roe v wade reversal degrades women, violates establishment clause
Recent Supreme Court decisions reflect a push to proselytize citizens and impose upon their rights. Religious-leaning conservatives have long waged its own crusade against abortion since the Court established that right following its ruling in Roe v. Wade, 49 years ago. The Court’s decision last Friday, by a male-dominated and conservative majority, to overturn legalized abortion is degrading to women and an egregious assault on human rights.
Pro-life proponents’ sole plight to criminalize abortion because it ends an unborn life historically ignores women’s health, safety and their individual rights. Reversing Roe removes women’s individual autonomy of their own bodies. Legalized abortion provides a choice for both who support or oppose it. It considers the health and safety of women and their unborn children, a choice for those women who face difficult decisions from rape, sexual assault or any threat to a mother’s health or wellbeing. Reversing Roe does fails to consider the psychological, emotional and financial hardship women face in unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.
Overturning Roe will not stop abortions. Some states, like Illinois, will or are anticipated to continue to provide legal abortions. Other women seeking an abortion living elsewhere who are unable to afford travel or the means for legal and safe abortions will be forced to resort to more clandestine and dangerous providers.
This and other recent decisions reveal how the Court has taken a broad view of religious rights. In the past two months, justices have issued three other rulings that reflect a troubling trend toward religious imposition. On Monday, the Court ruled in support of a Washington state public high school football coach who was suspended for refusing to stop leading prayers with players on the field after games. On June 21, the Court issued a decision in favor of a Maine tuition assistance program seeking taxpayers’ support for students to attend religious schools. Last month, justices ruled to allow a Christian group to fly a flag with an emblazoned cross at Boston’s city hall in accordance with a program promoting diversity and tolerance within the community.
Just as our jurists from the nation’s highest court seem to have blurred the division of church and state, so have some of our public servants. Earlier this week, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert claimed that “the church is supposed to direct the government” and that separating church from state was not what the Founding Fathers intended.
Supreme Court Justices, as do all lawmakers and other state and federal-elected officials, are free to guide their decisions on public policy, according to their religious convictions. But they are forbidden to impose their faith and subjugate their religious beliefs on others.
The words “separation of church and state” have historically been invoked when citing our rights in the establishment clause in the Bill of Rights, which prohibits all levels of government from advancing or inhibiting religion. Those exact words do not appear anywhere in the Constitution, but the First Amendment states that the federal government prohibits any involvement in any religion in that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” All states in the union have provided protections from an established religion, and the Supreme Court eventually applied the establishment clause to all states through the 14th Amendment.
After the Court’s ruling earlier this month in favor of taxpayer-support of the Maine tuition assistance program, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the Court is “upending constitutional doctrine.” In her dissenting opinion, she wrote that the Court “continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build.”
One of the most precious liberties we Americans enjoy is the freedom of and from religion. We can worship where we want or choose to be agnostic or atheist.
Our nation remains pro-choice in matters of religious liberty. So why can’t we grant the same for women’s health, safety and personal freedoms?
Will Buss teaches broadcasting and journalism at Western Illinois University.