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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

5th place — Grad student essay contest: Elizabeth Higgins

Elizabeth Higgins

FFRF awarded Elizabeth $1,500.

By Elizabeth Higgins

“A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree.” — Judith Jarvis Thomson, 1971 

Religion stands between me and my own bodily autonomy. I cannot express in words the pain religion has caused me, and millions of other women, in the last few weeks. How could I ever embrace an “answer” that tells me that I’m not allowed to have control over what happens to my body, whether I live or die, simply because of my female reproductive organs?

The Constitution of the United States is not based on the Ten Commandments, which raises the question: Why did the Supreme Court just overturn Roe v. Wade due to religious beliefs, despite the foundation of law in this country having no reference to said religion? 

I lost my bodily autonomy because a group made up of mostly men who will likely never know what it is to be a female, based their decision on a 2,000-year-old book. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion, if an individual so chooses.

The overturning of this law shows that the U.S. Supreme Court does not believe in freedom of religion, just freedom to impose the majority’s religion on the entire population through law. These same people will be those calling Islam oppressive while patting their backs for taking away women’s bodily autonomy. Roe v Wade didn’t force Christians to commit what they believe to be “murder,” but its overturning does force women to carry unviable/unwanted pregnancies. 

They saved the unborn fetuses at the cost of the lives of women and children across America, not to the detriment of themselves. Women in abusive relationships will die at the hands of their partners because of unwanted pregnancies. A mother who has been trying for a baby for seven years will be forced to carry her unviable pregnancy to term, and watch her baby live its two or three pain-filled days before being allowed to be with “God.” A 17-year-old rape victim will be too scared to tell her conservative Christian parents how and why she’s pregnant, so she’ll hang herself in her closet. It’s graphic, but it is now a horrific reality. 

The most horrifying thing? I haven’t even reached the worst part, yet. Not only has the overturning of Roe v. Wade caused the obvious, but it also puts laws 

surrounding contraception, sexual performance drugs, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage and consensual sex at risk of being overturned next. It doesn’t just affect women; it affects us all.

If this isn’t sufficient evidence that religion is not the answer, or rather that religion shouldn’t even be a factor in law-making, I don’t know what is. Are we really going to keep going back in time? Will they not stop until anyone other than straight, cisgender, white men have no rights? It’s unsurprising from a religion whose Ten Commandments group women in with animals as a man’s property. 

The problem in America alone is terrible, but not isolated. Abortion in Northern Ireland was only decriminalized in October 2019, but the struggle for women in the area is far from over. In such a highly religious country, while the law may say it is not a criminal offense, medical professionals do. Abortion is still highly inaccessible, causing physical and mental health issues for women who cannot, should not, or simply do not want pregnancies. Why any loving, caring, selfless Christian would want a child to be born into a home where it is not loved or wanted is beyond explanation. Alive and abused is not better than aborted. 

The unification of church and state is an undeniable issue. The solution? The emphatic and unequivocal separation of the two. Church and state are distinctly separated when it comes to tax exemptions, so it can clearly be done. Politicians who express religious views while acting in an official capacity should immediately lose their powers. 

Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. Politicians are free to practice any religion in private, but religion should not be political, and certainly should not be used to control the actions of individuals in the United States. Nor should it be weaponized to win over a large proportion of the population, while infringing on the rights of millions. I hope for a better and brighter future for us all, and it won’t come until this distinction is made. 

Elizabeth, 24, attends Towson University and is working on a master’s degree in marketing intelligence.

“I’m a first-generation, low-income-background international student from the U.K.,” Elizabeth writes. “I hope to work for a sports marketing team one day because I’m an avid sports fan, particularly Formula One. The motorsport industry is male dominated, so I’d hope to be a role model to younger girls and women to show them that they can do it, too!”