My God Is Thy Law
What the overturning of Roe v. Wade says about the hypocrisy of right-wing libertarianism
As Tomi Lahren put it in her usual grating tone, ‘You know what? I’m for a limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body too.’ But is she wrong?
Far from being a fan of Tomi’s routine conservative prattling, I can’t help but feel that she highlighted something important here. When Tomi made these pro-choice comments on The View in 2017, the backlash from her Republican colleagues was swift. By the time Tomi arrived back in Texas the following day, her segment Final Thoughts, hosted by conservative media site The Blaze, had been axed. Tomi’s voice had been silenced. Not because she expressed an opinion that was intellectually inconsistent with conservative political thought, but because she expressed an opinion that was religiously inconsistent; a diversion from a set of values that has come to define the Republican Party.
So really, how much do conservatives care about the constitution? Tomi’s debacle highlights just how quick conservative media bosses are to throw the First Amendment and any fleeting chance at a libertarian viewpoint under the bus when the subject matter at hand threatens their religious agenda. Were the constitutional rights not written with the fervour of a generation of men who had witnessed ongoing religious persecution in Europe and vowed to never allow such intolerance to infect the laws of America? On this vein, this is no celebration of the colonial attitudes that bolstered the U.S. as a safe haven for European expats. The sentiment of the founding fathers didn’t prevent insidious early discrimination; even against European immigrants of Irish Catholic and Jewish backgrounds. Yet all criticisms aside, is this not the glorified image of American freedom that pro-life activists love to uphold at any given opportunity? The very fabric of the U.S. was built on the concept of libertarianism; a philosophy instated by John Locke and carried out by the founding fathers in their vision of a new nation. In ‘A Letter Concerning Toleration’, the father of conservatism himself argued passionately against the act of forcing others to adhere to religious practises and beliefs against their will. In the 1689 article, Locke stated, “The care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate more than it is to other men. It is not committed unto him, I say, by God; because it appears not that God has ever given any such authority to any man over another, as to compel anyone to his religion. Nor can any such power be vested in the magistrate by the consent of the people… Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments, nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgement that they have framed things.”
And so, I beg to ask; how on earth do certain lawmakers continue to attempt the subjugation and control of the masses under false identification with libertarian values?
Libertarianism underlies all core conservative beliefs, including stances on gun rights and free market capitalism, just as Tomi pointed out in her career-derailing statement. But what the U.S. is experiencing now is the subtle erosion of religious and personal freedom, not the upholding of it. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is nothing more than a religious crusade dressed up as support for American values; when in reality this sentiment more closely resembles the religious dogma of certain nations republican lawmakers regularly denigrate.
The lawmakers that take women’s rights away continue to dodge accountability for their unconstitutional actions. The enforcement of their religious beliefs comes at the cost of the health, happiness, and liberty of millions of citizens, and yet they continue to gaslight those who are suffering by denying that their actions are a form of religious force and discrimination. Roe v. Wade was won decades ago. It protects the absolute right to abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy. It does not necessarily support or deny more nuanced arguments regarding later term abortion, as opponents like to claim; but it does allow the specifics of such laws to be considered on a state level. It is an incredibly important pillar of healthcare vital to the physical and mental health of women everywhere. Its benefits are far-reaching, with massive social, emotional, and economic effects, especially for women in disenfranchised classes whose poverty is further perpetuated by single motherhood. It is vital to victims of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse. Its importance is supported by years of scientific research.
The 2007 Turnaway Study, which was contributed to by more than 40 scientists from various institutions across the U.S., was a longitudinal study that followed the effects that either having an abortion or being denied one had on over one thousand female participants. The women’s lives were followed for five years. The results showed astounding differences between the two groups. Women who were denied an abortion were significantly more likely to experience lasting financial hardships, three times more likely to be unemployed, and four times more likely to be living below the poverty line. They had lower self-esteem and life satisfaction, were less likely to bond with their baby, more likely to report poor health, and if they had older children, their children were more likely to live in poverty and experience neglect. In contrast, the women who had access to abortions were six times more likely to report aspirational plans, more likely to have a wanted child later, and better able to care for their existing children if they were already mothers. Access to abortion effects more than just the short-term wellbeing of a woman. It has widespread societal and multigenerational effects that are likely even more far-reaching than we realise. There’s no longer room for opponents to argue the point of areligious morality when they attempt to pass bills that block termination from conception. The conviction that an embryo at the earliest stages of development, an embryo with no consciousness of sense of self or existence, should be considered more important than the life and health of a woman has no basis in anything but religious doctrine. There is no morality in forcing rape victims to carry a pregnancy to full term, no morality in forcing high-risk pregnancies that are the result of incest to move ahead, or forcing doctors to consult lawyers before performing lifesaving abortions. There’s no morality in forcing a fifteen-year-old child to carry a nine-month pregnancy in school because they had the audacity to lose their virginity like many other adolescents. There’s no morality in forcing a ten-year-old sex abuse victim to have their abuser’s child; whose body is not even developed enough to safely carry a pregnancy.
There’s no morality in forcing any woman to risk her health and long-term wellbeing, yet the extremes of the anti-abortion laws that have come into place in several states since he abolishment of Roe v. Wade have shown that there is no grey area when it comes to religious control. Blocking access to abortion doesn’t help anyone. Not the women whose bodies and lives are expected to bear the burden, not the children whose poverty is heightened, not the men who aren’t ready to be fathers and have to pay child support before they’ve even graduated college. It doesn’t help the people whose religious beliefs prevent them from ever getting an abortion, because what other people decide to do with their body and their life shouldn’t impact them or their personal choices. A ban on abortion does not affect the positive freedom of religious individuals, yet it affects the negative freedoms of everyone else; it takes away their ability to live freely from the control of others and make autonomous decisions about their own bodies. To squash any other doubts around the theological basis of these laws, you only need to glance at the very same politicians’ stance on family planning and sex education. Not only do they want a total ban on abortion, but many also seek to dismantle and defund organisations that teach safe sex practises and provide access to contraception. These are services provided with the sole purpose of preventing unwanted pregnancies from occurring in the first place, and yet the pro-life push to instate abstinence-only education only further proves that these laws are not about general ethical concerns; they’re about enforcing religious stances and policing the sexuality of others. To these lawmakers, ‘freedom’ is important when it comes to owning guns and exploiting minimum wage workers, but not when it comes to religious beliefs, sex, and reproductive autonomy. To them, life is disposable when it comes to shooting an intruder dead without warning or killing a teenager for stealing a packet of chewing gum, but is unequivocally important for a weeks-old foetus.
Modern-day conservatives refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the Fox News room; what is more important to the republican party, a limited government, or instilling Christian values? Where do one’s right to individual freedom die? How can Republican lawmakers that support such extreme bans still claim to want a limited government, when it appears their intolerance has no limits? The issue at hand has nothing to do with whether Christian values are good or bad, and everything to do with where and how they are instilled. Religion may be important to an individual, and if you want to raise your children on the Bible, or preach about Jesus on a soapbox, and abstain from sex, or dress in an observant way, that is your individual right. But religion has no place in law. Your values have no place in the lives of others, no matter how strongly you believe in them. Moral excuses have run dry and there’s only one ethnical dilemma left at the centre of this debate; will upholding religion be more important than upholding personal freedom?