Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion

Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion

Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion

Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion

Excerpt

Book titles are best when brief, yet this one, encompassing a complex political, moral, and religious matter, could, by its brevity, mislead. The "choice" which receives moral defense in these pages is women's right to the conditions for procreative choice, not merely the narrower option of elective abortion. Here, my effort to identify the reasons why this claim to procreative choice gets so little hearing in the morality of abortion debate has required me to enter to a forceful caveat against much that passes as unquestioned wisdom in Christian tradition and teaching -- on women's nature, on procreation, and on abortion.

Responses to pieces I published earlier on this subject make me aware already of the incredulity, not to say, hostility, which my thesis provokes amongst some of my colleagues in the field of Christian ethics. Several commentators have been quick to point out the "more than a hint of anger" with which I pressed my earlier case. No doubt it may be difficult for some men, perhaps especially some Christian moralists, to hear me when I say that researching Christian teaching on abortion is often a brutalizing experience for an aware woman. What I, and many other women, hear in much Christian morality of abortion discussion does indeed engender some anger. Until our opponents consent to examine not merely conclusions but unspoken premises, this state of affairs will not change. At present, the demand to speak judiciously falls exclusively upon us, while the accountability of the discussion to women's well-being easily can be evaded. Certitude, even complacency, in the presence of unprobed assumptions often bequeaths an aura of judiciousness. Under the circumstances, to say bluntly, as I do here, that this complacency is misplaced is, I suppose, bound to be construed as rage by some. Nevertheless, as a practicing Christian woman, I take no pleasure in my conclusions about the inadequacies of my tradition on these matters. My life and professional work are a pledge of my hope and faith that a nonmisogynist Christianity is a possibility. Be that as it may, though, a formulation of the ethics of abortion which is fair to women's reality is a moral necessity. Ethics is a critical discipline, one that demands rigorous honesty about religious and moral traditions and conventions in the service of concrete good. As I understand the matter . . .

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