Three important reproductive rights bills

Three important reproductive rights bills October 13, 2020
By Barbara Alvarez
Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern
Freedom From Religion Foundation

“I don’t think the core case — Roe’s core holding that, you know, women have a right to an abortion — I don’t think that would change. But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics — I think that would change.”These are words spoken by Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. They are also a reflection of what religious extremists have been doing to abortion rights ever since Roe v. Wade was passed nearly five decades ago: limiting abortion access as much as possible. Should Barrett be confirmed to the Supreme Court, their dreams of criminalizing abortion could very soon be a reality.

Barrett’s confirmation hearing could make her the sixth Catholic judge currently sitting on the bench. She is also a member of a strict Catholic covenant community, People of Praise, that opposes abortion. However, it is not her religious affiliation that is the issue. Rather, it is her interpretation of religious freedom and separation of state and church that poses a threat to abortion rights, as well as to same-sex marriage and even health insurance.

Read FFRF’s full report on Barrett here.

A few highlights from the report that are relevant to Barrett’s stance on abortion:

  • As a law professor at Notre Dame, Barrett was a member of the “Notre Dame Faculty for Life Group” from 2010 to 2016. It describes itself as a group that believes a human being begins at inception and works toward “the legal and societal recognition of the value of all human life.”
  • In 2006, Barrett told graduates of Notre Dame Law School that their legal careers were “a means to an end . . . and that end is building the Kingdom of God.”
  • That same year, Barrett signed a newspaper ad that called for an end to Roe v. Wade, describing it as barbaric. This group also urged criminalizing the research use of discarded embryos created during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process.
  • In terms of contraception, Barrett has been critical of any accommodations in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for employees denied contraceptive coverage by religiously affiliated employers. It means that while Barrett doesn’t believe that employers with religious convictions should provide contraception, she also is against employers providing a notice to employees about their right to receive contraceptive coverage elsewhere.
  • Barrett supported this extreme position by signing a letter with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty stating that “the government should not coerce religious institutions or individuals into violating their most deeply held beliefs as a condition of serving or employing those who do not share their faith.” The Becket Fund is a Roman Catholic legal organization that opposes the separation of state and church and was behind the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor lawsuits that allow employers, based on religious beliefs, to discriminate against their employees’ religious beliefs.

Barrett’s extremist worldview that seeks to give Christian Americans preferential treatment is not aligned with public opinion in religious and nonreligious circles alike. A recent poll by NARAL Pro-Choice America found that 73 percent of voters support reproductive freedom, believe that abortion should be legal and that government should not prevent women from abortion access. The poll further revealed that 73 percent of Protestants, 70 percent of Roman Catholics, 83 percent of voters who practice another form of Christianity, 89 percent of Jewish voters, 60 percent of Muslims and 87 percent who practice another religion support reproductive freedom and access to abortion.

Additionally, FFRF has recently released a major secular voter poll indicating that a whopping 98.8 percent of nonreligious voters support abortion rights.

These polls demonstrate that the religious motivations of the few do not represent the values of the many — telling us that we must persist in asking our senators to reject the rushed nomination hearing. We can also aspire to passing legislation that will rescue reproductive rights from religiously motivated legislators. Below are three such bills:

  • Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) is a measure “to protect a woman’s ability to determine whether and when to bear a child or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide reproductive health care services, including abortion services.” It protects abortion access by preventing restrictions that do not advance women’s health and safety. Additionally, it prohibits restrictions that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures. As abortion restrictions are not rooted in science, but rather based on religious ideology, the act would be a major step in curbing extremist anti-abortion measures.
  • Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2019 would end the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion care to federal Medicaid recipients, including individuals in the military, Peace Corps and Native Americans who receive health insurance from Indian Health Services. The Hyde Amendment was introduced by Henry J. Hyde, a staunch Catholic who was praised by bishops and the Religious Right for this amendment.
  • Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act would remove the Helms Amendment from the Foreign Assistance Act. The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” This act would also replace it with language stating that U.S. funding would provide comprehensive reproductive health services and information, including abortion services, training and equipment. Like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment imposes Christian Nationalist beliefs internationally.
As the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett demonstrates, religious exceptionalism is at the forefront of reproductive liberty. A secular nation should not allow the religious motivations of the few to dictate the reproductive care of women at home and across the globe. The bodily autonomy and reproductive health of millions of women demands our secular voice.

Barbara Alvarez is from Madison, Wis., and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a Ph.D. in library and information sciences with a minor in gender and women’s studies. Alvarez was a major winner in last year’s FFRF essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle. She is FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing.

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