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Catholicism, Choice and Consciousness: A Feminist Theological Perspective on Abortion

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Despite the apparently irreconcilable conflict between ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ activists in the abortion debate, many feminists and Catholic theologians agree that questions of consciousness, relationality and foetal development are of greater ethical significance than theological claims about the personhood of the embryo or feminist claims about women’s autonomy. This article argues that absolutist positions based on the embryo’s right to life or the woman’s right to choose fail to represent the reality of abortion and the dilemmas it poses. It suggests an approach in which maternal consciousness and foetal development are together recognized as intrinsic to the process of humanization, and argues for a gradual shift in emphasis from the primacy of the woman’s right to choose in the first trimester, to the right to life of the foetus in the third semester. It concludes with a reflection on Mary and Eve, as symbols of women’s eschatological hope and existential reality with regard to childbearing.


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