Discussion will address our cultural impasse on abortion

NEWFANE — It seems public support for the legal right to abortion has again reached a new high within the U.S.

On Feb. 23, the Public Religion Research Institute published its latest findings showing that support for abortion access has for years been rising steadily in all 50 states, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans now saying abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances.

In our own state, of course, support is much higher. In November, a whopping 77% of Vermonters voted to support a constitutional amendment broadly supporting “personal reproductive autonomy,” adding further protection for abortion rights within our borders. It would appear there's not much more to say on the matter.

Except beneath this robust show of support for abortion rights lurks a somewhat-less-noticeable reticence.

While most Americans do indeed consistently support making abortion legal in most or all cases, data have also revealed a persistent ambivalence toward the procedure.

According to Pew Research findings, 46% of Americans figure abortion to be morally wrong in most or all cases, with only 31% saying it's morally acceptable. Roughly half (48%) of Americans believe there are situations in which it is morally wrong but should still be legal.

Herein may lie the cause of our inability as a country to break through the cultural impasse on the issue of abortion.

As scholar and activist Elizabeth Freese writes, “We've been hopelessly muddled in this ambivalent 'morality gap' between legality and cultural acceptability, resulting in a conflicting patchwork of legislation and endless, exhausting, existential anxiety-provoking fights.”

Perhaps, then, what is needed now is a conversation focused squarely on the moral challenge abortion presents.

So our third Courageous Conversation at Newfane Church, on Tuesday, March 28 at 7 p.m., will do just that. And we are so fortunate to have as our conversation partner for the evening Dr. Freese, a scholar in residence with SACReD (Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity) to support its curriculum program.

She previously co-developed and managed production of courses for the online Learning Center at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and developed abortion access advocacy resources for Christians through Auburn Seminary. She is adjunct professor of religion and society at Drew Theological School, where she earned her doctorate in religion and society.

Whereas often discussions on abortion encompass a wide breadth of legal and public policy considerations, ours will be centered on the theological, scriptural, traditional, and other sources of moral and ethical inspiration and guidance. In other words, we are not asking, “Should abortion be legal?” We're asking, “Is it right?”

You can RSVP for the event or direct any questions or concerns to me directly at [email protected]. Attendance is free, but space is limited. Masking is strongly encouraged, and masks will be available at the door. An elevator and a chairlift are available.

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