The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 4 in a case that could dramatically restrict legal abortion in the United States.
Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser was at the high court to observe the arguments. In addition, several AU staff members took part in a rally to defend reproductive rights outside the court.
As Americans United has noted, there’s a strong nexus between reproductive justice and separation of church and state. Laser outlined this in a Chicago Tribune op-ed last year. Religious freedom, Laser noted, protects everyone’s right to be true to themselves and make their own decisions about both religion and reproductive health care. The First Amendment is designed to prohibit the government from imposing any religious perspective on us, but that’s undeniably what anti-abortion laws do.
In fact, anti-abortion laws are part of a larger Christian nationalist agenda to codify a “Christian” nation – one that reflects far-right, fundamentalist views. The same Christian nationalist lawmakers who push anti-abortion bills are often working to roll back other rights, often as part of the alarming Project Blitz agenda. These legislators are emboldened by the Trump administration, which is attempting to use religious beliefs to deny employees and students access to birth control, deny LGBTQ people basic rights and implement its reckless Denial of Care Rule, which invites any health care worker to deny care to any patient by citing religious beliefs.
As AU has pointed out, many lawmakers don’t even bother to hide their religious motivations for these bills.
The organization cited the following examples:
Louisiana: State Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), who introduced the Louisiana clinic shutdown law at issue during the high court argument, said four months ago that ending legal abortion “will happen through prayer. It will happen that people come together and really say, ‘This is no longer a party issue, this is a God issue; this is a United States issue…’ And I believe this is the turning point.”
In a media interview last year, Jackson said, “From day one of running in my district, I was very clear that … my goal in this office was to do the will of God. This is one of those issues where I’m standing with God. … My concern is not who I offend based on their overall national view of a party or a candidate. My concern is always, number one, that I not offend God.”
Alabama: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey after signing the state’s draconian abortion ban into law on May 15, 2019: “This legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” In addition, state Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) said in 2019: “I believe that if we terminate the life of an unborn child, we are putting ourselves in God’s place.”
Missouri: State Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Scott County) explained her support for Missouri’s abortion ban in 2019 by speaking for the opposition: “To stand on this floor and say, ‘How can someone look at a child of rape or incest and care for them?’ I can say how we can do that. We can do that with the love of God.”
Such rhetoric has been echoed by President Donald Trump, who told an anti-abortion march earlier this year, “All of us here today understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together we must protect, cherish and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life.”
Vice President Mike Pence during a 2016 debate remarked, “[F]or me, I would tell you – the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief [in] that ancient principle that where God says before you were formed in the womb I knew you, and so for my first time in public life, I sought to stand with great compassion for the sanctity of life.”
During and after the rally, Americans United urged supporters to share its social media content using the #MyRightMyDecision hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The case, June Medical Services v. Russo, challenges a Louisiana law that requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. If it is upheld, it’s estimated that all but one clinic in the state will have to close.