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Conscience Magazine

Reports Worth Reading

May 6, 2021

All Faiths and None: A Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty for Everyone

Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University and Auburn Seminary, October 2020

“Religious liberty should protect and preserve the rights of all people to participate in public life and access common goods. And at all levels of public life, policy-making, and governance, we hope for leaders of moral courage, including those of faith, who will continue to make it so.” This statement caps a watershed, 31-page report produced by Auburn Seminary and Columbia Law School. Focused on the steps needed to enact “neutral, non-coercive, nondiscriminatory” religious liberty policy in the United States, this report provides recommendations to ensure and enable, rather than to restrict and enshrine the fundamental (though never absolute) concept into law and, ultimately, social practice. Setting forth six principles— neutrality, noncoercion, nondiscrimination, insistence on democracy and pluralism, and avoidance of absolutism— by which greater religious liberty must be achieved in an increasingly restrictive environment, this collaboration is not simply an achievement of foresight and a principled statement of policy, it provides a foundational document upon which future advances in the religious liberty movement should be built.

Conscience and Conscientious Objection: The Midwife’s Role in Abortion Services

Beate Ramsayer and Valerie Fleming Liverpool John Mores University, United Kingdom Nursing Ethics, 2020

Covering the practice of conscientious objection in their role to either “provide or object to the provision of abortion services,” Beate Ramsayer and Valerie Fleming’s 11-page analysis makes a confident and clear case for the rights of midwives to make ethical, medical and legal decisions during “the childbirth continuum.” Focusing on the current and traditional role of midwives to provide pregnancy care, the authors highlight these rights by teasing out obstacles to administering care that arise from shifting standards within the International Confederation of Midwives as they conflict with comparable standards set by the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, as well as recommendations of the World Health Organization. Given the vague, frequently contradictory, periodically shifting standards provided by the ICM in relation to the duties of midwives, plus medical personnel shortages, Ramsayer and Fleming note that a sense of moral coercion has grown within the global community of midwives, produces a chilling effect on assertions of conscience and, ultimately, the safety of patients.

Medical Abortion and Self-Managed Abortion: Frequently Asked Questions on Health and Human Rights

Center for Reproductive Rights and Ipas, 2020

This succinct and illuminating report addresses a pair of perennial questions in the field of health and human rights: From a medical and legal standpoint, what practices constitute medical abortion (administered or self-managed) and how are these treated within the frame of various regulatory guidelines across the globe? Providing a clarifying primer on topics including vacuum aspiration procedures; and acquisition, physiological functioning and self administration of mifepristone and misoprostol, the authors lay out World Health Organization recommendations for their application in a manner consistent with medical safety, various legal frameworks across the globe and the recognition of human rights for patients. In addition, the report takes a timely look at WHO’s analysis of how COVID-19 measures have affected access to these crucial aspects of health care and transmits “rights-based interim operational guidance on how States should manage essential sexual and reproductive health services in the context of the pandemic.”

Toward a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States

International Center for Research on Women, 2020

With 2021 shaping up to be a touchstone year in women’s discourse, this ambitious, jointly compiled report— produced through the work of luminaries from ICRW, CARE, Oxfam America and Center for Global Development, to name a few—exactingly lays out parameters for the transformation of U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. In just 26 pages, the authors skillfully articulate the steps needed to harness the full energy of U.S. foreign policy, through the executive and legislative branches, on the pressing issues of gender equality, environmental integrity, peace and human rights on a worldwide scale. Recommendations include measures aimed at the disruption of colonial, racist, patriarchal, maledominated power structures. The authors suggest how to channel resources at the federal level to eradicate these problems abroad in the service of creating the first truly feminist U.S. foreign policy.

How Religion and LGBTQ Rights Intersect in Media Coverage

Center for American Progress, December 2020

In an era of divisive public discourse and rampant disinformation, this 2020 study provides keen insights for those engaged in the struggle for LGBTQ rights working from a religious liberty perspective. Examining articles that appeared for a 15-month period across national and local news outlets, the authors at the Center for American Progress carefully parse the content and framing of numerous news pieces, bringing into focus how these two intersecting spheres are portrayed in the media. This succinct, highly informative study provides a detailed breakdown of support and opposition for LGBTQ rights by denomination. It also analyzes public support and opposition of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential candidacy and the overall attitudes of religious sources speaking on behalf of businesses toward the LGBTQ community. Combining each of these topics with their inspection of media outlets, the authors study the gulf between news media coverage of religion and LGBTQ rights and the seemingly diametrically opposed polling data produced on the opinions of religious Americans supporting LGBTQ rights. A

Proactive Abortion Agenda: Federal and State Policies to Protect and Expand Access

Center for American Progress, March 2021

“Leaders must transform how abortion is treated in this country, building a cultural and systemic framework that values abortion as one critical piece in the broader landscape of health equity and reproductive autonomy.” With this assertion, the Center for American Progress sums up the aim of this ambitious research and scholarship. Cataloging the obstructions to abortion access that frequently face the most vulnerable member of our communities when seeking abortion—“people of color, people with low incomes, LGBTQ people, young people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and people in rural areas”— this report is comprehensive and illuminating. Outlining government policy on abortion rights access at all levels of the U.S. government, the authors provide domestic and international examples of successful abortion access measures. The result is “a comprehensive road map” from which lawmakers can navigate a course forward that allows development and passage of policies and laws that help the movement arrive at a destination long sought: a future where more equitable and expansive abortion access is available to all.