By Barbara Alvarez
Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern
Freedom From Religion Foundation
State legislators across the country have passed a flurry of anti-abortion bills that are indicative of the precarious future of women’s health care.
Legislatures around the nation have introduced more than 516 abortion restrictions in 2021, according to a report released by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. This is up from 304 during the same time frame in 2019. Furthermore, medication abortion bans and restrictions and anti-abortion constitutional amendments have tripled.
These actions are undoubtedly in response to the newly ultraconservative Supreme Court, with anti-choice legislators hopeful that the long-established constitutional right to an abortion will be overturned. This is dangerous for the health of women across the country, as well as the separation of state and church and individual liberty.
Just this month, governors in Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Idaho have signed sweeping anti-abortion legislation that severely restricts abortion care and jeopardizes women’s health. For example, Montana’s bill restricts abortions past 20 weeks of gestation, includes medically unnecessary ultrasounds and prevents women from obtaining medication abortion via telehealth.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Tuesday that would make it a crime for physicians to perform abortions based on genetic conditions. This is in direct opposition to medical providers who said that this generalization was “medically unsound.” Unsurprisingly, bishops from the Arizona Catholic Conference lauded the bill and said that they look “forward to the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned.”
South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem signed a similar bill stating that “God created each of us” and that she awaits “the day when the Supreme Court recognizes that all preborn children inherently possess this right to life.” In Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon approved a draconian anti-abortion bill that’s little more than fearmongering about the safety and efficacy of abortions. And Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed a near total abortion prohibition on April 26 including a phony “heartbeat” ban that can prevent abortions as early as five or six weeks of gestation. The following day, Idaho’s Gov. Brad Little followed suit and also signed a so-called “heartbeat” ban into law.
Alarmingly, these approvals are just the beginning. There are pending anti-abortion bills in Texas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. Such rampant anti-abortion legislation is indicative of the Religious Right’s attempts to favor theology over democracy and science.
To be clear, the belief that life begins at conception is a matter of faith — not fact. Science does not support abortion restrictions. Indeed, major complications from abortion account for less than one-fourth of 1 percent. In contrast, women are 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than from abortion complications. Restricting access to abortions through unnecessary legislation, prohibitive costs and minimal services jeopardizes women’s health and safety of the procedure.
If legislators were truly concerned about life, they would take necessary measures to ensure that contraception, sex education and abortion care was readily available. And yet they do no such thing. Instead, they ignore science and focus on pro-natalist policies that patronize women and add burdens to physicians and health care providers. They also disregard long-established constitutional law and the United Nations’ assertion that abortion care is a human right.
Simply put, they favor religion over reality.
As these anti-abortion bills will no doubt continue to trend, our secular attention is crucial. We must have important conversations with our communities, contact our legislators and stand up for science. Women’s health care is on the line — and secular voices are more necessary than ever.