Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak in the Wisconsin Capitol on a proposed bill that would make it illegal for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health to train its obstetrics and gynecology residents in how to perform abortions.
FFRF opposes this bill because it advances an age-old religious attack on education and women. And it does so without any secular justification. Below is a copy of my testimony before the Assembly Committee on Science and Technology, explaining why our representatives should legislate based on data, facts, and science, rather than superstition and dogma.
July 18, 2017
“Thank you Chairman Quinn, Vice-Chair Petersen, and members of the committee. My name is Sam Grover and I am an attorney for the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. I appreciate having the opportunity to submit testimony to the committee.
Assembly Bill 206 came to FFRF’s attention because it has no legitimate secular justification. It proposes to undermine the education of students at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, jeopardize that school’s accreditation, and potentially exacerbate the shortage of qualified obstetrics and gynecology providers in the state, all based on a vague and contrived belief that abortion is “evil.” This bill is little more than a religiously motivated attack on one of our state’s most desperately needed secular institutions. We ask that you put an end to that attack.
Since the time of Copernicus, when the Catholic Church suppressed his heliocentric model of our solar system, religious institutions have had a long and fraught history of undermining science education that conflicts with church doctrine. To this day, including seven times this year alone, FFRF receives complaints about public schools teaching creationism in science class in an effort to undermine students’ understanding of evolution. But the religious patriarchy’s attacks on the teaching of abortion—a safe and widely needed medical procedure—are particularly troubling, as these attacks not only impact our quest for knowledge, but also real women’s bodily autonomy.
This bill is religion at its worst. It advances the Church’s agenda, with no perceivable public benefit, through a two-pronged assault on science education and women. Shortly after the launch of the organized women’s movement almost 170 years ago, Elizabeth Cady Stanton noted how the “bible was hurled at us on every side.” It was churches—Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant, and Mormon—that, marshaled opposition to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and 80s. And it has been religious voices that have decried the “evils” of granting women that most important and basic of rights: the right to choose if and when to become a mother.
As elected representatives, FFRF asks you to divorce yourselves from this most shameful church history. For government officials to advocate a biblical viewpoint on matters of family planning and women’s rights is a disregard for the enshrined principle of state governance free of religion as well as a woman’s right to govern her own body. You have each taken an oath to support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wisconsin. FFRF, on behalf of its more than 1,200 Wisconsin members, encourages the committee, in furtherance of that oath, to legislate based on facts, data, and scientific consensus. It is not legislators’ prerogative to advance their personal religious beliefs through bills that impact all citizens, many of whom practice a minority religion or no religion at all.
Thank you for considering this testimony. I am happy to provide further information to the committee as needed.”