Women Deliver Conference Trashes, Exploits Religion

Part 3 of 5-part series from Wa

Speakers in more than one session at the Women Deliver conference took aim at the Catholic Church’s hierarchy for its strong opposition to abortion and contraception.

Elfriede Harth of Catholics for the Right to Decide (known in the U.S. as Catholics for a Free Choice) blamed the onset of “misogynist fundamentalism” on the influence of the orthodox Catholic organization Opus Dei. “This fundamentalism is but an expression of the profound systemic crisis of patriarchy. One of the most important forms of resistance to it is feminism,” she said. “We analyze and demystify religious fundamentalism, we educate about it, and we shape and advance sexual and reproductive morals that are based on justice.”

Panelist Bernard Dickens also decried Arizona’s Bishop Thomas Olmsted for announcing the excommunication of a nun for approving a procured abortion as manifesting “a very troubling trend” of “embryo fundamentalism or Catholic jihadism.”

Susan Newman of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice complained that the U.S. health care bill was “held hostage by 22 allegedly celibate white Catholic bishops. And I say allegedly celibate because of what we’ve seen in the news.” She went on to express excitement at the possibility of “women, lay and ordained” advancing abortion in the Catholic Church.

One panel, moderated by UNFPA director Thoraya Obaid, discussed ways of influencing religion and culture to support abortion and contraception. “We can invoke the positive [aspects of a culture] to bring about change in the negative,” she said.

“If you’re going to tell me that my culture or my religion is bad, I will not accept you, I will hate you,” Obaid said. “But if you tell me that there are really many good things in your culture that value women and value girls, then I’m going to go with these values to change the values that demean women and demean girls. … The importance of it is that these institutions have credibility, have presence, have resources, and people trust them. People trust them more than they would trust UNFPA.”

“Once you … get that trust, and you get that support, you will find that you can do almost anything,” agreed Paddy Meskin of Religions for Peace.

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