April 19, 2018

Reproductive Freedom

Minnesotans Unite Against the War on Women RallyI started to write this as a response to a comment I received a while ago on Atheist Revolution's Facebook page, but I figured it made more sense to write a brief post since this is not the first time I've been asked about this and probably won't be the last. What is my position on reproductive freedom for women, and why do I sometimes suggest that many of those opposed to it are opposed primarily for religious reasons?

My position is clear and easy to summarize: I support reproductive freedom for women and oppose efforts to curtail it, regardless of whether such efforts are religious or secular.

Here are two specific examples of what that means:
  • I believe that all women should have easy access to safe and affordable contraception.
  • I believe that all women should maintain the legal right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and should have easy access to safe and affordable means for doing so.
Why might I suggest that those opposed to these things are often opposed for religious reasons? I listen to them, and I hear them inject their religious beliefs into the discourse. Here in Mississippi, it is not terribly difficult to find people who oppose contraception. Their preferred argument is almost always that some sort of "god" does not want humans to have sex for any reason other than procreation and so using contraception is "sinful." Most Christians here do not seem to believe this, but the ones who do tend to be rather vocal about it. For them, it is clearly a religious issue.

As for abortion, many of those calling for an end to legal abortion or seeking to restrict access to the point where it would become almost impossible for many women to access also inject religion into their arguments. When they show up outside the clinics to protest, many make a show of praying, telling people they are going to hell, and talking about Jesus. They ask what would have happened if Jesus had been aborted. But one also finds the sort of relationships one would expect between church teachings and opposition to abortion. For example, Catholics are generally less inclined to support reproductive rights than many other religious groups.

It is not that it is impossible to oppose abortion (or contraception) for secular reasons. One could come up with non-religious arguments against both, but those who do appear to be massively outnumbered by those who couch their objections in religious terms. The same could be said for the craze of burning stacks of heavy metal records in the 1980s. One could do this for reasons that had nothing to do with religion, but virtually everyone doing it did so for religious reasons they were happy to tell you all about. It is also similar to the efforts to maintain prohibition. Alcohol is illegal where I live because the Southern Baptist majority wants to keep it that way and is able to organize in their churches. I'm sure some might have non-religious reasons for doing so, but those they like to talk about are primarily religious.