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Choosing Wisely 

by Pia K. Hansen

The Bible does not condemn abortion. Now there's a statement that should get most people's attention. Neither does Hinduism, regardless of its fundamental belief in reincarnation. Even Buddhism allows for abortion under some conditions.

Dr. Daniel C. Maguire, a Catholic professor of moral theological ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit school in Milwaukee, is the author behind these potentially explosive statements, and he's coming to Spokane on Monday.

"Many people have the impression that religion is opposed to abortion, and that is not correct," says Maguire. "All religions have a no-choice position with a very serious tone to it. But there's also a pro-choice position with a very serious tone to it. In all religions, you can find both views." That's the core statement in Maguire's latest book, Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions.

Professor Mark Alfino of Gonzaga University will be mediating a panel discussion with Maguire and local clergy following the presentation on Monday. Maguire has been invited to Spokane by Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest.

"We have maybe made some mistakes in the way we approached this issue and in the way we are doing outreach to clergy in the community," says Janice E. Tilley, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood. "Spokane is a community that goes to church, and unless we facilitate the discussion about family planning vis-a-vis people's faith, we are missing an opportunity to reach out."

While in Spokane, Maguire is going to be speaking at Gonzaga University as well.

Maguire's bias on the abortion issue and contraception is free of the traditional viewpoints that have come to be associated with established Catholic beliefs.

"Women have a good track record when it comes to serving and preserving life. They should be trusted with these decisions. We find solid support for this sensible position in the major and indigenous religions of the world," he writes in his new book.

In many states, abortion rights, emergency contraceptives and access to birth control are continuously being challenged. This, says Tilley, has made Planned Parenthood focus more on preserving women's access to abortion and contraception than on the religious discussion behind these issues.

Maguire says that only pregnant woman can make a decision about abortion and that the U.S. Supreme Court should stay out of that matter.

He'd like to see the discussion about abortion framed much like the religious discussion of war: He wants a dialogue, in other words, that goes beyond simply what's right and what's wrong.

"Many people read their religion such that 'You can't go to war.' That's why people are allowed a choice. They can say 'no' to going to war," says Maguire. "Other people will read the same religion and say, 'I can see how you can go to war and defend yourself.' "

Maguire has been featured on the ABC Evening News and on several talk shows. He's written more than 150 articles for scholarly journals, The New York Times, Ms. Magazine and published 13 books.

When asked why especially abortion and to some extent contraception remain such controversial issues in the U.S. he says: "This country is obsessed with pelvic issues. We are very uncomfortable with our sexuality, and we are very emotional about our sex drive. There is so much repression."

But wait a minute, usually the film industry and media are being criticized for being too sexually explicit in movies and magazines?

"That, to me, is the repressed side turned inside out, that focus on women and sex in magazines," he says.

Tilley says she hopes people of all denominations and beliefs will show up to hear Maguire's presentation and participate in the following discussion.

"Women follow their own moral code when they make these decisions, in relation to their faith," says Tilley. "I think this is the beginning of that conversation here in Spokane."

The presentation, sponsored by Planned Parenthood, will be held at Lewis and Clark High School, in the new auditorium, on Monday, April 8, at 7:30 pm. Call: 326-6292 ext. 156. Earlier that day, at 2:30 pm, Maguire has been invited by Gonzaga University to speak in Jundt Auditorium. Call: 323-6753. Both events are free.
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