Sun | Aug 14, 2022

Roe v Wade ruling: Criminalising those with divergent views

Published:Sunday | July 3, 2022 | 12:08 AMFr Sean Major-Campbell - -
Reverend Father Sean Major-Campbell
Reverend Father Sean Major-Campbell

The overturn of Roe v Wade has sent ripples across the globe. Darts have been hurled from different political camps wearing various labels. Once again we see how poor, vulnerable women suffer from the effects of political wars shrouded in religious garb.

The intellectually dishonest resort to fearmongering as they define the termination of a pregnancy as the “murder of babies”. Then there are those who use religion to shut down critical thinking. They simplistically resort to the ‘God’s law’ card at convenience. Interestingly, in the Bible, the foetus has been presented as subhuman, potentially human, and fully human.

In the Genesis creation myth, it was after God gave breath that the human “became a living being”. It is as if the body is subhuman without the breath. In Psalm 139, the foetus is being “knit” or “formed” in the womb, and not yet fully human. It is as if it is only potentially human. Similarly, in Exodus 21:22, if a woman has a miscarriage as a result of being hit by a man, he is to be fined. However, if the woman dies, then it is life for life. The foetus is treated differently under the law.

The foetus as fully human is, however, seen where the word for child or baby is applied to the foetus. Hence the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting. The same word is also used after birth has taken place.

These biblical references are shared to make the point that even within scripture, there are various views presented on the status of the foetus. The same may be said across Christian perspectives where some observe that there may be legitimate reasons for an abortion, while others maintain that under no circumstances should an abortion be facilitated. When there are many conflicting voices from the space of religion, it is a clear reminder that human rights interests should prevail.

The overturn of Roe v Wade raises concerns for many who realise that this move goes against the reproductive health rights of women. It offends the right to privacy. It even militates against safe, legal access to abortion which may even be deemed necessary by medical advice.

Why would anyone be against facilitating poor women with access to legal means for the termination of a pregnancy? Should courts be at liberty to exercise extremist positions over human rights? Who wants a departure from judicial best practice re previously established precedents?

It is our legislators who should be our first human rights defenders. The task at hand is protecting everyone regardless of their position. Someone who does not ever wish to have an abortion, even when her life is in danger (as a result of the pregnancy) ought to gain protection to live or die with her position. However, it is problematic when any group must seek legislation to impose the anti-abortion approach with universal implications for everybody else.

It is problematic when I decide that you ought to be criminalised for not holding to my view. Who sees that there is a problem when one side is advocating for the punishment of the other side? If you do not want to have an abortion, then you should never have one. And no one should ever force you to have one. If on the other hand you have decided that this is for you, why should I now fight for you to do what I would do? Do we get the arrogance that prevails when any group of persons decide that on the basis of how they understand a god, all others must do the same?

Christians should remember that we have a duty to teach and live what we believe. However, it is not our place to demand that others conform to our teachings. Our duty is to model what we teach and believe. May we become agents of compassion and peace, rather than selfish, insensitive agents of political agendas.