More on: Restricting Women’s Rights

February 2, 2022

It’s no secret that open access to comprehensive reproductive rights – including birth control and abortion – has evolved into an extremely acrimonious and hostile issue across American society.

The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have the right to pursue their own – but different — beliefs or practices.

I have no interest in debating religious or cultural positions on contraception or abortion.  My interest is to encourage a deep look into how and when restricting open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services becomes an economic and human rights issue. When a small group of people — highly committed to their own religious beliefs – engages in persecution of others who do not share their religious beliefs and practices, that results in a violation of the 1st amendment, each and every time.

A recent Pew Research survey found that the majority of Americans (61%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When religion is included in the demographics of survey participants, 77% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Recent Gallup polling found similar results.

In fact, the loudest voices opposing abortion and open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services in the U.S. seem to come from a +/- 20% minority comprised of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

Yet, the vast majority of people who are adversely impacted by rules, laws or practices which restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The longitudinal negative social and economic impacts on women who are denied access to a voluntary abortion — and the children who are born as a result — are devastating. The spillover of these social and economic impacts into the larger society is chilling.

I’m truly surprised that the current debate on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services remains centered on religious grounds, when in fact, citizens of the United States have an ironclad guaranty in the U.S. Constitution to freedom from religious persecution.

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