Religious, Academic Freedom and the Texas Anti-Abortion Bill



Summary

Recorded November 15, 2021 

This webinar addresses the threat to freedom of religion and academic freedom posed by the recent State of Texas Senate bill that bans abortion after the detection of cardiac activity (usually around six weeks) with only one exception—the life of the mother. 

The unique method of enforcement for this law is not criminal prosecution but civil cases initiated by private citizens, which essentially encourages vigilante activity by private citizens anywhere in the country against physicians, clergy, family members, or anyone else who can be seen as “aiding and abetting” a person seeking an abortion in Texas. 

The American Academy of Religion considers it crucial that its members and other interested parties understand the possible threat to freedom of religion posed by this law, since the law this codifies one particular (conservative Christian) religious belief about prenatal life, thereby violating the free exercise of those in other religions with different ethical and legal positions on abortion. This law also threatens the academic freedom of AAR colleagues who teach and publish on issues related to abortion and reproductive justice. 

This webinar is co-sponsored by the AAR Religion & Human Rights program unit; the AAR Religion & Politics program unit; the AAR Religion & Sexuality program unit; the AAR Women & Religion program unit; the AAR Political Theology program unit; the Status of Women in the Profession committee; the AAR Women’s Caucus; and the SBL Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession.

Webinar Presenters

Jessie Hill | Hill is the associate dean for research and faculty development and Judge Ben C. Green professor of law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Her teaching focuses on constitutional law, civil rights, reproductive rights, and law and religion and she has published or forthcoming articles in the Michigan Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, and Texas Law Review. She has worked at the Reproductive Freedom Project of the national ACLU office in New York and served as law clerk to the Honorable Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She is a frequent lecturer and consultant on reproductive rights issues.

Marsha Jones | Jones is the co-founder and executive director of The Afiya Center, the only reproductive justice organization in North Texas founded and directed by Black women. A Texas native, she is a national grassroots organizer, community mobilizer, professional speaker, and health educator with a commitment to transforming women and girls’ lives. Marsha has pledged to the development of leadership and engagement of activism among women by challenging harmful systemic and political constructs to advance the economic, health, and safety of women and girls. 

Jeremy Posadas | Posadas is an associate professor of religious studies and director of gender studies at Austin College, located in rural North Texas, where he teaches about abortion and reproductive justice nearly every semester. A queer social ethicist, his recently published essays are on reproductive justice, pedagogies for dismantling rape culture, and the ethics of work. He is also a member of the Program Committee of the AAR Board of Directors.

Michal Raucher | Raucher is an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Rutgers University. Her research lies at the intersection of reproductive ethics, the anthropology of women in Judaism, and religious authority. Michal’s first book, an ethnography of Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish women’s reproductive ethics, titled Conceiving Agency: Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women was published by Indiana University Press in 2020. Michal is currently conducting ethnographic research on the ordination of women in Orthodox Judaism in Israel and America.

Moderator

Rebecca Todd Peters | Peters is  a professor of religious studies and director of the poverty and social justice program at Elon University. Her work as a feminist social ethicist is focused on globalization, economic, environmental, and reproductive justice. Her most recent book is Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice (Beacon Press, 2018). She received the 2018 Walter Wink Scholar-Activist Award from Auburn Seminary in recognition of her work on reproductive justice and poverty and economic justice and served as a Public Fellow at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) from 2018-2021. She is a member of Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Advocacy Board and serves as an expert witness on abortion and religion with the Lawyering Project.