The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade continues to send shockwaves around the world. It is as if The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood’s horrifying dystopian sci-fi novel – is used as a kind of guide, rather than the stark warning it was originally intended. How did we get here?
It’s chilling that even after centuries of misogyny, the Supreme Court has still voted against women’s autonomy over their bodies and their choices. Many US states have already activated trigger laws to criminalize abortion, signaling the return of butchers, hangers and women dying from illegal and unsafe abortions. The decision was heralded as a victory by many Christian leaders, especially evangelicals who (according to research by the Pew Research Center) are the religious group “most opposed to abortion”. Their supposed reasoning follows the notion that “life” begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights; rights that presumably outweigh those of the mother.
If you think that using religious rhetoric to argue against abortion is simply a US-centric issue, you are wrong. Danny Kruger, the Conservative MP for Devizes in Wiltshire who is a committed Christian and was describe as a ‘defender of Christian conservatism’, told the Commons in a chilling statement that he does not believe women have ‘an absolute right to bodily autonomy’ during a debate over the Court’s overturning United States Supreme Court of Roe v Wade.
Kruger went on to say, “They think women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy in this case, whereas I think in the case of abortion that right is limited by the fact that another body is involved.”
It won’t surprise you to learn that Kruger was one of 61 Conservative MPs who voted against extending abortion access in Northern Ireland on June 22, earlier this year. He was joined by Jacob Rees Mogg who in 2017 said he was “totally opposed” to abortion including in cases of rape or incest, calling it “morally indefensible”. He once said, “I am a Catholic and I take the teachings of the Catholic Church seriously.
Even the fact that Kruger’s mother is a national treasure and the son of Bake Off presenter Prue Leith can’t soften the fact that the Kruger seems to herald a new era of male politicians who seem to hide misogynistic thinking behind opinions. religions to inform their policy-making. There is a reason why the State and the Church should be separated, it is not a question of religion: it is a question of human rights.
Katherine O’Brien, associate director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), explains that hard-won abortion rights in the UK could still be under threat:
“The Abortion Act 1967 and our ability to end a pregnancy is in the hands of politicians, and over the past 10 years we have seen a number of parliamentary bids to restrict abortion in safely and legally.”
While every person is entitled to their own opinions, it is not acceptable for thinly veiled misogyny to creep into political and legal decision-making and for politicians to try to justify their sexist views in the name of religious freedom.
I went to Catholic school and was brought up in a mixture of Catholicism and spiritualism from my mother from my mother’s land. At home we were encouraged to howl at the moon and kiss the trees, while at school I remember a priest telling us that homosexuality was a demon that could be exorcised and that Abortion was a mortal sin. I told my teachers that I was very disappointed that they were exposing us to such bile.