This weekend marks 50 years since the passage of the original Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized women’s access to reproductive health care. The 1973 decision brought abortion out of back alleys and rightfully into the realm of health care based on women’s right to privacy and to the workings of our own bodies.
Last spring, when a leaked version of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision reversed women’s Constitutional right to make their own reproductive decisions — the first time a Constitutional right had ever been revoked — it sent shock waves across every corner of this country and around the world.
The decision reached into the private recesses of every doctor’s appointment a woman sets. It sent fear into the medical profession that the government was peering over their shoulders in a way that adversely impacted women’s health. Dozens of women facing heartbreaking miscarriages were denied the care they needed until their lives were threatened. Twelve-year-olds who had been raped were denied abortions in their home states. State after state controlled by Republicans has enacted abortion bans or extreme restrictions.
In Colorado, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative protecting Colorado women’s right to reproductive care.
Pro-life advocates are choosing this weekend as the focus for renewed pro-life marches from the “March for Life” in Washington D.C., to other major cities. They do not represent a majority opinion; some 71 percent of Americans believe that women have a right to make decisions for their own bodies on across-the-board reproductive care, including access to abortion. The pro-life contingent represents a minority that continues to demand that its right to control others is a higher right than other women’s right to bodily autonomy.
Right-wing Christian groups have seized upon this anniversary to assert their moral views (which they inaccurately claim have a scriptural basis). In fact, yesterday, I received a press release from something called the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado which appears to be ready to cash in on the pro-life push.
“The Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University (CCU) is excited to announce that the university has registered ‘Pro-Life U™’ as a trade name with the Colorado Secretary of State and has submitted it as a federally registered trademark (pending)” read the release.
The 17-year-old Christian college bluntly states “the strategic priority of the university is to impact culture in support of the sanctity of life.”
Really? That’s their strategic priority? It’s not to spread Christian kindness, preach the gospel, to feed the poor, clothe and house the homeless and ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’?
“Colorado Christian University is training up the pro-life leaders our country desperately needs,” said Centennial Institute Director Jeff Hunt. “We are proud of our commitment to the sanctity of life, and our strong pro-life reputation makes us just as easily recognizable as Pro-Life U.”
So does this put Colorado at the center of the right-wing effort that is normalizing domestic extremism?
In fact, one of the largest and most active student ministries on the CCU campus is CCU for Life. It was named the top student club of the year there. It just sent 30 CCU students to today’s D.C. March for Life “to fight for the rights of the pre-born.” While they focus on “the dignity of the pre-born,” there appears scant attention to the dignity and freedom of women who are alive; contributing members of society whose rights and freedoms and “personhood” are being trampled.
Where this stance comes from isn’t exactly a mystery, but it isn’t necessarily biblical. It evolved around 1860, about the same time as the then-male-dominated American Medical Association (AMA) was created. It was attempting to wrest control of women’s health from the female-dominated midwife providers and nurses and phase out the obstetric services they provided.
Prior to that time, in Revolutionary War America, and colonial times, abortion before “quickening” was common and considered “women’s business.” As far back as the Greeks, women have passed on the knowledge to maintain control over their own reproductive organs.
By the 1870s, when the AMA saw that their grasp on women’s obstetrics hadn’t happened fast enough, an uber-Christian AMA member decided to add a moral element to the campaign to get women and women’s obstetric knowledge discounted. He wrote an essay announcing that abortion was criminal, and by the 1880s male-dominated governments had indeed proceeded to pass criminal laws denying women access to abortion.
In the early 20th century, as white, male-controlled governments became concerned by high immigration rates, the criminalization of abortion tightened so more white, middle and upper-middle-class women would have more children.
“Anytime in human history that we’ve denied personhood to a class of human beings, we’ve looked back and regretted it. It will be no different with abortion. This is the biggest human rights issue of our time,” announced the Chancellor of Colorado Christian University Dr. Donald Sweeting.
Sweeting was referring to the “personhood” of the unborn. In this post-Roe world, I wonder if he realizes how bigoted that comment really is.
Readers don’t have to agree with this Our Voice. I’m sure I’ll get male ‘holier than thou’ comments about this opinion. I hope I get some supporting it. I don’t discuss men’s vasectomies or interfere with their prescriptions for Viagra, but I do know something about women’s reproductive rights because I am one.
It’s time for Congress to do its job and protect women’s privacy and reproductive rights as a matter of legislation, rather than deny them via a Supreme Court ruling. For the past year, this country has offered unequal access to reproductive care to American women. That is simply — un-American — and it must end.
Featured image: Marchers throng F Street headed towards Riverside Park for June 26, 2022 rally against Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Daniel Flanders photo