The Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade is still sending shock waves throughout the world. It’s as though The Handmaid’s Tale – the horrifying dystopian sci-fi novel by Margaret Atwood – is being used as some sort of guidebook, rather than as the stark warning it was originally intended. How did get we here?
It’s frightening that even after centuries of misogyny, the Supreme Court has still voted against women’s autonomy over their bodies and choices. Many US states have already activated trigger laws to criminalise abortion, signalling the return to butchers, coat hangers, and women dying from illegal, unsafe abortions. The ruling has been heralded as a victory by many Christian leaders, particularly Evangelicals who (according to research from the Pew Research Center) are the religious group that are “most opposed to abortion.” Their supposed reasoning follows the notion that “life” begins at conception, thus a fetus is a person with rights; rights that presumably outweigh the mother’s.
If you think using religious rhetoric to argue against abortion is merely a US-centric issue, you’re wrong. Danny Kruger, the Conservative MP for Devizes in Wiltshire who is a committed Christian and has been described as a “defender of Christian conservatism,” told the Commons in a chilling statement that he does not believe women have “an absolute right to bodily autonomy” during a debate over the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v Wade judgement.
Kruger went on to say, “They think that women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy in this matter, whereas I think in the case of abortion that right is qualified by the fact that another body is involved.”
It won’t surprise you to learn that Kruger was one of 61 Conservative MPs who voted against extending abortion access in Northern Ireland on 22 June, earlier this year. He was joined by Jacob Rees Mogg who, in 2017, said that he was “completely opposed” to abortion including in cases of rape or incest, calling it ‘morally indefensible.” He has previously said, “I am Catholic and I take the teachings of the Catholic Church seriously.”
Not even the fact Kruger’s mother is National treasure and Bake Off presenter Prue Leith’s son can sweeten the fact the Kruger seems to herald a new era of male politicians who seem to disguise misogynistic thinking behind religious views to inform their policy making. There is a reason why state and church should be separated, this is not about religion: it’s about human rights.
Katherine O’Brien, associate director at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), explains that hard-won abortion rights in the UK could still come under threat:
“The 1967 Abortion Act, and our ability to end a pregnancy, lie in the hands of politicians, and over the past 10 years we have seen a number of parliamentary bids to restrict abortion safely and legally”.
While each person is entitled to their own views, it’s not OK for thinly-veiled misogyny to creep into political and legal decision-making and for politicians to try and justify their sexist views in the name of religious freedom.
I went to Catholic school and was raised with a mixture of Catholicism and my mother’s earth mama spiritualism. At home, we were encouraged to howl at the moon and hug trees, while at school I remember a priest telling us that homosexuality was a devil that could be exorcised and that abortion was a mortal sin. I told my teachers I was very disappointed that they’d expose us to such bile.