On June 30, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. They ruled that the craft store (Hobby Lobby) could have religious views and therefore could refuse to provide certain forms of birth control to its female employees under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It was this event that prompted me to become an active woman atheist and start this blog as well as editing two books. I was very concerned about the role religion was playing in our government. Hobby Lobby is a corporation that can have religious beliefs?
This Wednesday, June 27, that fear was confirmed – big time. When Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to retire from the U. S. Supreme Court, a sea changed occurred – and not for the better. The online news provider, Slate, ran an article about all the ways the U. S. Supreme Court could continue to erode the protections of Roe v. Wade without actually ruling against it per se. One of the major reasons this could happen is because it is already happening. From mandating onerous requirements on abortion clinics making them economically not viable to requiring doctors to show pictures of fetuses to prospective patients, the erosion has already begun.
And if you think women can have gender equality without reproductive rights, including the right to a safe and affordable abortion, you need to read Handmaid’s Tale or watch the movie. I guess I’m lucky. I was 23 when Roe v. Wade was decided and birth control had already been made available. But think of those 23 year old women today. What future are they facing?
Abby Hafer, a biology professor, wrote an essay in my new book, Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith… and for Freedom, that discusses the Manhattan Declaration, a lengthy religious manifesto that asserts its support for “the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion”. It has been signed by over 150 religious leaders, and over 150,000 supporters, as of July 2015. Here is what she says:
Mixed in with this, of course, is the attitude that giving birth is of no cost to the woman. Instead, the desire to control women’s reproductive systems is often dressed up in a fake concern for women themselves. Consider the following excerpt from the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience”: “We stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children.” Please note that the writers are talking about women in the United States in the twenty-first century. Please note the use of the words “to submit” in that quotation. The powerful male writers of this document are trying desperately to pretend that American women are being forced to have abortions by some nebulous or ghostly overlords. The reality is that women are the ones who are seeking abortions, and they are often prevented from doing what they think is best by self-righteous men who have more power than they do.
The religious writers of this declaration refuse to even contemplate the fact that women are independent thinkers who can figure out what they want and need for themselves. The religious writers of this document are also pretending to defend women. Aren’t they sweet? This bizarre document would not be worthy of notice if it were not for the people who wrote it and signed it. They are some of the most powerful people in politics and religion, and they have used their power to control your lives.
But please read a bit further to find out the relevance of this document to the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The “Manhattan Declaration” was written and released in 2009 by Chuck Colson, Robert P. George, and Timothy George. Chuck Colson was a special counsel to President Richard Nixon. Timothy George is the dean of Beeson Divinity School. He has appeared on C-SPAN. He has written over twenty books. Robert P. George was an advisor to President George W. Bush, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Mike Huckabee, and Dr. Ben Carson. He has had connections with the Supreme Court, with Congress, and within the White House, all at the highest levels. Religious men with connections like these could have used their power to substantively help women. They chose not to. Instead, they chose religious drivel as a cover-up for irresponsibility and oppression.
Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He spoke favorably in 2017 about the proposed Neil Gorsuch who was eventually appointed to the U. S. Supreme Court by President Trump. Mr. George himself could be a possible contender for Kennedy’s seat, but even if he is not, as a leading Christian Conservative you can bet he will be there for someone like him.
And you can also bet that Trump’s nominee will NOT be for safe, affordable abortion for women in the United States. So what can you do?
Are you a member of NOW, NARAL, Planned Parenthood? If not, send them a check today. Are you registered to vote? You better scope out the candidates to the U. S. Congress carefully in the primaries and general election this year. Because if Roe v. Wade is overturned, or so far emasculated that it is worthless, a constitutional amendment will need to be passed and it will NOT be referred to the people by the current one.
I have no problem if an individual is not in favor of abortion. All I say is, “Then don’t have one.” I don’t own any guns, but that doesn’t mean I support a law that no one else can either. And you can be assured that most of those opposed to abortion do so on religious grounds. We must stand up and have our voices heard or we are failing the next generation.
Let me know your thoughts for actions to be taken.
Karen L. Garst
June 30, 2018
 “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,” Catholic League, November 20, 2009, http://www.catholicleague.org/manhattan-declaration-a-call-of-christian-conscience/.