Apply Now: Faith & Reproductive Justice Institute

If 2012 taught us anything, it was that the conservative forces seeking to deny women and families access to basic reproductive healthcare are not going away.  It was also that they continue to use their brand of religions to justify their threats to women’s heath.

You can be a voice of reason in the mess.  You can join progressive people of faith who refuse to let the media and politicians paint all religious people as anti-choice, anti-contraception, anti-woman.  You can apply to participate in the next round of the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

Here’s how CAP puts it:

Conservative religious and political leaders are leading these efforts, claiming that they are the sole champions of moral values, religious truth, and the public good. However, their impact has been dangerous for women, who already bear the brunt of health disparities and pay more for health care than men. Furthermore, low-income women face higher rates of unintended pregnancy, while policy makers add more restrictions to reproductive health care.  Women of color endure even more burdens. An African American or Latina woman is more likely to live in poverty, incur higher rates of disease, have less access to health care, and experience a higher risk of unintended pregnancy than her white counterpart.

In order to stop such assaults on women’s reproductive health and gain ground on reproductive rights and justice, we need to support and amplify the good work that faith-based groups are doing; strengthen faith-based leadership, messages, and messengers on reproductive health, rights, and justice; and incorporate into our work spiritual and moral values that resonate with the public and recognize individual conscience and human complexity.

I gained a lot from my association with the institute in 2012, and learned how to more boldly and more clearly articulate a pro-faith, pro-choice view.  I learned about organizations and individuals doing this work around the country, and how we can and must work together to protect everyone, including working people, families of all kinds, and women living at the intersection of inequalities society.  Not in spite of faith, but because of it.

For information and application material, click here.

For inspiration, check out Faith and Progressive Policy Director Sally Steenland’s interview with Dr. Willie Parker here.  Dr. Parker puts it plainly:

Medicine is based on scientific evidence. It is clear that when we make decisions about health care and medicine, it should be based on science. Religion is protected by our right to have our own religious beliefs, but we’re not entitled to [dictate into law] our opinions on health care.”

If you agree, apply now … before November 1!


About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Steve

    Where does ethics fit into this? Science tells us what we are capable of doing and how to do things, but it cannot answer ethical questions. Yet, we all know and agree that there should be standards of ethics in the field of medicine.

    So, for instance, if one were to scientifically show that a child in the womb is a living human organism – the next question is an ethical one. Is it morally licit to snuff out that life?

    • pagansister

      IMO, it is the matter of answering the question–when does “life” begin? Some say at conception, some not. IMO, terminating a pregnancy should be done before the 12th week. IMO again, a woman should be able to make up her mind by then whether to carry to term or not. Unfortunately there are medical circumstances when a pregnancy may have to be stopped early, in which case, depending on those circumstances, there should always be an attempt to save the fetus.

      • Steve

        Well, if I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying that an 11-week old (which can open and close her fists, kick, and attempting to breathe) is not actually alive. Thus, you can abort this non-life. However, at twelve weeks some kind of change takes place which now allows us to classify the baby as alive.

        Why doesn’t the 11-week old count as alive? What change takes place at 12 weeks that suddenly makes the kid go from “not-alive” to “alive”. I’ve seen ultrasounds of babies at 11 weeks – and they seem very much alive to me.

        • pagansister

          And the size is? 2.13 inches or so at 12 weeks. I’m not advocating abortions, but I do believe that a woman has the basic right to have one. If she chooses to do so, I have already stated I feel before 12 weeks is best. Am not an fan of late term by any means. Today, unlike my 2 pregnancy times (the “old days”) a woman can find out VERY early if she is pregnant. This gives plenty of time to make the decision. Won’t go into pregnancy due to rape, incest etc. No woman (or girl) should be forced to carry to term under those circumstances. FYI, I saw my grandson on ultrasound. He was wanted and arrived 3 1/2 years ago. Those who are not wanted many times pay a horrible price after they get here—which is another topic altogether. I’m a big fan of sex ed., and birth control methods etc. to prevent any need to choose to carry or not to carry.

          • Steve

            The first thing you said was that the question comes down to when life begins. So you’re saying an 11-week old has all those biological characteristics (autonomous movement, absorption of nutrients, ordered growth, adaptation) but the baby isn’t really alive because it is only 2.13 inches long. At what length should a human be considered alive?

            I’d assume you’d agree that no one has the right to “choose” to kill another innocent human. So why do you think its ok to harm innocent humans if they are small? I think we should stand up for rights of the small, the weak, and the helpless. Don’t you?

          • pagansister

            Is that “life” viable if born before 12 weeks? No. Even Mother Nature will terminate in that time frame, for reasons known only to her. I am firm in what I have written above. A woman has the right to either continue or not to continue a pregnancy. My firm hope is she would continue to delivery, but that isn’t always possible for some women/girls. Making it illegal will only bring back “back alley abortions” or women doing it themselves. Fortunately with the advent of the morning after pill to prevent possible implantation their is no reason to have to decide to carry or not. Now there are pills that induce terminations, so sometimes surgery is not necessary. Again I say, I do not advocate abortions, but I do advocate a woman being able to choose. As I’m sure you know, women have been terminating pregnancies since time began—-some died in the process, and still do, if not done in proper conditions. There should always be proper, clean conditions. I have had a couple of family members find it necessary to terminate a pregnancy and those women have NOT regretted it—was necessary at the time and with the circumstances they were in at the time.

          • Steve

            If by “viable”, you mean, “it is capable of living without the direct aid of the mother”, than no. The child would die within minutes. But it’s kinda hard for something to die if it isn’t first alive, isn’t it?

            And that’s what you said mattered, right? You said it matters when the baby is alive – not if it is capable of sustaining that life on its own. Is that not what you said?

            Eventually nature terminates all of our lives. That doesn’t mean we have the right to do it ourselves. The only difference is that you don’t have to see the face of a baby who is killed inside the womb. And because you don’t have to see him/her, you don’t seem to give serious thought to whether it counts as a person or whether that person has the right to live.

            I don’t think a person’s dignity and rights should depend on whether that person is dependent on someone else. I am in favor of recognizing the rights of everyone – large or small, dependent or independent. If you want to advocate depriving people of their rights just because they are small, dependent, and vulnerable – that’s your choice.

          • pagansister

            Define” person”.

          • Steve

            The standard you posited from the beginning is “when life begins”. So I shall not define the unscientific term “person” to you. Instead, I will insist that a baby in the womb is a distinct, living, human organism. It should not be exposed to violence because it is small, dependent, helpless, and inconvenient.

            Nor do I believe that propositions should be evaluated based on the sex of the person proposing them. That is an example of sexism. Either a child in the womb is a human life or it isn’t. My gender doesn’t change that. The proposition stands or falls based on the logical use of evidence, of which you’ve provided none.

            But I understand why you resorted to that non-argument. You’ve provided nothing in support of your position and answered none of the questions posed to examine it. You’ve shown a complete lack of clear thinking on this matter. And now all you can do is proudly say, “I am impervious to reason and will never reexamine my position. Shut up.”

            What I will tell you is that I am under 30 years old. That means that for the first 9 months of my life it was legal to kill me. Under the law I was considered to be a nonliving part of my mother’s body and my life had no legal protection because I was small. That is an injustice.

            You say you’re not for abortions. But you are for the legality of abortion. That is to say, you are in support of a situation where very young, small, and helpless people are deprived of their fundamental rights. Doesn’t that bother you?

            The other thing my age can tell you is that I’ve grown up in the age of ultrasounds. I’m not so ignorant as to believe to believe that a baby is simply part of a woman’s body. I am part of a generation that believes in equality for all people – regardless of age, size, or dependency.

            And there is a lot of me. We will win.

          • pagansister

            It’s been real. You are under 30—good. You hopefully have a long life ahead of you. I only wish you the best. I’m old enough to be your grandmother, so I have lived without women’s rights and with them. You will see changes in your life for good and for evil, as that is life. I sincerely hope you never have a woman in your life that feels unable to carry to term. I also hope that the legality of abortions is NEVER changed or we will return to a world you never lived in, and it wasn’t pretty. Bye. Oh, one more thing. Yes, gender does apply as it is impossible for YOU to become pregnant (yes you can help get someone pregnant) but you as a male cannot BE pregnant. I know I mentioned it above,but again, it is impossible for you to have the physical changes take place, or the mental ones that happen. You cannot be a pregnant woman who has to make up her mind what to do with an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. OK, I’m really done. Have a good life.