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Let’s honor bodily autonomy for all

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By Kat Grant and Barbara Alvarez
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Anti-abortion laws and anti-LGBTQ+ laws both deprive people of their bodily autonomy.

This June, let’s use our secular voices to support the separation of state and church and human dignity for all.

Pride Month, which began in 1970 as the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots, is more necessary than ever. As of this writing, there have been at least 540 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, which is twice the number of bills introduced last year. As many as 220 of these bills target transgender and nonbinary people. So far this year, 45 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been enacted, with 13 of them banning gender-affirming care for youth.

This June also marks the one-year anniversary since Roe v. Wade was overturned after nearly 50 years. Meanwhile, in 2022 more than 563 anti-abortion bills were introduced in states across the country. Without Roe, abortion is banned or severely restricted in 20 states, including in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s home state of Wisconsin. Anti-abortion legislators continue to introduce total abortion ban bills, criminal enforcement procedures, restrictions on abortion medication and abortion services, as well as bills that support anti-abortion centers.

The codification of anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion ideology is alarming, dehumanizing, dangerous and has no basis in evidence-based medicine. For example, when you actually sit down and read any of the anti-transgender laws that have been making headlines over the past year, there is plenty to be disturbed by, but by far the most disturbing trend might be the clear move to reduce people to their reproductive capacity.

Take, for instance, the ironically named “Women’s Bill of Rights” that was recently passed in Kansas. The fascinating question of “What is a woman?” is one that has unfortunately been co-opted by anti-transgender bigots as a bad-faith “gotcha” based on an over-simplified understanding of biology and complete ignorance of social science. This law, which was recently enacted after the Kansas House overrode the governor’s veto, requires that when writing and interpreting legislation, the words “woman” and “man” and other related terms like “mother” be defined purely on the basis of reproductive roles.

957c231d f077 3515 8c76 58064f945fcc Let’s honor bodily autonomy for all

Besides the blatant erasure of a minority from the law, anyone who considers themselves a feminist or otherwise concerned with women’s rights should be frightened by this development. While “trans exclusionary radical feminists” and Christian nationalists may celebrate this as a way of “protecting womanhood” from people they view as predatory men (aka trans women just trying to live their lives), this law does nothing but further the Christian nationalist goal of forcing us all back into strict gender roles.The law is more than a set of rules that we passively live by — it’s a window into how a society understands itself. If our laws reduce “womanhood” to reproductive capacity, we are saying that as a society we view women as nothing more than baby factories. When you bring in more threads in the complex web of American law, it becomes even more clear that this is not isolated to questions of trans identity either.

The growing restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion care provide additional evidence that the religious extremists in our governments want to strip everyone they understand to be a woman of any and all agency. Idaho is a perfect example of just how damaging anti-abortion legislation is to pregnant people.

With abortion completely banned in the Gem State, physicians who provide maternal care are fleeing the state. Many are afraid of “being tried as a felon simply for saving someone’s life,” as Dr. Lauren Miller explains. The law outrageously allows family members to sue doctors who perform an abortion, which could be to save the life of the pregnant person. As such, five of the nine remaining physicians who specialize in managing significant pregnancy complications will have left the state by the end of the year. Conveniently, Idaho’s Legislature is ceasing their documentation of pregnancy deaths. And for anyone who wants to help a minor travel out-of-state for an abortion without parental consent? They could face criminalization. Idaho is not the only state with draconian anti-abortion laws. This is a reality for millions of people throughout the country, including LGBTQIA+ folks, as trans men, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people can also need an abortion. And yet these laws force people to give birth and dictate the medical care that they can (or more likely cannot) receive.

Abortion restrictions are linked to higher maternal and infant mortality; anti-transgender laws are linked to worsened mental health, suicidal ideation and gender dysphoria. However, Christian nationalist legislators do not take into account facts or evidence, nor do they center human rights and dignity. Least of all they refuse to recognize that we are a secular nation whose country should not be dictated by religious ideology.

The dissemination of anti-LGBTQ+ and abortion rights views are connected by a Christian nationalist viewpoint on reproductive health, bodily autonomy and gender identity. Let this month be an important reminder that everybody deserves bodily autonomy.

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