The basic belief, here, is that the funding of abortion will endorse secular humanism in addition to violating the separation of church and state. I will not need to delineate the obvious to the audience here, on those first points of inquiry implied by the strange but expected bill.
The language of HB 1490 states some of the common tropes within the rhetoric amongst pro-life advocates; those who wish to deny safe and equitable access to abortion, which, as described by Human Rights Watch, is a fundamental human right and, in fact, saves women’s lives — literally — and livelihoods.
Important to note, this is not simply about the legislation. The documentation, in terms of rights, is explicit about three criteria. One is accessibility. Another is safety. A third is equity. It should be within the national consciousness.
Women have the human right, in fact, fundamental human right not simply “human right,” to reproductive health services with abortion as an aspect of this. The notion of abortion is to have the ability to get one in a legal fashion, as a fundamental human right.
Think about the opposition case, if women have their access to abortion denied, what will happen to these women who become pregnant with an unwanted child, for an example?
As a friend and colleague and former child violin prodigy, Paul Krassner, noted decades ago, there will need to be underground referral services, where, in fact, Krassner provided some referral services; in other words, women will get those abortions anyway.
When women get them in a legal or illegal context, in which the access is there or not & the state approves it or not, the main consideration becomes the respect for fundamental human rights or not.
By refusing to provide these services, which are far and away one of the least frequent provided services by reproductive health centres anyway, the legal structures, the society, and the opposition actively oppose the right to this fundamental human right and, in fact, the eventual — and statistical — health and wellness of women. It may not be in every single case, but, on average and based on the empirical evidence available to us at an international level, the general principle of heuristic is women will have improved wellbeing, as a group within societies, with the provision of abortion services.
That’s layer one. The basic respect for the right for it, as women will get them anyway. Thus, the best work would be to give this to them anyway. Following from this, we come to the second consideration, which is safety. Once women have it, is it safely available to women? This is a highly relevant question given the context of the United States of America after the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh.
If not, then this violates the fundamental human right. Women will be in only marginally better circumstances getting unsafe abortions in a licit context as they would in an illicit environment. Therefore, the purpose of a legal protection and provision of abortion services under the banner of reproductive health services would be two-fold: 1) the protection of the fundamental human right of women and 2) the increased probability for the improved outcomes for women in the context of a needed medical service, abortion.
The final criterion is equity, or “equitable.” Different sectors of the population of women have different levels of access to these provisions. This requires an explicit statement as to the import of the protection of women of color, rural women, poor women, and so on, in the case of provision of abortion.
With these criteria for the respect and implementation of a fundamental human right, it is simply about safe and equitable access to abortion services. Without these, with these made illegal or women turned into outlaws for needing or even wanting them, women will die or become injured by the thousands, in the former case, and by the millions, in the latter case, according to Human Rights Watch, at an international level.
The language of HB 1490 simply speaks to the talking points of the pro-life stance on this debate. That is to say, there will be references to direct opposition about abortion not being murder, about abortion not being immoral, and abortion not beginning at conception, and so on:
The naked assertions that “abortion is not murder”, “that abortion is not immoral”, and that “life does not begin at conception” are unproven faith-based assumptions that are implicitly religious and are unproven truth claims that are inseparably linked to the religion of secular humanism;
The stance of secular humanism is against religious dogma, where the stance is not dogma, e.g., no holy text, nothing to pray to, no suggested practices, no gods as traditionally defined at least, and so on; thus, the assertion of secular humanism as a religion simply speaks to the indication that religion, in the United States, continues to garner a bad reputation as an idea and as a term, which is cynically being exploited by Ragan in the language here.
This comes from a fundamentalist branch of Evangelicalism within the United States that has been working to demonize secular humanism, and other groups, for some time, including feminists, activists, progressives, and the like.
The statements continue:
That the establishment clause prohibits the state of Tennessee from enforcing, respecting, recognizing, favoring, or endorsing policies that fund abortion facilities with tax dollars because the practices are nonsecular and such appropriations have the effect of excessively entangling the government with the religion of secular humanism, putting religion over nonreligion;
To deconstruct this, the obvious implication of the title “secular” in secular humanism is the endorsement, explicitly if not implicitly, of the separation of church and state, or, more properly, place of worship and state. How does this qualify as a faith, exactly?
As we have seen in the history of the United States, the conservative religious fundamentalist base — not simply old fashioned conservatives — are working with what has worked for progressives in the past and then, non-creatively, attempting to reverse the arguments with their own talking points on the notion of religion interfering in the politics and health provisions of the country, which has been a progressive argument and pro-choice — as in, pro-human right, pro-maternal health, pro-infant health, and pro-women’s reproductive health — argument for years in order to prevent the encroachment of the fundamentalist religion into the reproductive lives of women.
Now, the conservatives realize the loss in the courts, e.g., Roe v Wade from 1973, but then see the utility in the form of the argument of the prevention of religion entering into political life. In this case, the attempt is to fight the ‘evils’ of secular humanism by trying to label secular humanism as a religion and then working to encroach religion into the public sphere, into the domain of reproductive health services and reproductive health rights for women, through the denial of abortion services, but from the opposite angle.
By the implication of this reversal, the pro-life sector represented by Ragan, perhaps not all but many, therefore, become people of politic rather than people of principle and may reflect the general assault on the population by “people of means,” as recently declared as a preference by billionaire Howard Schultz. The principles would be the same, as in the arguments would be consistent. But now, the arguments have reversed for Ragan and, thus, the principle is not principles but the restriction on the rights of women — full stop, by whatever arguments or means in order to do it.
The statements in the reportage continue:
The direct or indirect subsidization or facilitation of abortion with funds distributed by the state of Tennessee constitutes paying for an abortion and, therefore, conflicts with the First Amendment establishment clause of the United States Constitution;
The state of Tennessee may not favor or endorse one (1) religion over another, nor may the state of Tennessee favor or endorse the religion of secular humanism generally over nonreligion.
By the respect for human rights and the provision of a fundamental human right, the notion is the utilization of the First Amendment establishment clause to the United States Constitution in HB 1490 as, in some way, a religious issue from the other side, where, in fact, the basic principle of secular humanism is human rights and the separation of place of worship and state.
The argument for the prevention of abortion services through the labeling of secular humanism as a religion simply restricts the provision of abortion services to women — for the vast majority of cases — in need of one. By default or reflection, this would lean towards and instantiation of the pro-life position, or standard fundamentalist religious position, of the prevention of abortions for women. In either case, the outcome is the same: women simply denied equal status in American society through the denial of respect for their fundamental human rights.
“Not that we should have to waste time debunking any of that, but the assertion that abortion is ‘murder’ or ‘immoral’ and that life begins at conception are all faith-based statements that also have no basis in reality. It’s rhetoric, not science,” Hemant Mehta explained, “To suggest that a pro-choice chance promotes secular humanism but that an anti-choice stance has nothing whatsoever to do with religion is the sort of lie we’ve come to expect from conservative Christians. Keep in mind that the laws have nothing to do with whether abortion is ‘moral.’ That’s your call, not the government’s.”
In addition to HB 1490, Ragan, according to Mehta, is also endorsing, as a co-prime sponsor, a bill with the clear intent to ban abortions based on the detection of a fetal heartbeat, where, not conception, but the heartbeat detection becomes the first point of no abortion possible. As the readers here can tell, and certainly know, the work is to try anything that work, simply to restrict women’s freedom; the sensibility seems to come in the indirect pervasive truth, in some manner: a fear of sexually and economically free women — not a proof of this but a sense of it.
Mehta, properly, notes, “I guess it’s not government overreach when it involves his religious beliefs. In case that point about hypocrisy isn’t clear, Ragan also co-sponsored a resolution just this year that would literally change the state’s Constitution to say our ‘liberties do not come from government, but from Almighty God.’”
As Mehta reasonably and accurately observes, the issue is not about principle; it is about the innervation of a singular interpretation of religion into government rather than the permission of all voices via the denial of religion into public life. No religion in the politics is simply a recognition of the obvious: a respect for the non-religious and the religious across the board through equal treatment. The religious have been in power forever; thus, any movement towards equality feels like oppression.
The issue may seem ambiguous, to some, in the single HB 1490 case, but, if compared across examples, then the conclusions seem clear: the purpose is forced intervention into public life of one denomination of Christian religion in American legal structures and political life in order to have the consequence of the denial of the fundamental human rights of women.
And as this comes down to an individual choice of abortion, if you do not want an abortion, then don’t get one; if you disagree with it, on religious grounds, or for others, then still don’t get one, but, at the same time, don’t deny the safe and equitable access for women, or, if the case may be, other women.
Photo by Guillermo Álvarez on Unsplash