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You are not your own: a reflection on the bible and abortion legislation

BarbaraAlarezUpdate You are not your own: a reflection on the bible and abortion legislation

I entered a piece for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Brian Bolton Essay Contest for Graduate/ “Older” Students in 2019, writing about “the abusive relationship between the bible and women’s bodies,” specifically with regard to abortion restrictions.

The essay prompt asked students to write about a bible verse that continues to cause harm. I selected 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.” This passage has been invoked by religiously inspired legislators to justify draconian anti-abortion legislation.

When FFRF notified me that I had won second place in the Brian Bolton Contest, I was thrilled, humbled and honored. And yet, the excitement of writing a prize-winning piece was paired with the angst of its timeliness and relevance.

This has become truer than ever.

A little over two years later, it is impossible for me to disentangle the biblically invoked phrase you are not your own when following the news about the decimation of abortion in the United States. Like a drumbeat, I hear the phrase you are not your own constantly reverberating.

At last week’s oral hearing before the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the anti-abortion replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, questioned why adoption couldn’t be an alternative for abortion. The Catholic justice, who has two adopted children, asked: “Why don’t the safe haven laws take care of that problem?” Barrett seems to ignore the very health-endangering experience of pregnancy. You are not your own. 

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun recently claimed that he is “perfectly comfortable” with criminalizing abortion because he believed in “the sanctity of life.” In Braun’s worldview, women’s lives are not worthy of sanctification. You are not your own. 

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn recently delivered a House floor speech in which he compared women to vessels: “Eternal souls woven into earthen vessels sanctified by almighty God and endowed with the miracle of life are denied their birth.” Never mind the life of the woman. But again, you are not your own.

Texas, which has the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, just joined five other states in criminalizing anyone who prescribes pills for abortion medication via telehealth and the mail — even though it’s an extremely safe practice. Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, explains, “These additional barriers simply make it harder to access care. It’s a squeeze play on abortion.” You are not your own.

In 2022, we will find out if the Supreme Court will uphold the Mississippi abortion ban that threatens the core foundation of Roe v. Wade. As of this writing, it appears likely that this will be the outcome. And if that does come true, 26 states are set to ban abortion in some form. Many of these states have trigger laws, or  pre-Roe v. Wade legislation that will go into effect. FFRF’s home state of Wisconsin is one of those states with a pre-Civil War criminalization law still on the books. Women in North and South Dakota will have to travel nearly 200 miles to receive an abortion. You are not your own.

It is extremely heart-wrenching to see this biblical verse wielded against reproductive health in a secular country. I make it my mission to counter the ringing of you are not your own with my own remedies. I hope that you will join me:

Donate to an abortion fund. The Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin, co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF’s principal founder, annually helps an average of 900-1,000 Wisconsin residents without means exercise their constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade. It is all-volunteer, with donations paying for abortion care. Make a donation, deductible for income-tax purposes.
Ask your U.S. senators to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), a measure “to protect a woman’s ability to determine whether and when to bear a child or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide reproductive health care services, including abortion services.” It protects abortion access by preventing restrictions that do not advance women’s health and safety. Additionally, it prohibits restrictions that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures. As abortion restrictions are not rooted in science, but rather based on religious ideology, the act would be a major step in curbing extremist anti-abortion measures.
• And we also need to have conversations with our friends, families, and neighbors about protecting abortion rights. Organize a rally in your community, host a community conversation, and boldly share your support for reproductive and secular values.

In my contest essay two years ago, I wrote that until legislation embodies science and logic, not religion, women’s bodies will never be their own. I uphold that sentiment more than ever before. So let’s work toward a reality where science and logic prevail.

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