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Discussion of 'Trust Women' explores reproductive justice

The issues raised by the new book by Elon Professor Toddie Peters, "Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice," served as a focus for the Oct. 29 panel discussion. 

Students, faculty and community members gathered Monday night in LaRose Theatre for a panel discussion on the recent book by Elon Christian ethicist Rebecca Todd Peters,"Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice."

Panelists included, from left, Ann Cahill, Toddie Peters, Loretta Ross and Lynn Huber. 

The book, published this year by Beacon, aims to redirect the focus of the U.S. abortion debate away from women’s decisions about problem pregnancies and towards the social and economic context in which women have to consider bearing children and raising a family. Based on the concept of "reproductive justice," "Trust Women" asks whether the resources to raise healthy and happy families are available to women and repositions women as moral beings capable of making those decisions for themselves.

As Peters, professor of religious studies, puts it in the book, "the problem that we face in this country is our failure to trust women to act as rational, capable, responsible moral agents" when it comes to their decisions about pregnancy and abortion.

The Oct. 29 conversation was moderated by Lynn Huber of the Department of Religious Studies and included three panelists: Professor Ann Cahill from Elon’s Philosophy department, Professor Loretta Ross from Arizona State University and Peters.

Peters opened the conversation by noting that her book “is not just talking about abortion but about reproduction and the wider environment in which reproductive decisions are made.” "Trust Women" aims to demystify the termination of pregnancy and details how common abortion has been both historically and in contemporary times.

The discussion generated input from students in the crowd. 

Such practices are found in ancient Egypt, and today, one out of every three or four women terminates a pregnancy at some point in her life. Peters maintains that people have been asking the wrong moral questions about abortion, focusing on whether it is right or wrong rather than on the question that women routinely face: “what should I do when I have a pregnancy or a problem pregnancy?”             

Ross, one of 12 black scholars who developed the ethical framework for reproductive justice, discussed the lack of available health care for poor women and the U.S. detention of immigrant children at its borders as evidence that our society’s priorities have not been women and children.

In her concluding remarks, Cahill affirmed the vital contribution that "Trust Women" makes. “Books that wake us up are rarely easy to read,” she said, and this one forces us to ask, “under what circumstances should a government compel a female-identified body to remain pregnant?”

The panel was sponsored by the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society and the Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor.

Brian Pennington,
10/31/2018 2:35 PM