In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Samuel Alito’s argument began and ended with the claim that abortion is never mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
But I contend it is more relevant to note another word not found in the Constitution — woman.
According to an editorial in Nature, a respected scientific journal, a primary reason women give for wanting an abortion is an inability to afford to raise the child. Some 75% of women who choose to have abortions are in a low-income bracket. These women are already economically vulnerable, yet in the 25 states expected to ban abortion, there are not even laws that guarantee maternal leave from work. As Dan Rather recently wrote, “The burden is almost always heaviest for those who are already burdened.”
The states’ ban on abortion is not only going to disproportionally impoverish women, it will result in more maternal fatalities. Many women already have unequal access to health care, which accounts for the U.S. having the highest rate of maternal death among wealthy nations. The same editorial in Nature cited a study that, if abortions were banned throughout the United States, the risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes for non-Hispanic Black women would rise from 1 in 1,300 to 1 in 1,000.
The majority of these women will lose their lives because of a lack of medical care. Abortion is the treatment for ectopic pregnancy or a septic uterus. Without these abortions, women die.
But health care workers could face criminal prosecution for saving a woman’s life.
In the same week that one branch of the U.S. government abolished more than 50 years of precedent for the right to an abortion, another branch enacted significant gun control legislation for the first time in nearly 30 years. Congress passed bipartisan legislation in response to the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Some level of gun control has long polled favorably among a majority of American voters, but it took the mass murder of 4th graders to spur political action.
While the Supreme Court has circumvented the will of a vast majority of Americans who likewise support access to abortion, it is possible to legislate access to abortion. But I fear that it will take horrific loss of women’s lives to convince politicians to put aside their ideology.
This ideology may be described as anti-abortion. Yet, many in this movement describe themselves as “pro-life” because of their religious motivations. I recognize that people of faith oppose abortion out of their desire to protect the unborn. Yet, I do not find biblical evidence that life begins at conception.
The word abortion is not found in the Bible.
I read multiple Old and New Testament passages calling for care of “widows and orphans,” which in today’s world would mean services like universal health care and childcare, affordable housing and access to healthy food.
But the very same “pro-life” politicians are often against these policies for well-being. Some actively worked to block a federal program that provides up to 10 million kids with free breakfasts and lunches in school.
Passages, such as Isaiah 1:17, make it clear that the Bible calls for much broader understandings of equity and justice — “Learn to do good; seek justice; rescue the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.”
“Pro-life” policies should not stop after birth.
Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”
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