Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Elizabeth Andraschko

Vol. 38 No. 07 September 2021
Elizabeth Andraschko                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Aborting religious dominance over reproductive health care

By Elizabeth Andraschko 

“As for women of whom you fear rebellion, convince them, and leave them apart in beds, and strike them” (Quran 4:34); “A wife who refuses to perform any kind of work that she is obligated to do, may be compelled to perform it, even by scourging her with a rod” (Torah, Isshut 21:10); “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does” (1 Corinthians 7:4).

Despite representing various cultures, populations and religions, these scriptures unanimously preach that men must control women’s bodies. These discriminative messages are being broadcast globally — as 84 percent of the global population practices religion — which increases misogyny and sexism, particularly around abortion.

Abortion has been restricted or banned in many countries because political leaders prioritize promoting religious agendas rather than protecting reproductive health care. In the United States, the government predominantly reflects the patriarchy with cis-heterosexual, white, male, Christian constituents. Consequently, minority groups such as women and trans men are denied influence in legislation regarding their rights, including access to abortions. This lack of representation manifests itself through sexist punishments that affect only those who receive the abortion, such as fetal homicide laws and mandated funerary services. With no repercussions for the sperm donor who customarily identifies as male, these laws serve to oppress those with uteruses instead of equally reprimanding the collective couple.

Equity for these minorities will not be achieved until scientific evidence replaces religious influence in health care. Empirical research shows that proper abortions are safe and without lasting repercussions: one in four women will have an abortion before the age of 45, and “only 0.23 percent . . . resulted in a major complication.” However, in countries where abortions are heavily restricted, both the number of total abortions and the proportion of unsafe abortion procedures increases. Unsafe abortions are defined as those “carried out either by a person lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards”; these procedures make up 13 percent of maternal deaths, killing 47,000 annually.

Continuing to withhold abortions despite the research discouraging restrictions demonstrates how religious leaders utilize spirituality to mask their intentions of maintaining dominance over people with the ability to give birth.

Although some individuals believe religion will absolve their strife, it is imperative that society utilizes science to make decisions regarding greater populations. Thoughts and prayers will not impact maternal mortality prevention nor terminate fertilization by rape, but safe abortions can. Our leaders must replace their outdated, unfounded religious beliefs with scientifically authenticated legislation to promote equity of all genders and their rights to reproductive healthcare.

Elizabeth, 19, is from Spring Park, Minn., and attends the University of Wisconsin. “I intend to graduate and begin my career in New Zealand,” Elizabeth writes. “Eventually, I would like to move back to the United States and have a leadership role in the Environmental Protection Agency, working toward the mitigation and replacement of fossil fuels with sustainable energy.”