Infringing on My Religious FreedomMost anti-abortion activists cite the Bible as the authority for their position. To be more precise, they cite the New Testament. They are either fundamentalist Christians or Catholics, who somehow feel justified in advocating laws that further their religious view, even if it conflicts with the religious or non-religious view of others. They pass laws that put huge obstacles in the way of women seeking abortions and do their best to scare providers from offering safe and legal abortions. Fundamentalist Christians and Catholics are behind these laws and Arkansas Constitutional Amendment 68, which states: “No public funds will be used to pay for any abortion, except to save the mother’s life.” That means that no abortions may be performed at Arkansas’s premier medical institution – UAMS – and that medical students and residents cannot be trained about abortion care. Not all religions have the same view of abortion as the Catholic and fundamentalist Christian churches and within each religion, there are differences. While some Orthodox Jews oppose abortion except to save the life or health of the mother, Reform and Conservative Jews are overwhelmingly pro-choice. The United Church of Christ, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans are also pro-choice. So why do some people, who have a certain religious view, get to impose their views on others? This religious intolerance is especially ironic because these same fundamentalist Christians are to same people who insist that their religious views be tolerated by others and that they not be forced to perform acts that they say conflict with their religious view. Take, for instance, the infamous case of the baker in Colorado who did not want to bake a cake for a gay couple because it conflicted with his religious beliefs. Fundamentalists overwhelming support the “religious freedom” of the baker but won’t allow me to freely exercise my Jewish beliefs. What hypocrisy! In Arkansas, fundamentalist legislators have urged passage of other laws based on their view that people are entitled to opt out of certain acts based on religions. For example, a provider (and this is can refuse to provide healthcare (and this is broadly defined) based on his or her conscience. What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. A Jewish physician should be able to act in accordance with his or her conscience and perform an abortion. A Jewish woman should be able to opt out of all the draconian laws that prevent her from exercising her religious freedom to obtain an abortion.
Bettina Brownstein is a long-time Arkansas civil rights attorney and political activist. She is the leader of Progressive Arkansas Women PAC.