Anti-abortion advocates in the U.S. should not use religious beliefs to justify stripping people of the freedom to choose
On Monday, Feb. 21, Colombia decriminalized abortion, making it possible for women across the country to exercise control over their bodies and their lives. This historic decision follows closely after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruling in September 2021, which declared it unconsitutional to criminalize abortion. These rulings are a sign of long-overdue progress toward both basic human rights and the separation of personal, religious views and public policy in both countries.
While citizens of these countries celebrate newfound freedom for people with uteruses, those in the U.S. face a future that may involve just the opposite: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that federally protects the right to get an abortion, is at risk of being weakened or overturned in the near future.
After hearing arguments on a recent Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and challenges Roe v. Wade, several conservative Supreme Court justices expressed criticism of the 1973 decision, indicating the likelihood that they’d rule to overturn it. After 49 years in effect, the ruling that promised individual rights and bodily autonomy is now up in the air, leaving anyone who may get pregnant uncertain about whether their freedom of choice will be intact by the year’s end.
Many, however, are already experiencing an infringement of their constitutional right to an abortion. The Mississippi law is currently in effect while the Supreme Court deliberates, as is a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks — before many women know they’re pregnant — and makes no exception for rape or incest. The Supreme Court has decided not to intervene due to a “unique enforcement mechanism that gives state officials no role,” where it’s up to the public to enforce it through civil lawsuits. Despite these laws contradicting the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, they are actively preventing pregnant people from accessing medical care that is well within their current rights.
But those rights are just that: current. Should the court overturn Roe v. Wade, the effects seen in Texas and Mississippi would only spread. Over half of U.S. states are expected to ban abortion if the ruling is overturned, jeopardizing millions of people’s ability to access comprehensive reproductive care and family planning. If policies as severe as those in Texas are legalized elsewhere, the already incredibly traumatic experiences of rape and incest could be compounded by the inability to end unwanted pregnancies for even more people.
No matter the reason, humans deserve the right to control what happens to their body. The decision to have an abortion is not easy, and the stress of not even having the option only imposes a greater psychological toll on people facing unplanned or otherwise unwanted pregnancies.
Abortion wasn’t always so entrenched in politics, or even a centerpoint of Republican ideology. In fact, when abortion became a political issue in the 1960s after feminist groups’ advocacy, Republicans were in favor of its legalization, seeing as it aligned with their ideals of small government and individual rights. It wasn’t until the 70s, when the Republican Party realized that they could tap into the religious, anti-abortion voting base, that they took a stance against it to garner support in the polls.
At its core, the fight against abortion is performative, and rooted in the unassociated goal of gaining power. It’s disheartening and disturbing to consider a future where millions of people in this country are forced to have children because a personal decision that has no place in government became a political tool.
The 50 year-old political associations between the Republican party and anti-abortion religious groups raises an important issue in the abortion debate, one that Justice Sonya Sotomayor put simply when responding to the case for the Mississippi law: “How is your interest anything other than a religious view?”
The separation of church and state requires that the U.S. government cannot prefer religion over non-religion, nor one religion over the other. If the notion that abortion is immoral is based on certain religious beliefs that life begins at conception, then why are these ideas being used as arguments to make laws or overturn Supreme Court decisions?
These aren’t new questions, or particularly new points, for that matter. But that, in and of itself, points to the discouraging backward direction this country seems to be going in with the challenges to Roe v. Wade. This is the same right that decades ago was fought for, using similar arguments — that religious views shouldn’t dictate laws or policy; that abortion is personal, not political; that it is a human right.
As other countries around the world take strides towards protecting bodies and choice, states in the U.S. have begun an attack on those rights that may result in the dismantling of abortion services as we know them. Rather than backtrack and fulfill only certain religious groups’ desires, it is imperative that the Supreme Court uphold Roe v. Wade in order to preserve the right to maintain control over one’s own body and life choices.
If you or someone you know is in need of abortion services or other reproductive health care, please see the resources below:
Planned Parenthood Woodland — https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/california/woodland/95695/woodland-health-center-2375-90130
Women’s Resources and Research Center — https://wrrc.ucdavis.edu/resources/health
UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services — https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/health-and-wellness/sexual-well-being
Written by: The Editorial Board