The pope’s latest diatribe comparing abortion to “avoid birth defects” to Nazi eugenics practices is a false equivalency that underscores how morally bankrupt and insidious the Catholic Church continues to be. By comparing the decisions of individual women concerning the well being and sustainability of their families with the Nazis’ systematic and coercive project of racial purity, the pope tips his hand as to how highly he regards women as moral agents. Pope Francis masquerades as a champion of global economic justice and egalitarianism, but his misogynist, authoritarian views on abortion demonstrate why the church poses a mortal threat to the lives, wellbeing and earning power of women across the globe.
Catholic stronghold Ireland’s recent vote to repeal the Eighth amendment banning abortion was a titanic blow to centuries of immoral Catholic dominion over women’s right to self-determination. Irish women who advocated for the repeal spoke of traveling to England and other countries to have abortions under duress. While stories of women dying from untested medication, organic concoctions, and back alley procedures are legion in abortion narratives throughout history, the Catholic church’s assault on abortion, birth control, and reproductive rights keeps the women and communities of non-Western Catholic nations poor and disenfranchised.
Around the globe, draconian anti-abortion laws in predominantly Catholic countries like the Philippines and El Salvador have made serious injury or death by illegal abortion routine for poor and working class pregnant women saddled with caring for large families on substandard wages. According to the Guardian, three women die every day in the Philippines from abortion-related complications and “More than 65% of women don’t use modern contraceptives, and maternal mortality rates were at 114 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.” Invoking Nazi rhetoric to denigrate abortion rights and demonize women is yet another example of why organized religion, theocracy, and patriarchy are a toxic brew for human rights.