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The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics

by Daniel C. Maguire


   Cynics say that "conventional wisdom" is always wrong. That overstates it, but there is one case where it is clearly wrong. Conventional wisdom says that religions are invariably anti-choice when it comes to contraception with abortion as a backup when necessary. That restrictive viewpoint is indeed found in the world religions, and it is a perfectly respectable and "orthodox" position within those religions, but it isn't the only respectable and orthodox position in any of those religions. These traditions are richer, more sensitive, more subtle than that.

   In this book, first rate religious scholars gathered from around the world show that alongside the familiar "no choice" position there is a solid "pro-choice" position in all these religious traditions. Thanks to a grant from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics brought these scholars together for two long working sessions. I have gathered the fruits of their work in this book. The restrictive view on family planning has been well published. This is the first time the other side has been heard on this scale.

   Our goal as scholars is to change international discourse on the subject of abortion. The two sides in the abortion debate need not be so bitterly divided. There are things we could all agree on. We could all agree that there are too many abortions! We could also all agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, since that is the key problem. 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. It is our hope that we all could then endorse the moral freedom of women who judge they must sometimes make this serious decision in this un-ideal world.

   The world religions are here our guide. For all their imperfections, each of them is a classic in the art of cherishing. Each of them faces the fact that life is the good and the precondition of all other goods. But the life that is so good also bears the mark of the tragic. Sometimes the ending of incipient life is the best that life offers. Historically, women have been the principal cherishers and care-takers of life. We can trust them with these decisions. This book shows that the world's religions urge us to do so.

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