spanish. To
order, phone the office at (414) 962-3166, email us at email@example.com,
or fax (414) 962-9248.
Among other things, the video tells the painful history of
women killed in the pre-Roe v.Wade period and includes segments
on clinic violence. It opens and closes with strong scenes
from the April 2004 March for Womens Lives in Washington.
It also features pro-choice testimony from Catholic, Protestant,
Jewish, and Muslim scholars.
In one of its most powerful segments, the video tells the
story of Rosita, a nine-year-old Nicaraguan girl who was raped
and impregnated. The Catholic hierarchy and local authorities
tried to prevent Rosita from having an abortion. The bishops
even offered to adopt the baby!! However, courageous doctors
and Catholic laity helped the family to get the abortion and
give the little girl back her life.With threats of excommunication
in the air for the parents and the doctors, some 26,000 Catholics
presented the Vatican with a statement saying they all wanted
to be excommunicated too. The hierarchy fell silent.
In 10 insightful segments, the video explores the big
lie... that religion is opposed to a womans right
The video, made possible by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation,
reframes the debate over reproductive rights within the context
of the worlds religious cultures.
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Call to prayer and Rudolph the Red-nosed
Scholar Paul Knitter has received a Senior Special Fulbright
Award to teach and lecture at the Center for Religious and
Cross-cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta,
Indonesia. Heres what Paul writes:
Where else in the world can you be stirred from
your sleep at 4:45 a.m. by the rousing,
thundering Muslim call to prayer,mixed with the jingle of
bells playing Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer!
Im back in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. And every morning,
this is the summons I hear from the nearby mosque and from
the breadman on his bike making his first rounds of the day.
Its good, so good, to be here again. I arrived on September
11, and will begin the long journey home on October 2. The
magic carpet that brought me here is a Fulbright Senior Specialist
award. On the occasion of the recent Indonesian publication
of my book, One Earth Many Religions, Ive been enlisted
to give lectures and workshops for the Center for Religious
and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) of Gadjah Mada University.
This is where I taught a year and a half ago, so it has been
like coming home to old friends and familiar surroundings.
Indonesia is the worlds largest Islamic nation. Yes,
the vast majority of the Muslims here take their faith very
seriously. But this is also a nation where religious freedom
is not just affirmed but lived, where minority religions
Christians,Hindus, indigenous traditions are not just
tolerated but given a respected place in society and culture.
All of my Muslim students are committed to showing, through
hard-nosed scholarship and their daily living, that Islam
is not just compatible with, but conducive to, democracy and
diversity. I feel so privileged to be invited to offer them
a helping hand.
I was also privileged to be with my Indonesian friends on
a very historic day in their nations development. On
my second day in Yogya, Indonesians went to the polls and
for the first time elected a new president in what monitors
and the local critics have judged to be free and fair elections.
Only six years after throwing off the 32-year yoke of the
dictator Suharto, Indonesia has moved from autocracy to democracy.
Admittedly, we dont know what the new President S.Bambang
Yudhoyono will be like. Admittedly, corruption still pervades
much of the political and legal system. But democracy has
been exercised, the so-called Islamic extremists have been
clearly rejected, and there has been a resolute call for the
demilitarization and de-corrupting of the political process.
All this, in a dominant, devout Muslim nation! In Indonesia,
I have experienced the reality, and the growing promise, of
a dialogue, not a clash, of civilizations.
I have been lucky and privileged to be here.
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population growth in perspective
Worldwatch Institute recently pointed out two encouraging statistics:
In the mid 1960s, each of the worlds women gave
birth, on average, to six children. Today, that number
is slightly lower than three.
- Forty years ago, 10-15% of married couples in developing
countries used a modern method of contraception. Today
that number has risen to 60%.
Such numbers may suggest that the world has responded
to the dire warnings of the mid-60s about the ticking population
bomb. In fact, a few countries like Italy, Japan, and China
are concerned that smaller numbers of young people wont
be able to economically sustain the needs of the aging population.However,
we shouldnt start congratulating ourselves yet.
Consider this:Worldwatch reports that while the rate of population
growth has declined since 1970, the rate of growth is being
applied to the largest population in the history of the planet.
Currently, 1.2 billion young people between 10 and 19 constitute
the largest generation in history. The choices made by these
young people will determine the future of the planet in mid-century.
Now theres a sobering thought.Here are some more.
Many countries Pakistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic
Republic of Congo, for example
are expected to double their populations by mid-century.
Yet food crops, water, and
forests are already dwindling in these countries while indigenous
species are being crammed into ever-smaller spaces. Says Worldwatch,
Populations in the worlds 48 least developed countries
could triple by 2050.
In rich countries, high rates of consumption are sapping the
earth of its resources. Look at Worldwatchs numbers:
- Carbon dioxide levels are 18% higher today than in 1960
and an estimated 31% higher than at the start of the
- 50% of the worlds forest cover is gone, and another
30% has been degraded or fragmented.
- 90% of all large ocean predators, such as tuna, marlin,
swordfish, cod, halibut, skate, and flounder, have been
fished out in the past 50 years.
- An estimated 10-20% of croplands and more than 70% of
rangelands are degraded.
As the world consumes increasing amounts of natural
resources oil, animals and fish, forests and water
in the form of fuel, food, paper, and electricity,
the planets resources are disappearing.Whats more,
people are living longer, and extended families no longer
share a single household and share energy and goods. The result?
Consumption is growing enormously.According to Worldwatch,A
one-person household in the U.S. uses about 17 percent more
energy per person than a two-person home.
Beyond reproductive rights
The global conferences that have convened since the 90s have
concluded that the solution to many of these problems lies
not just in providing modern methods of family planning, but
in taking a further step: expanding the choices and capabilities
of women. Studies show
- Women with education have smaller, healthier families;
their children have improved chances of avoiding impoverished
- Wealthier women and those who have the power to make their
own decisions also have fewer children.
- Women who have the choice to delay marriage and childbearing
until after their teen years have fewerchildren.
- In countries where gender inequality exists, little is
done to combat poverty or spur economic growth. All these
problems go hand-in-hand.
In the face of these findings, women continue to
struggle to be heard.Worldwatch cites these facts.
- More than 100 million girls will be married before they
reach age 18 some as young as 8 or 9 despite
that early childbearing is known to be the #1 cause of
death and disability among developing countries for women
ages 15 to 19.
- At least 350 million women still lack access to a full
range of contraceptive methods.
- Demand for reproductive services will increase an estimated
40% by 2025.
- Two-thirds of the worlds 876 million illiterates
are women, and a majority of the 115 million children
not attending grade school are girls.
- Nowhere in the world are women judged to have political,
economic, and social power equal to men. Even in the
U.S., womens reproductive rights continue to be
constrained by tightening of restrictions on choice.
(See page 5, The shaky future of Roe v.Wade.)
Then there is AIDS. For the first time in 2003, womens
rate of infection equaled mens.
So while some numbers are down, lets look at the
whole picture.Weve got a good ways to go and plenty
of obstacles to surmount before we can celebrate any
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Activites of our Participating Scholars
who teaches at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Societyat
the University of Victoria in British Columbia, has released
four books in the last two years. He has written Yoga and
Psychology: Language,Memory and Mysticism,
SUNY Press, 2002 and Hinduism and Human Rights, Greenwood
Press, 2004.Harold has also edited Indian Critiques of
Gandhi, SUNY Press, 2003, and co-edited Religion and
Peacebuilding, SUNY Press, 2004, with Gordon Smith.
Gudorf has contributed several entries to Encyclopedia
of the Philosophy of Sex, Alan Soble, ed. (New York: Continuum
Publishers, 2005). She has also written a review essay in
the Fall 2004 Journal of Religious Ethics on
three books by Susan Franks Parsons: Feminism and Christian
Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1996), The Ethics
of Gender (Blackwell, 2002), and The Blackwell Companion
to Feminist Theology (Blackwell, 2002).
a member of the Religious Roots of Violence Against Women
coauthored with Theresa Yeh, Yearning for Justice and Mercy:
Visions of Hells in the Nineteenth-Century Chinese Pao-chüan
[precious scrolls] in Considering Evil and Human Wickedness,
edited by Daniel E. Keen and Pamela Rossi Keen, Oxford, United
Kingdom: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2004. Hsiao-Lans
book, Taoism, will be coming out in spring 2005, Chelsea
Hubbard participated in a State Department-sponsored
visit to India and Bangladesh last July to meet with Muslim
leaders and hear their concerns. The visit was lead by Participating
Scholar Dr.Riffat Hassan who also went with other members
of the tenperson delegation to Pakistan.
a member of Women for Womens Human Rights New
Ways, reports that last September the organization brought
together in Jakarta 25 NGO representatives and researchers
from Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia. It was
the first solidarity network of activists and scholars working
on the issues of sexual and bodily rights in the Middle East
and North Africa. The organization has also published in English,
Turkish, and Arabic, the first comprehensive reader on the
issue, Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies.
Jung contributed Sexuality for Christianity:
A Complete Guide John Bowden, ed., Continuum
International, soon to be published. She also contributed
Heterosexism for Sex from Plato to Paglia: A
Philosophical Encyclopedia, Two Volumes, Alan Soble,
ed., Greenwood Press, 2005.
Knitter participated in a conference, Peacemaking
and Muslim-Christian Dialogue in Monrovia, Liberia,West
Africa. The workshop, organized by the The Interreligious
Council of Liberia, gathered together about 80 Muslim and
Christian leaders as well as ministers, grassroots organizers,
and students. Paul, who spoke on the need for a globally responsible
dialogue among religions and on the hopes and challenges
of authentic inter-religious dialogue, was the only non-African
in the conference.
Loy and his wife, Linda Goodhew, have just published
a book, The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons Buddhist
Themes in Modern Fantasy,Wisdom Publications. This groundbreaking
book has received wonderful reviews. It employs a Buddhist
perspective to appreciate some of the major works of modern
fantasy and uses modern fantasy fiction to elucidate
Buddhist teachings. This pioneering work illuminates both
themselves and the universal qualities of Buddhist teachings.
Loy and Goodhew examine J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Ursula
K. LeGuin, and the animé movie, Princess Mononoke.
Raines has been elected Prof of the Year
for 2004 by 1,200 honors students at Temple University. However,
John has been busy in other areas as well. An article that
John wrote, The Room Where I Work Is A Class-room,
will be published in an upcoming edition of Cross Currents.
The article shows how classrooms perpetuate the stratification
and dominance of societys economic classes
from one generation to the next.
John has received funding from The Henry Luce Foundation
to support a three-year graduate student exchange program
between U.S. students and students from The Center For Religious
and Cross-Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta,
Indonesia. The American universities that will participate
in the program are Temple, Florida International University
(where Participating Scholar Chris Gudorf is chair
of the religion department), and The University of California
at Santa Barbara.
Shaikh, one of our board members, received her
doctorate last May from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Sadiyyas areas of concentration include Islamic
Studies and Womens Studies. Her dissertation, Spiritual
Cartographies of Gender: Ibn Arabi and Sufi Discourses
of Gender, Sexuality and Marriage earned distinction.
Sadiyya presented Narratives of Gender, Violence,
and Sexuality: Wife-battery in a South African Muslim Community
at the Conference on Gender and Islam in Africa: Discourses,
Practices, and Empowerment ofWomen at the Institute for the
Study of Islam in Africa at Northwestern University.
is collaborating with her husband on a Comprehensive Historical
Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, which, Alice reports, contains
some fascinating articles on reproductive issues in Jewish
thought and practice.
Professor and Chair of Religion Studies and University Chaplain
at Lehigh University, recently participated as a featured
speaker for a Thursday U.N. briefing panel on Population,
Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals.
Steffen, who is the NGO representative to the United Nations
for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, spoke
on Religious Ideology and Reproductive Health. The
panel was sponsored by the United Nations Association-USA
and the Business Council for the United Nations.
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