Sunday, March 6, 2016

Abortion, A problem of religion or privacy?

In 1973, The Supreme Court ruled that a women's right to abortion is protected by the privacy of the Fourteenth Amendment. This article presents the question whether or not the woman's right to abortion outweighs the state's interest in protecting the life (potential life) of a fetus. A philosophy professor in the University of Illinois, Peter Wenz explains in his book how the issue of the unborn's humanity is left out from the decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. In this book Wenz goes on to explain that determining a fetal's personhood is based on religious beliefs and so if the government were to uphold a decision explaining when a life began it would be violating the Establishment Clause by favoring a certain religious viewpoint.
The standpoint of abortion for Catholics among with many evangelical  Christians are in active opposition to abortion. They believe abortion is almost wrong in all cases except in very extreme circumstances. In the Jewish tradition abortion is permissible in cases where the health of the mother is at risk. While in other religions like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints going through with and even providing abortion services can lead to excommunication. Through a recent amicus brief filed by a group of theologians and ethicists, Whole Women's Health challenged Texas law which imposed restrictions on facilities and doctors. An argument brought by this group of people about abortion is "Because there exists no unified religious or moral position on abortion even within major religions, a state's attempt to restrict the accessibility of abortion necessarily impinges on the religious and moral decisions of some individuals."
This argument here can be traced back to the Supreme Court case Harris v. McRae, where in a split decision the Court ruled that the government funding of abortion services does not violate the Establishment Clause because the law "may coincide with the religious tenets of the Roman Catholic Church."
I feel abortion is both a problem of religion and privacy. Although Linda Greenhouse, who covered the Supreme Court as a journalist, states "It's an argument that judges just don't want to hear." I agree with the statement that women do have the right to privacy under the Fourteenth amendment however I also feel as if establishing how abortion works would be a violation of the Establishment Clause. All in all however, I feel abortion is something that should be left up to the individual. The state should not get involved because the possible entanglements with religion and the entanglements with a women's privacy.


Caroline Vauzelle said...

I agree that ideally, the states should not be involved in the issue of abortion, so to respect the right to privacy of women. However, to answer the original question in your title, abortion is neither a problem of religion nor of privacy. It is a matter of public health. There have been studies conducted throughout the second part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st proving that weather abortion is legal or not, abortions will take place. The only difference with legalization is that a woman has the possibility to undergo this procedure in a secure and healthy environment. "Roe v. Wade" just legalized the procedure, but did not ensure its access. This is why I think it is still important for states to manage this issue, so to protect women's lives.

Liz S. said...

While many Catholics and other Christian Religions believe that abortion is bad, I agree with Caroline in saying that it is not an entirely religious issue. There are several Atheists in this country who believe abortion is immoral and is the murder of an unborn child; in fact, one of my friends in high school was an Atheist who believed that. Thus, the argument that outlawing abortion violates the Establishment clause because it favors one religious belief is flawed. While many religions believe life starts at the moment of conception, there are nonreligious people who believe that as well.

Lucy Fishell said...

I agree with both of the above comments, using the Establishment Clause as an argument against abortion rights is unfounded. When it comes to abortion those who believe it is wrong are completely free to believe and abstain from it. However, their opinions on abortion should not be a reason to let other's who do not fall into the same school of thought be affected by that. If anything, this argument almost goes against itself, because if we were to listen to a religious opinion about this as reason to stop it from happening we would be establishing a religion.

Thomas M. said...

When looking strictly at the establishment clause, abortion is not a religious issue. There are people of religious belief and atheists who are for and against abortion. In practice, however, abortion is a largely religious debate that has caused conflict for decades. If there was no religious involvement in the issue, it's likely more people would accept that abortion should be allowed at least in certain cases, such as rape. Christianity and other religions have adherents who interpret their religious texts strictly and see their anti abortion teachings as not allowing for abortion in any situation, including rape. So yes, technically abortion is not a case for the establishment law to be used, but if there is a serious discussion about the realities of abortion, there needs to be a conversation over the religious aspect.