Beyond the Abortion Wars Lecture by Fordham Professor Charles Camosy

Seamus Brennan

News Editor

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture hosted Dr. Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, for a lecture titled, “Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation” in Rehm Library. The talk, part of the Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity series, focused on ways to bridge the divide between those on all sides of the abortion debate.

Camosy argues the “Abortion Wars”—or the intense political gap between conservatives and progressives on the issue of abortion—is detrimental to political discourse and that the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” oversimplify a complex issue that he believes can be met with common ground. “If we refuse to acknowledge any complexity or nuance [within the abortion debate], what’s the point of having the conversation?” Camosy said. In his talk, Camosy outlined five steps he sees as essential for authentic and productive discussion. He deems it necessary to “figure out what people actually think about abortion,” resist “patriarchal” dominance, challenge conventional politics, show love for one another, and move beyond the “life/choice binary.”

Mickenzie Kamm ‘19, who attended the talk, commented, “I thought that ‘Beyond the Abortion Wars’ was definitely an important discussion to have on campus. I was a little disappointed that not many students were in attendance. However, I think that the lack of attendance speaks to the difficult nature of the topic and the hesitancy to get involved in something so controversial.” She continued, “[Camosy] also offered productive ways to approach debate such as leading with what you are for rather than what you are against, which is something that people should consider when talking about abortion since it is such a controversial ‘hot button’ topic.”

Danielle Kane, Associate Director for Communications for the McFarland Center, said, “Following the divisive election year and the surge of activism in its wake, we wanted to explore both the reasons people might feel compelled to resist the current administration’s agenda and rhetoric as well as ways we can seek common ground. Earlier this month, we hosted a talk by Julie Hanlon Rubio who drew on moral theology and Catholic Social Teaching for ways we might find common ground in the spaces between the personal and political. Abortion is presented as such a hardline issue, and one that motivates voters, so considering the possibility for common ground there is appealing.”

During the question and answer period following the talk, Camosy received some pushback for his espoused ideas. One participant argued that it is important to maintain the “life/choice binary” to keep abortion as a hardline issue, while another emphasized the importance of abortion’s theological and moral implications. “The McFarland Center’s mission is to foster dialogue that respects differences and provide a forum for intellectual exchange that is interreligious and interdisciplinary. We’d like students to hear Camosy’s argument, and perhaps challenge it, or consider if there is a way to reframe the debate to bring more people to the table,” said Kane.

The McFarland Center has several similar events planned later in the semester, most notably the “Religion, Protest and Social Upheaval” conference scheduled for Nov. 15-17. The conference is set to include presentations by faculty members from Holy Cross as well as other colleges and universities and is intended to make us consider religion’s role in shaping modern social and political movements, including Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, Hindu Nationalism, Muslim and Latino immigration, and ecological movements. “We’ll be tackling a lot of difficult topics and offering an honest assessment of religion’s power to shape culture or good or ill,” said Kane.

More information regarding upcoming events at the McFarland Center can be found on the Center’s webpage, http://www.holycross.edu/faith-service/mcfarland-center-religion-ethics-and-culture.

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