Reproductive Justice Curriculum: Session Five

Right of Conscience

Session 5 Learning Goals

  • Understand gendered/sexist aspects of current political dialogue on reproductive justice issues, and Unitarian Universalist theological and political responses
  • Explore tools and tips for having constructive conversations about abortion

In Preparation

  • Materials: butcher paper and markers, masking tape
  • Write questions from LR 5:5 (PDF) on butcher paper
  • Create two large signs, one reading “Good Idea” and one reading “Bad Idea”
  • Make copies of Handouts 5:2 (PDF), 5:3 (PDF), 5:4 (PDF), and 6:1 (PDF).

Homework for this Session


  • 5:1 (PDF)—Increasing Threats on Choice
  • 5:2 (PDF)—Theological Reflection: Session 5
  • 5:3 (PDF)—Abortion Messaging Toolkit
  • 5:4 (PDF)—“What's Wrong With ‘I'm Pro-Choice, But I Could Never Have An Abortion’?”
  • LR 5:5 (PDF)—Instructions for Fishbowl

Session Plan

  1. Chalice Lighting: “The Great End in Religious Instruction” (William Ellery Channing)
  2. Check-In: What was one thing you did for your body this week; what is one thing your body did for you? (15 mins)
  3. Gender Fishbowl (30 mins)
    The politicization of reproduction has been increasing in intensity over the past two years. Its effects are often experienced differently by people of various gender identities. Witnessing to these diverse experiences is a vital aspect of education and activism on reproductive justice.
    Importantly, not every person fits neatly into the “gender binary’ of ‘man’ or ‘woman.’ As we explore the impacts of the ‘war on women’ and diverse experiences of men and women during this session, we will also be attendant to the experience of transgender and gender non-conforming people (for definitions and more information, see the UUA’s “Transgender 101”). The creators of this curriculum acknowledge the vital experience of listening to women’s voices—diverse though they are—in this debate; if it was of any less value, this exercise would not be included.
    Participants divide into groups based on gender self-identification. If participants so choose, they can create additional groups based on how they identify. People must be given space to join or create the group that they feel most comfortable in, even if it makes other participants uncomfortable—the point here is to witness to each other’s experiences as a spiritual practice. It is possible for “groups” to have only one person in them.
    Arrange chairs so that there is space in the inside of the room for one group to sit in a circle, with the rest of the participants sitting in an outer circle surrounding them. Starting with the group with the most participants, each group takes turns sitting in the smaller circle, answering the following questions. The people in the outside circle listen, refraining from verbal or non-verbal commentary or questions while the exercise is happening. When the last group is finished, the chairs in the middle of the room are removed and all participants gather in the larger circle. Participants share one thought that struck them from the conversation of another group.
  4. Theological Reflection (20 mins)
    Participants are invited to explore various methods of theological reflection: walking/ movement, small group conversation, journaling/writing, and meditation. They are also invited to bring music and headphones. Indicate the separate place for those who will participate in small group conversations. Distribute Handout 5:2 (PDF). After 20 minutes, ring a bell to call the participants back together.
  5. Talking about Abortion: Good Idea/Bad Idea (40 mins)
    Distribute Handout 5:3 (PDF) and go over it verbally.
    Participants divide into three groups, each assigned to work with a theme from Handout 5:3. Groups spend 15 minutes crafting two short skits about the same interaction—one in which the conversation is sub-optimal according to the messaging data, and one in which the same conversation ends differently because more optimal words and phrases were used.
    The groups come back together and present their skits. Before the ‘sub-optimal’ skit is performed, someone walks across the “stage” with the sign reading “Bad Idea.” Before the ‘optimal’ skit, someone walks across the “stage” with the sign reading "Good Idea."
    Distribute Handout 5:4 (PDF) and encourage participants to read it after class, and consider the ways in which they do and do not stigmatize abortion.
  6. Debrief and Closing (15 mins)
    Ask participants to share with the group one new idea that struck them during the session.
    Distribute Handout 6:1 (PDF) and assign each group or policy to one participant who will research via internet and phone calls to local or regional affiliates and/or national groups. Ask participants to prepare modest presentation notes.
    Play “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” by Billie Holiday and extinguish the chalice.