A Necessary Counternarrative
For anyone looking around in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision and asking, “How did we get here?” Patricia Miller’s Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church provides your answer—and then some. Good Catholics traces the rise of religion in public health and the political arena—from the joining of conservative Protestant and Catholic groups with far-right political organizations to the essential addition of progressive religious voices to the debate. In chronicling the evolving strategy of so-called conscience objections, Miller makes the case that Hobby Lobby is the outgrowth of a 20-year campaign by those who want to use -religion to block access to reproductive healthcare.
But there’s another side to this story—one that’s too often overlooked. As the Catholic church was becoming increasingly defined by a far-right political agenda, Catholics for Choice and other progressive religious organizations began speaking out on the same topics. Under the leadership of Frances Kissling and Jon O’Brien, Catholics for Choice has become the leading voice on this front, arguing that their faith leads them to advocate for access to reproductive healthcare—whether it’s condom use to address the spread of HIV & AIDS or family planning for women around the globe. Importantly, as Catholic laity and leaders built an effective counter-narrative to the far right, they helped to solidify support in the Democratic Party for pro-reproductive health policies at a critical moment. As Miller writes, the last US presidential election demonstrated that protecting and expanding reproductive health access proved to not only be good policy, but good politics as well.
Good Catholics is an excellent primer on the dynamic issue of religion in reproductive health issues in the US.The importance of progressive, faith-based leadership on these matters continues to grow, and this book provides a great introduction to many on the forefront of change.
Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church
(University of California Press, 2014, 344 pp)