Human Rights & Democracy

July 6, 2022: The End of Roe v. Wade Means Official Religious Oppression

Posted on July 06, 2022 at 12:00 AM

by Jean Stewart, Chair, Earth & Environment Task Force
One often ignored aspect of the debate over abortion, and the coming end of pregnant people’s access to safe abortions in many states, is the religious aspect. The SCOTUS ruling to overturn Roe v Wade means that those states with repressive laws on abortion will be using the power of state governments to impose the theology of a minority of Christian denominations on all people of faith, as well as those with none. Personally, as a member of a community of faith within the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), I object to having a theology not shared by my community, nor my denomination, imposed by government fiat. 

Many Christian denominations and individual communities hold as a matter of faith and basic theology that all people are created in the image of God, and are therefore equal in God’s sight. I object to having the power of state governments impose restrictions that deny pregnant people’s equality before the law, based on a patriarchal theology held by a minority of Christians. 

As Baptist minister Rev. Katie Zeh, CEO of the interfaith Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights writes, “The criminalization of abortion would be a gross violation of religious freedom, because it’s the imposition of a single, narrow religious point of view upon everyone else. There is no one theological position on abortion.”

Aside from my personal beliefs and objections to the SCOTUS ruling, the imposition of a theology that declares that human life begins at conception, or those who hold that human life begins at some other point early in pregnancy (such as Texas’ 6-week ruling) is also a denial of religious freedom for all who believe in different theologies or none. 

Particularly of concern is the anti-Semitic aspect of state governments imposing one particular Christian belief on Jews. Rabbi Daniel Bogard says in a series of tweets, “For Jews who can become pregnant, access to abortion services is a religious ‘requirement.’” He refers to the Torah, Talmud, and Mishnas to say that “…there are situations where Judaism doesn’t just allow abortion, but in fact traditionally *requires* abortion (when the life of the pregnant person is threatened)…. But only when the pregnant person’s life is in physical danger??!? Nope! Not just literally their life, but also their well-being, their mental health, and all sorts of other explanations that encompass the vast majority of the reasons that folks pursue abortions.” He also quotes the Talmud to the effect that until birth a fetus is considered just another part of a woman’s body.  He summarizes thus, “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.” This is clearly anti-Semitism, not only for pregnant people but for medical practitioners as well.

The Constitutional requirement of separation of church and state is being dismantled by this Extreme Court, to the detriment of every American’s religious liberty. For the sake of religious freedom and maintaining the Constitutional separation of church and state, we must fight for reproductive justice. This makes it paramount that we urge every eligible voter to vote against every right-wing candidate espousing religious oppression everywhere!

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