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  • Author or Editor: Kellie Turtle x
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Despite evidence elsewhere of well-developed liberal faith conversations on abortion, such discourse has remained largely invisible in Northern Ireland. In March 2020, for the first time, faith leaders from across the Christian denominations in Northern Ireland engaged in constructive dialogue with secular prochoice groups in order to have nuanced discussions on abortion and explore their own theological, ethical and pastoral responses. Framed by research undertaken by Ulster University and facilitated by organisers with grassroots reproductive rights group Alliance for Choice, the engagement process provides a case study of the development of progressive faith discourse on abortion in a religiously conservative society. This chapter reflects on the methodology, analyses the contextual influences and explores the potential impact on both the public abortion discourse and the changing policy landscape.

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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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The US has a long history of faith-based advocacy for reproductive rights. From the activities of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in the years before Roe v Wade, the campaigning and lobbying of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, or the involvement of Black faith leaders in the Reproductive Justice movement. This chapter takes the form of an in-depth interview in which Rabbi Ruttenberg discusses her experiences mobilising the Jewish community to activate around abortion justice, the basis of her personal commitment to the issue and her articulation of abortion justice from within a religious framing.

The chapter explores the legacy of Jewish clergy participation in abortion advocacy in the US, the National Council of Jewish Women’s work in this area, and the challenges they face in a Christian-dominated political and religious landscape. As years of rollback in reproductive healthcare come to a head with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, Rabbi Ruttenberg discusses the response from faith communities. She reflects on the opportunities that exist for Jewish congregations to impact the public discourse on abortion and her hopes and fears for the future of reproductive health, rights and justice in the US.

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In this chapter participants from the faith leaders’ engagement project, introduced in Chapter 11, explain in their own words what motivated them to become involved in the project and the impact it had on them. In so doing the chapter presents the nuanced, complex dynamics that shaped participants’ lives and brought them to the point of stepping into the unknown to engage with abortion from a faith perspective. From experiences as queer people of faith to the growing pressure as a clergy member to pick a side in the abortion debate, these reflections provide insight into the context within which people of faith in a conservative society formulate views on abortion.

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