Statement by Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
A recent trip to Poland chillingly brought home to me the precarious state of abortion rights. At one time, Poland was a reproductive rights beacon in Europe, with Polish women enjoying years of reproductive freedom dating back to the 1950s. Then they watched helplessly as abortion rights were stripped away in front of their eyes by 1993. Women’s rights were sacrificed as part of the political union between the Solidarity government and the Catholic Church. Today, Poland has among the strictest rules on abortion in the world, where it is only legal in extreme cases.
It could happen here. It is happening here.
Earlier today, Georgia became the fourth state this year to effectively ban abortions, after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the so-called “fetal heartbeat bill” into law. (The very title is misleading, since it is an embryo, not a fetus, until eight weeks into a pregnancy.) Embryonic heartbeat is detectable by six weeks, sometimes five, before many women even realize they are pregnant. To appear less radical, the bill includes an exception to save the woman’s life and for pregnancy stemming from rape and incest — but only if an “official police report has been filed” first.
Despicably, the law officially called the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” cites the Declaration of Independence, as repeated in Georgia law: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”
The male terminology is not just antiquated and offensive, it is telling. Women comprise just 30 percent of the Georgia Statehouse and only 25 percent of state legislatures nationwide. The Georgia law equates a five- or six-week-old embryo with a born woman, granting the embryo more rights. Her liberty and happiness, imperiled by an unwanted pregnancy, is discounted. By invoking the post-Civil War 14th Amendment providing equal protection, the law by inference insultingly compares the condition of African-Americans brutally enslaved for hundreds years to said embryo. The law states: “It shall be the policy of the state of Georgia to recognize unborn children as natural persons.”
Belief that a human being exists at conception is a matter of faith, not fact. Legislating anti-abortion faith is as immoral and un-American as it would be to pass a law that all citizens must attend Catholic mass.
The measure won’t go into effect until January 2020, and the ACLU of Georgia has already announced its plan to go to court — precisely why state legislatures around the nation are considering and passing draconian laws curtailing reproductive rights. Emboldened by the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, who replaced pro-choice Justice Anthony Kennedy, they seek to bring the issue before the Supreme Court. The most likely scenario is that the Supreme Court will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, turning the authority over to the states. At least nine states, such as Wisconsin, have retained recklessly outdated statutes on the books criminalizing abortion. Wisconsin’s law, dating to 1849, would throw physicians in jail for up to six years for committing the felony of abortion care.
Nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. As FFRF’s Honorary Director Katha Pollitt has pointed out in her book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, abortion is “a normal part of woman’s reproductive rights.” Katha’s book debunks the idea that the bible forbids abortion, as does FFRF’s brochure, “What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?” However, while the bible is neither anti-abortion or pro-life, it is anti-woman, blaming women for sin, demanding subservience, mandating a master/slave relationship to men, and demonstrating contempt and a lack of compassion: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” (Gen. 3:16). The bible does not condemn abortion, but even if it did, we live under a secular Constitution, not in a theocracy. The separation of state and church, the right to privacy, and women’s rights all demand freedom of choice.
A hundred thousand people marched in the Polish streets in 2018, when it looked like the powerful Catholic Church was going to enact even further abortion restrictions. Polish women marching in the streets carried signs such as “I decide about religion, not religion about me,” “My uterus is not your chapel” and “I am a Catholic woman, not a slave.”
We need to be marching in the streets here, protesting in the state capitols and demanding that legislators and political candidates pledge to protect abortion rights. Let’s learn a lesson from Poland. . . .Yes, it can and it is happening here.