Pregnancy loss is profoundly complex, ambiguous, and alienating, but telling women who have procured abortions that they are murderers and sinners is not the best way forward. Magisterial teachings on abortion are too often presented as moral absolutes, when in fact moral absolutism distorts the rich wisdom of the Catholic intellectual tradition. This book initiates a new conversation about women’s experiences of miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion, arguing that we need not approach these difficult life experiences in a simplistic way. Dr. Reimer-Barry argues that both the pro-life and pro-choice movements make important and valuable claims, yet each approach on its own is flawed. Drawing on the framework of reproductive justice together with Catholic social teaching, Dr. Reimer-Barry suggests a new way forward for abortion discourse that takes seriously the full human dignity of women and the intrinsic (though not absolute) value of prenatal life. She argues that instead of thinking of the Church as a moral teacher—with leaders in Rome or Washington, DC dictating to the consciences of the faithful—a better way to address the complexity of difficult pregnancy discernments would be to think of the Church as a community of support in the midst of and after difficult discernments; a community that seeks justice together and implements structural reforms while also providing spiritual care to those in need. What women deserve, is justice.
Emily Reimer-Barry is associate professor of theology and religious studies and affiliated faculty in the program in women’s and gender studies at the University of San Diego, where she teaches undergraduate courses in theological ethics. She is the author of Catholic Marriage in the Era of HIV and AIDS: Marriage for Life (2015) and her essays and articles have appeared in Theological Studies, Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Theology & Sexuality, and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.
Chapter 1: Why Reproductive Justice? Beyond Problematic Binaries
Chapter 2: How Moral Absolutism Undermines Reproductive Justice
Chapter 3: The Shadow Side of the Pro-Life Movement: 1973-2022
Chapter 4: Structural Change for Reproductive Justice
Chapter 5: Complexity and Ambiguity in Women’s Experiences of Pregnancy and Pregnancy Loss
Chapter 6: The Full Humanity and Moral Agency of Pregnant Women: A Key Claim for Reproductive Justice
Chapter 7: Pragmatic Solidarity and Spiritual Supports: Enacting Reproductive Justice as Church
Appendix: Poems and Prayers for Reproductive Justice
About the Author