Why we can’t afford a rollback on women’s reproductive freedoms

When is your freedom to practice religion an infringement of my freedom not to practice religion? It is a very slippery slope because it leads quickly to totalitarianism.

Women’s right to reproductive health care is under threat from a desire to protect religious freedom. The result of this odd placement of a value system is women being denied access to contraceptives, especially the morning after pill, and of course continual attacks on the right to abortion.

Imagine an insurance company denying coverage for a measles vaccination because the CEO’s religious beliefs were against. It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

But it is quite legal for health care providers to refuse to participate in abortion in 45 out of 50 states. In 42 states institutions can refuse to perform abortions. In 16 of those states, the refusal only applies to private or religious institutions.

Lack of reproductive health care means women have to do something else, and what that usually means concerns money.

Control over reproductive right is a step towards autonomy

Besides the obvious one of the effects of giving women the choice when and how they would reproduce was young women began to take decisions on education that had not been available beforehand.  By having the choice women became much more active at university and in the workplace.

By being part of the qualified workforce women were able to fight for better working conditions and to narrow the gap between pay. This teacher gets the same salary as that one, regardless of sex, right?

But the idea a woman will quit in order to reproduce still exists. In August 2018 a Japanese medical school confessed to gross misogyny by actively keeping women out of class assuming they would leave to have children.

If you take away the right to reproductive freedom, you roll back the clock to the point where such antediluvian prejudices can exist.

Reproductive freedom becomes a human right

Although it is not officially enacted into any internationally agreed human rights declaration we are reaching the point where it needs to be.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women declared “The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. Unfortunately, this is not binding.

Citing religious freedom misses the point

The same conference went on to say “Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its consequences”.

This cannot happen where women are undermined economically. If you limit the range of choices and you reduce the fiscal freedom which happens as a result, you’re making one class inferior.

It’s not accurate to say this is about religion; it is about keeping the little woman in her place.