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  • Author or Editor: Fiona Bloomer x
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The concluding chapter reflects on the research evidence, scholarly analysis, case studies, and reflections on praxis, presented by academics, theologians and practitioners in the edited volume. Applying the theoretical lenses of reproductive justice and lived religion, the editors propose three thematic areas that will be useful for the development of further scholarship and praxis. These are critical engagement with theology and doctrine; mapping faith values and challenges; and modelling effective interventions. The chapter expresses hope that the work contained within this volume will have a depolarising effect on abortion discourse and serve to mitigate the impact of abortion stigma, particularly on those within faith communities.

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A Global Perspective

In this book, faith leaders, scholars and activists from around the globe provide their perspective on faith and abortion. They reflect on examples of faith organisations which have provided leadership on the issue as well as examining religious approaches from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and interfaith perspectives.

Challenging the assumption that all people of faith are anti-abortion, this book provides a counterpoint to right-wing faith perspectives and outlines how faith communities reimagine abortion as an issue of social, pastoral and theological concern.

Providing perspectives from the global North and South, it includes settings where abortion is legal, and where it is restricted, and settings where abortion stigma is ever-present to settings where abortion is normalised. It also demonstrates the complex connections between faith and abortion, how women and pregnant people are positioned in society and how morality is claimed and challenged.

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This chapter provides a critical overview of the terrain of contemporary issues on abortion and faith globally. The chapters construct a schema of international perspectives to set the context for the chapters that follow, providing an introduction to the synthesising of wide-ranging research from the contributing authors. The Introduction explains that treatment of the religious material in the book is that of lived religion, applied in social science literature to analyse the complex and nuanced abortion experiences and views of religious people that do not reflect the official religious position. The discussion of abortion policy, access and discourse is approached through the theoretical lens of reproductive justice, a framework for scholarship and practice developed by Black women in the US (Ross, 2017).

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Sri Lanka is a country that presents contrasting realities when it comes to the issue of abortion. With a population of 20.9 million, most of whom are Buddhist, it has a well-developed free-to-access health system, with a clear focus in government policy on reproductive health. However, it has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world, which stipulates that abortion is illegal unless the life of the mother is at risk. Post-abortion care is available within the health system. Clandestine abortion services have been reasonably accessible and attempts to reform the law have been met with multiple barriers, including the influence of conservative religious gatekeepers. In this chapter leading activist Dakshitha Wickremarathne addresses three key questions: how the law impacts access to abortion; how the socio-cultural context impacts policy making; and how Buddhism positions abortion.

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How people of faith consider the issue of abortion from a prochoice perspective is largely unexplored in academic literature. This chapter offers insight into the positioning of abortion by people of faith in Northern Ireland. We examine the degree to which the embodied nature of becoming and being human, and a sense of God as love or compassion, contribute to study participants’ understandings of ‘the ground’ of the self and the modes of self-assertion these enable.

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A Social Justice Perspective

What are the contemporary issues in abortion politics globally? What factors explain variations in access to abortion between and within different countries?

This text provides a transnationally-focused, interdisciplinary analysis of trends in abortion politics using case studies from around the Global North and South.

It considers how societal influences, such as religion, nationalism and culture, impact abortion law and access. It explores the impact of international human rights norms, the increasing displacement of people due to conflict and crisis and the role of activists on law reform and access. The book concludes by considering the future of abortion politics through the more holistic lens of reproductive justice.

Utilising a unique interdisciplinary approach, this book provides a major contribution to the knowledge base on abortion politics globally. It provides an accessible, informative and engaging text for academics, policy makers and readers interested in abortion politics.

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This chapter contextualised the politicisation of abortion and sets out the significant gap in the synthesis of the literature examining global trends in abortion politics and the need for a critical, comparative analysis of contemporary issues within the global north and south. The authors each provide a personal perspective on their motivations to write about abortion politics.

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This chapter details the criminalisation of abortion. A review of the history of the criminal law on abortion reveals that for most of history abortion remained outside the law. Criminalisation when it did occur was closely tied to the religious positioning of abortion in western societies. This chapter considers trends in the latter part of the 20th century abortion when countries which had criminalised abortion began to relax the laws, whilst in other settings restrictions were introduced. The impact of restrictive laws and restricted access include an exploration of the data related to death and serious injury resulting from unsafe abortion as well as the risk of criminality. A consideration of methodological issues in measuring the impact of unsafe abortion identifies new methods to quantify this. Case studies of Ireland and Uruguay highlight how restrictive laws are experienced in contrasting settings. The chapter concludes by considering the case for decriminalisation of abortion laws.

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This chapter discusses the development of the bio-medicalisation of abortion. Recent history reveals the key role played by pharmaceutical companies in the development of a medication to induce abortion (Mifepristone) and how localised knowledge amongst women identified the abortifacient properties of a second medication (Misoprostol). Whilst the bio-medicalisation of abortion was initially hailed as a way to put women at the centre of the process, its implementation was not without problems. The impact of commercial pressures on pharmaceutical companies is discussed, as well as challenges faced by those accessing the medication without adequate information on dosage and usage. The case study of Brazil highlights the hugely significant role played by women in communities experiencing multiple barriers to accessing abortion, sharing knowledge about medication which having been developed for other purposes, became known for its abortifacient purposes. The impact of the Zika virus in 2015 highlights how severe inadequacies within reproductive health policy affected women and their families. The chapter concludes by considering the impact of the bio-medicalisation on health professionals and the changing dynamic in the relationship between clinician and the woman seeking an abortion.

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This chapter explores the interplay of culture, nationalism and religion and their interaction with legality and access to abortion in particular contexts. Starting from the position that institutions do not operate in a vacuum but are influenced by values and norms which makes them part of the cultural fabric of a society, the chapter explores gendered notions of nationalism and culture. The role of faith based organisations in shaping international policy illustrates how religious norms shape conservatism and alternately how liberal organisations challenge such norms. A consideration of transitional societies allows for an analysis of how abortion is positioned in a framework whereby cultural, national and religious norms typically influence conservative discourses. In such settings gender rights becomes subservient to national and cultural identity or alternately may become core to legal reform. Two case studies, Northern Ireland and South Africa, illustrate how abortion discourses are shaped in transitioning societies.

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