The Religious Right’s Assault on Reproductive (and Religious) Freedom

The main thrust of the last issue of Conscience (“Abortion Access and Public Funding” Vol. XXXVI, No. 2) was that in order for legal abortion access to have meaning for all women, public funding must be there to keep services within the reach of low-income women. Public funding for abortion is pilloried every year, even though the question was settled when the US Supreme Court issued its watershed decision on abortion 43 years ago in Roe v. Wade. Roe staked out a zone of privacy around each woman’s right to determine whether to continue a pregnancy. While assailed repeatedly in the decades since, and at times reviewed and subjected to revision, this essential sphere of personal autonomy has stood the test of time. The court’s recognition of the right to access an abortion reflects its appreciation of the intimacy of this decision—which holds true for women of all income levels.

America is a nation of more than 320 million people and hundreds of religious denominations. The presumption that men and women of faith speak with one voice on the question of abortion, or that all principled individuals who believe in God must stand against abortion, is arrogant and wrong. The insistence of far-right activists that they speak on behalf of all religious believers unmasks a deeper agenda of intolerance and exclusion. Disregarding the religious values of those who disagree is a furtive method of silencing religious dissent. In so doing, the Religious Right is allowed to impose its theology on the entire country, assaulting not just the reproductive freedom of women, but also the religious freedom of all who believe differently from them.

SETH MADNICK MARNIN
Vice President, Civil Rights
Anti-Defamation League
Washington, DC

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