The draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization dropped last week, and the opinion calls for the overturn of Roe v. Wade (1973). Countless people, more informed than I, have commented on this over the past week. However, I wanted to write down my own thoughts, at least my thought process, if not for anyone else than at least for myself and my own journey. As such, this post will not necessarily be a coherent thread; rather, it will contain a myriad of thoughts that I’ve been working through not just over this past week but for a while now.
As I was thinking about this post, and what exactly I wanted to write, my mind kept going back to a Kids in the Hall sketch where Scott Thompson comes out on stage and asks, “What is it about the word ‘faggot’ that makes people so frightened?” The word appears above his head, and he breaks down each letter, asking which one makes the word so scary for individuals. It can’t be “F” because “F” stands for “fun.” Plus, everyone wants to get an “A” in class, so we can’t say that “A” causes fear.” The “GG” is right out because, as Thompson puts it, “We all love twins.” What about “O”? Nope, no one can “get mad at a donut.” Thompson identifies the “evil ‘T'” as the culprit because of it looks like a cross. He concludes by telling the audience, “Well, I’ve got the perfect solution. Let’s get rid of the ‘T’ and all the hate that goes with it.”
In this short ninety-second sketch, Thompson deconstructs the ways that individuals use Christianity to marginalize and harm others under the guise of “morality.” The sketch appeared about thirty years ago, during the solidifying of the Moral Majority, during the AIDS epidemic, and during a fervent push in evangelicalism to demonize the LGBTQ community and more. The sketch doesn’t deal with abortion; however, the connection to evangelicalism and the use of fear to maintain patriarchy and control of women’s bodies and to demonize those whom do not fit a white, cisgender mold highlights the ways that we see the same arguments with abortion and women’s rights.
I grew up in the evangelical church. I remember in high school religion classes watching The Silent Scream, an anti-abortion film from 1984. I came of age in college during the late 90s and early 00s within the Christian music scene and organizations such as Rock for Life or songs such as “Homicide” by Focal Point or “Pro-Kill” by No Innocent Victim. It was clear cut. You’re either pro-life or you’re wrong. No middle ground existed. No discussion of Linda Coffee, a Southern Baptist lawyer who helped bring the Roe v. Wade case in 1973 entered my head. No discussion of the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on abortion during that period entered my head. If you’re wondering, the SBC’s 1971 resolution, two years before Roe v. Wade, reads,
Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.
The resolution supports women’s rights to their bodily autonomy for their “emotional, mental, and physical health” as well as arguing for “the sanctity of human life.” I didn’t know any of this. Instead, all I heard was language such as that by the Christian Coalition which, as Anthea Butler puts it, “was concerned with abortion, homosexuality, and other, as they saw it, moral issues” (emphasis added). The question becomes, “Whose morals?”
It’s clear whose morals and whose positions the anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-. . . positions want to maintain. Following the drop of the Dobbes draft, I waited for individuals to start posting on social media to see what they would say. I kept checking, and what I saw didn’t surprise me; in fact, it reinforced the point that evangelical Christianity strives to protect itself, namely it’s patriarchal position while saying it doesn’t interfere with politics. Butler, Kristen Kobes Du Mez, Elizabeth Gilespe McRae, and countless others show that this ins’t true. Even the Dead Kennedys and other punk bands noted it. Look at their song “Moral Majority” (1981).
As I scrolled through posts during the week, I came across one from Mike Stone, a pastor in Georgia. In his Tweet, he wrote, “The US Constitution does not provide rights. It protects them. We are endowed with rights by our Creator. The government cannot grant rights because it has none to grant. And it can only guard the rights we actually have from our Creator.” There’s a lot wrong with this tweet; however, I want to focus on one thing, “endowed rights by our Creator.” Stone is working within a Christian nationalist framework, positioning America as a “Christian” nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. We know that even though this argument gets made, it’s not true. Look at Thomas Jefferson’s bible or even at Benjamin Franklin providing an abortion recipe in a textbook. We also see Stone limiting the rights of individuals because if he, or others, believe that the Creator (i.e. God) did not grant the rights, then the rights don’t exist. Under this logic, LGBTQ marriage shouldn’t exist. Under this logic, historically, chattel slavery should still exist. We could go on and on.
I replied to Stone with a thread from Rabbi Daniel Bogard where he breaks down the Jewish position on abortion, again something I did not hear growing up. Bogard delves into Exodus 21:22 which reads, “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant person and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact, the payment based on reckoning.” Verses 23 and 24 read, though, that “if other damage ensues” there shall be equal retribution (i.e. “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . .”). Verse 22 clearly, as Bogard points out, “a fetus is not a human life.” In the Jewish Study Bible, the commentary for verse 22 points out everything that Bogard says, pulling from Jewish tradition, even stating, “Halakhic tradition exegesis infers that, since the punishment is monetary rather than execution, the unborn fetus is not considered a living person and feticide is not murder.” Other translation such as the New International Version and English Standard Version don’t use “miscarriage.” Instead, they say things such as “she gives birth prematurely.” This change alters the reading of the text, and it deviates from the original translation.
Bogard then goes into a detail of Jewish thought through the years on abortion, and he concludes with a final tweet where he says, “All of which is to say: laws that limit or criminalize abortion aren’t just violations of the human rights of every person who can become pregnant, but are also infringements on the religious liberty of every American Jew, and an imposition of governmental Christianity on us all.” Islam, as well, has different views on abortion, all centered around ensoulment. Christian tradition has these too, and you can see more in Margaret D. Kamitsuka’s Abortion and the Christian Tradition: A Pro-Choice Theological Ethic or Daniel Schiff’s Abortion in Judaism.
Bogard’s point in his final tweet sums up what Stone explicitly states in his tweet. Unless Stone’s Creator granted the rights, they don’t matter. That means that women must adhere to his Creator’s rights; as well, this position, to hinder someone from expressing their religious beliefs, if they differ from your own, is a violation of the First Amendment. It’s a clear political move to maintain power of others.
Along with all of this, I did not even touch on the fact “that approximately 40-60% of embryos may be lost between fertilisation and brith.” What does that say? Does that say that the Creator kills half of the embryos before birth? How does that work? I didn’t even touch on the class issues with abortion and reproductive rights. I didn’t even touch on the fact that Georgia has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the nation behind only Louisiana. I didn’t even touch on the fact that the Louisiana House just passed an anti-abortion bill that frames human life around the imago dei, the image of God, clearly a violation of the First Amendment. I didn’t even touch on the fact that the United States does not have paid maternal leave, universal health care, universal day care, universal prenatal care, and on and on, like other nations. I didn’t even touch on the fact the impact such legislation has on people of color. I didn’t even touch on the fact that the Dobbs ruling is the tip of the iceberg because some have called for condoms only for married couples or the banning of condoms overall. Plus, this could lead to the rolling back of other civil rights legislation. There’s a lot I didn’t touch on that others have covered.
I say all of this to say everyone should have their rights protected, and access to medical care, consultation, and procedures are all part of those rights. No one should be denied access for any reason. Fighting for the rights of everyone is important, and we shouldn’t deny anyone. Overturning Roe is not what should happen, and if it does get overturned, which it looks like it will, we’re in for a lot more. So, it’s time to stand up and speak out to protect the rights of everyone.