We know that reproductive rights are human rights, so clearly abortion laws are crimes against women. When I first wrote that, one of my friends wondered if it might be a bit melodramatic. Let’s just step back and a take a serious look.
We live in a world in which there are an estimated 68,000 deaths and millions of hospitalizations of women every year that are entirely preventable. Many of these women are already mothers—so their deaths destroy not just their lives, but the lives of their young children as well. To prevent these we wouldn’t need to spend millions of dollars, or even one dollar, searching for a miracle cure. All it would take is for men to give up their pathological need to control women. Politicians cause these horrors. Across the planet they know very well that the cost of their moral tyranny is women’s lives.
In the United States, 40 years of safe, legal abortion make that terrible reality seem like a nightmare of the past. But in at least 11 states (Alabama, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Indiana, Idaho, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Mississippi, and Virginia), far-right-wing politicians are passing or attempting to pass dozens of unconstitutional laws directly aimed at making abortion illegal or inaccessible. They know very well that the cost of illegal abortion is women’s lives. And they pass these laws anyway as if the legislature were a private club for sociopathic boys. Then they brag and congratulate themselves on their righteousness. Laws that make safe abortion illegal or inaccessible are crimes against women, whether they are promulgated in Mississippi or Madagascar, North Dakota or North Africa. It is time we named them crimes. They steal our lives, our dignity, our freedom, our privacy, our spiritual autonomy, and our families.
It is all too obvious that all the laws being enacted to make safe abortion illegal are coming from the same right-wing, anti-woman, anti-abortion sources. The public is solidly in support of maintaining Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ruled that abortion is a constitutionally protected right, but we need to make certain that people understand that Roe is worthless where there is no access to safe abortion services.
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Whether and when to become a mother is one of the most serious and important decisions a woman can make. For most women, having a baby means more than just giving birth. It means taking on the sacred responsibility to raise a child and nurture it to adulthood. Undermining a woman’s ability to make that choice seriously and responsibly, according to her own faith, circumstances, and values is a deep affront to women’s personhood. It reflects a worldview in which women are not trusted as full human beings. It makes a mockery of faith.
Crimes against women are crimes against children. When women are harmed, children are harmed. Women are not the enemies of their children—even those they decide not to bring into the world. Often women have abortions because they are loyal to the children they already have. Tragically, many of the states in which anti-abortion laws are being enacted or attempted are already dangerous places for women. These are states with high rates of poverty for women with children, high rates of maternal and child mortality, high rates of domestic violence, a shortage of education and affordable health-care services, a lack of sex education and birth control, low wages, and depressing circles of despair. Safe, legal, accessible, and affordable abortion services do not magically solve the deep-rooted problems of poverty and lack of education, but without them women have little chance of breaking the cycles that may have kept their mothers and grandmothers from realizing their dreams.
Some of the most vocal supporters of laws to make abortion illegal care deeply about the Constitution—when they are protecting the gun lobby. Yet they have no respect for Roe v. Wade. They often claim that it is their deeply held Christian faith that causes them to oppose abortion. Yet they neglect to mention that although abortion has been practiced for thousands of years, it is not prohibited, or even explicitly mentioned, in the Bible, which does go to pains to tell us about many other sins, including wearing two different kinds of cloth together. And they shame and humiliate women, which Jesus never did.
They often pretend to care about life. Yet they neglect to mention the politicians who do their bidding don’t even support ensuring food or shelter or health care for children.
In the name of “pro-life,” they claim that their consciences prevent them from allowing abortion services at their hospitals, even when those services save women’s lives. Yet they neglect to mention that people who support safe, legal, accessible abortion also have deeply held beliefs and act according to their consciences.
Their hypocrisy is profound. Their arrogance is breathtaking. One in three of their girlfriends, wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers has had an abortion. And they were no different from any other good woman who has had to make that choice.
I understand that the people who commit these crimes against women are deeply afraid of losing their power and position in the world. They are terrified of losing their certainty and their conviction that they are good and all others are bad. They are scared that everyone will see that they are not God. They are the very definition of a bully. It is possible to try to forgive them. But we cannot allow them to terrorize us.
Melodrama? I only wish it were, but this is all too real. In our modern world, we have come a long way toward declaring certain inalienable human rights, but too often issues that disproportionately affect women are left out. Only women are blessed and burdened with the ability to bring new life into the world through our bodies. Reproductive justice—the ability for women to make their own most personal choices, to have the families they want, and to raise them in a society that values and ensures adequate food, shelter, health, and safety—is an inalienable human right.