Political cartoon
Courtesy of University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections

Freedom of religion, abortion and women’s rights

2 years ago
1 min read

In New York, access to abortion clinics offers a sanctuary for women’s reproductive rights. As the Supreme Court weighs the fate of Roe vs. Wade, New York stands as one of the few bastions where these rights may endure.

For those in states where abortion is banned, New York becomes a haven for accessing the procedure. However, the legal ramifications of seeking abortion outside one’s state vary considerably.

Governor Kathy Hochul has already pledged $35 million to bolster reproductive services and provider security in New York.

Many predominantly Republican states have enacted strict abortion laws, stoking concerns following leaks about the Supreme Court’s deliberations on Roe vs. Wade. In these states, often deeply influenced by Christian or Catholic beliefs, abortion is prohibited under the notion that life commences at conception.

So, where does this leave us?

Some assert that the United States is a democracy, not a theocracy, and that religious freedom, enshrined in the Constitution, should not supersede women’s rights. Yet, some states, citing religious convictions, have imposed abortion bans, raising questions about the primacy of religious beliefs over women’s autonomy. What about those whose beliefs differ or those who do not adhere to Christianity?

Abortion views across different cultures and religions offer insights. In China, for instance, historical perspectives suggest reservations about abortion despite common perceptions. Similarly, Hinduism and Buddhism, prevalent in India, prioritize the sanctity of life, limiting abortion except in dire circumstances.

Within Islam, abortion is permissible if the mother’s life is endangered, reflecting a delicate balance between preserving life and mitigating harm.

Jewish law views life as commencing at birth, shaping Israel’s approach to abortion, which is accessible through a termination committee but subject to stringent criteria.

In the United States, where religious and cultural diversity abounds, the tension between religious freedom and women’s rights intensifies. Can women whose faith permits abortion claim protection under the First Amendment? Can they secure exemptions from Evangelical or Catholic-driven bans?

In my view, rather than abolishing Roe vs. Wade outright, accommodations should be made for women whose religions permit abortion under specific circumstances. Alternatively, a referendum could empower communities to decide. Let us consider the human aspect: What if it were our loved ones in need of such a choice? Must we compel a rape victim to endure further trauma?

The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation where abortion is illegal, illustrates the agony faced by women in such circumstances. Should we subject them to prolonged suffering when compassion calls for a different approach?

Ultimately, the question persists: Does religious freedom eclipse women’s rights? Perhaps the path forward lies in allowing individuals to navigate these moral complexities themselves. Can’t we entrust them with the autonomy to choose? Let us embrace the democratic spirit and seek collective resolution through informed discourse and, if necessary, referendums.

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