Policing abortion in the name of God

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Religion plays an outsized role in American politics. With the collapse of the church into the affairs of the state, the recent Alabama Supreme Court theology-ridden ruling (LePage v. Center For Reproductive Medicine) conferred personhood status to frozen IVF embryos as doing God’s will. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Parker wrote in the ruling that “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.” With this ruling, reproductive justice is thrown out the window. Women, girls, and people with the capacity for pregnancy in the state of Alabama have been relegated to human chattel and birthing incubators. And, if you thought Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was a fictive dystopian novel, read it now as a survival guide because this ruling will have broader implications in the ongoing anti-abortion war.

Pro-life versus the life of the child

Women, girls, and people with the capacity for pregnancy caught up in the pro-life battle need to know their lives don’t matter. Neither does that of the child. While Parker’s theocratic ruling takes his concepts of “pro-life” to a more mean-spirited and punitive level, the label “pro-life” has always been used by religion to cloak the misogyny and transphobia of anti-abortion legislation since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The care for the fetus doesn’t extend beyond birth. Former Massachusetts Democratic gay congressman Barney Frank said for pro-lifers, “Life begins at conception and ends at birth.”

Corinne Cooper, who resides in the Bible Belt state of North Carolina, had more to say on the issue. “These right-wing politicians have hijacked the issue of reproductive justice under the guise of religion and focused specifically on the Sixth Commandment that says “Thou Shalt Not Kill” of the Ten Commandments. These same politicians do little to curb the killing brought about by childhood poverty. To neglect poor children goes against the teachings of Jesus.”

Studies have shown that unwanted children born in states or areas where there are abortion restrictions have much more challenging lives and often live in poverty.

The Trump effect

In a Trumped-up Supreme Court, the uber-conservative justices have eroded decades-long civil rights gains and the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state. The precursor for the recent Alabama decision was the landmark Supreme Court decision passing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), overturning Roe v. Wade, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Before Roe was overturned, abortion was a fundamental right under the Constitution. This right afforded women, girls, and people with the capacity for pregnancy under the 14th Amendment full citizenship, the right to privacy, bodily autonomy, and respect for a person’s choice without judgment. However, religion drove the Dobbs decision and was influenced by conservative Catholic thinkers, theologians, and Supreme Court justices.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we saw justice wasn’t blind but rather biased. This is the effect of Trump’s presidency. Trump’s slogan to “Make America Great Again” was an undisguised dog whistle to his Christian nationalist base to keep America a white heteronormative theocracy. The Supreme Court rulings have worked on behalf of Trump’s evangelicals.

Trump won the presidency on the promise he would appoint judges with a Christian worldview. And Trump delivered.

During his tenure, Trump nominated 274 conservative Republicans to federal benches and three to the Supreme Court (Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett) all of whom sided in overturning Roe v. Wade. Today, as with the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe, the Supreme Court comprises six Catholics, accounting for two-thirds of its total number of justices, of which five are pro-lifers.

Abortion rights are queer rights

Before Dobbs and now Alabama’s decision, BIPOC and LGBTQ communities’ access to a safe abortion was primarily out of their reach, due to health disparities. Women and girls, however, are not the only ones who need abortion care. Nonbinary people, intersex individuals, gender nonconforming folks, and trans men need abortion care, too!

“I am a transgender man, which means that although I am a man, I was assigned female at birth, which means that I have a uterus, which means that I could get pregnant. Which means that I could need an abortion,” Schuyler Bailar, a transgender athlete and activist, told CBSNews.com in 2021. “I am here to remind you to make it absolutely clear that people of all genders can have abortions, and people of all genders should have safe and legal access to abortions.”

According to the 2023 Guttmacher Institute’s Abortion Patient Survey, 16% of U.S. abortion patients do not identify as heterosexual women. And according to the 2020 survey, 149,000 respondents who do not identify as either straight or cisgendered obtained abortions compared to the total number of abortions that year.

Using religion to codify discrimination against LGBTQ Americans began with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993 under the guise of religious freedom. In 2018, SCOTUS ruled in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in favor of the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on the grounds of religious freedom. Moreover, anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ legislation go hand in hand because they both are weilded in the name of God.

Reproductive justice

I continue to argue that the Christian Right needs to talk with the RIGHT Christians because the biggest threat to American democracy right now is white Christian nationalism. Religion’s Latin root, “religio,” means to bind and bring together, and Christian nationalism has served as an illegitimate political and power base in binding people’s shared hatred and acts of discrimination in the name of God.

Christian nationalism, in particular, is a form of Christian heresy, and it’s a cancerous ideology and political force that has metastasized in every aspect of American society: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and, sadly, government too. In Christian nationalism’s effort to uphold white male supremacy by using religion, it has no moral bottom. Draconian restrictions on abortion with the absence of constitutional protection bring back self-induced and “back alley” abortions as the only options.

Reproductive justice, however, is essential to a person’s right to choose when and whether to have an abortion. SCOTUS shouldn’t decide, and neither should the church.