Abortion: Religion-Based Bigotry Versus the World of Facts

It must be wonderfully liberating, like Trent Franks, Darrell Issa, and other Republicans, to live life fact-free. Imagine what it must be like to free yourself of your liberal, Enlightenment-based addiction to science and facts, and be able to believe whatever you want just because you want to believe it.

Trent Franks, who represents Arizona religious bigots, now says he personally represents D.C. as well. He says that D.C. needs a 20-week “fetal pain” abortion ban so fetuses don’t feel that pain science says they don’t feel (probably to go along with that missile defense plan to defend us from missiles that don’t exist).

You can almost hear Franks’ tortured reasoning: “Are you seriously telling me that obstetricians and gynecologists know more about fetuses than a God-fearing Republican legislator? Why, that’s nothing less than an attack on religious freedom! How dare you!”

Franks, like Darrel Issa, another Republican entirely free of the constraints of a fact-based world, feels it best if women (like scientists and actual doctors who specialize in vaginas) just remain silent while men talk about their vaginas.

As RH Reality Check reported yesterday, “On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee will be reviewing a ban on any abortion after 20 weeks, but Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District, will not be allowed to testify, despite the fact that she would be the one who represents the women who would be affected by the bill if it passes.”

You can bet her opinion would have been a lot more valuable if she had been a man with a penis who hates abortion. Instead, all she is the woman elected by her district to represent them, as opposed to Trent Franks, who had decided that being elected by religious bigots in Arizona means he represents D.C. as well.

(You might begin to understand the horrific existence of D.C.’s residents at this point, men, women, and children who live a life of taxation without representation.)

Issa, you remember, stated that Sandra Fluke could not offer her testimony to a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the new Administration rules on Conscience Clause exceptions in health care because, he said, health care is a religious issue and Fluke was only a woman with a vagina, not a clergy member without one. What could she possibly have to contribute to a discussion about her own vagina, after all? That is a matter for priests to decide.

National Right To Life supports this liberation from the world of facts – and the pesky constraints of democracy as well – because like conservative Christians for the past 2000 years they believe that they know best and are willing (even if you’re not) to do what is best for you: “Congress needs make rules for D.C. if it isn’t willing to make them themselves, because the ‘forefathers hate abortion.'”

“Our nation was created when the original group of sovereign states came together and formed a federated republic. Article I of the U.S. Constitution established that the national seat of government would be placed forever not within any state, but in a special Federal District — and that the Congress would ‘exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District.” But what would the Framers of our Constitution say if they returned today and learned, to their horror, that well-developed unborn babies are legally being put to death, in terrible pain, virtually within the shadow of the U.S. Capitol and the White House?

Alright, alright, I know all you liberals are going to instantly dig up your collected writings of each and every Founding Father and prove now that no Founding Father ever said a word about banning abortion and in fact, didn’t talk about abortion any more than did Jesus. But that’s beside the point. The Founding Fathers hated abortion! Didn’t you listen to National Right to Life?

(David Barton  once claimed without proving it of course, that the Founding Fathers intended to ban abortion – significantly, they didn’t – see below.)

Of course with your pesky liberal addiction to facts you’re saying at this point that necessarily well-developed babies would have to be viable – that is able to exist outside the womb – and that a 20-week-old fetus cannot, and that a well-developed baby would have to be able to feel pain to qualify as well-developed and that 20-week-old fetusus’ can’t feel pain. But now you’re just being difficult.

So democracy has to take a back seat to doing what a bunch of dead guys who never said anything about it supposedly want us to do about an issue that wasn’t an issue to these eighteenth century products of the Enlightenment because they weren’t, like modern Republicans, obsessed with women’s vaginas.

You can search, like I did, the collected writings of Thomas Jefferson – some 19,000 letters and other documents – and see for yourself that he makes no mention of vaginas and abortion except for a brief discussion in Notes on the State of Virginia. Under Query 6: Minerals (of all things!) he says:

They [Native Americans] raise fewer children than we do. The causes of this are to be found, not in a difference of nature, but of circumstance. The women very frequently attending the men in their parties of war and of hunting, child-bearing becomes extremely inconvenient to them. It is said, therefore, that they have learnt the practice of procuring abortion by the use of some vegetable; and that it even extends to prevent conception for a considerable time after.

Here is the perfect opportunity to damn abortion (and birth control) in all its manifestations but he passes right over it as a simple statement of (*gasp) fact. No religion-based prejudices here on the part of Jefferson the scientist. No condemnation of the Indians for their barbarism in slaughtering “unborn babies”.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

Abortion was frequently practiced in North America during the period from 1600 to 1900. Many tribal societies knew how to induce abortions. They used a variety of methods including the use of black root and cedar root as abortifacient agents. During the colonial period, the legality of abortion varied from colony to colony and reflected the attitude of the European country which controlled the specific colony. In the British colonies abortions were legal if they were performed prior to quickening. In the French colonies abortions were frequently performed despite the fact that they were considered to be illegal. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies abortion was illegal. From 1776 until the mid-1800s abortion was viewed as socially unacceptable; however, abortions were not illegal in most states.

Quickening is the point at which a woman feels movement of the fetus, during the middle of the pregnancy, generally by 20 weeks. This is the point at which life began for James Wilson, one of the signers of the Constitution, and a man conservatives love to quote for this reason, citing his “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals“. They’re less likely to mention that he sold himself to land speculators, becoming in the words of one author “an odious corporate attorney while a member of the Supreme Court, was hounded by creditors and almost impeached for helping those land speculators through his position, ending his life on the run not only from creditors but his wife, who found him hiding in a tavern. No wonder he is a Republican hero.

Great. So when we do get science from the Republicans its 18th century science…

But if, as was once believed, life begins when the fetus moves (thus the above-mentioned laws), then clearly life does not begin before quickening and the argument against contraception and even abortion before 20 weeks or so, fall flat. But fundamentalists want it both ways. They want to use the above as evidence that even our Founders opposed abortion (and we’ll leave aside for the moment the fact that our Founders lacked 21st century medical knowledge and were not obstetricians or gynecologists) and that therefore abortion ought to be illegal even though abortions were not illegal in most states.

If eighteenth century minds were exposed to modern science they would know the following, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

In reviewing the neuroanatomical and physiological evidence in the fetus, it was apparent that connections from the periphery to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation and, as most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary for pain perception, it can be concluded that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation. After 24 weeks there is continuing development and elaboration of intracortical networks such that noxious stimuli in newborn preterm infants produce cortical responses. Such connections to the cortex are necessary for pain experience but not sufficient, as experience of external stimuli requires consciousness.

Pesky science says fetuses can’t feel pain before 24 weeks because they have not developed connections from the periphery to the cortex and that furthermore, even once these connections are established, consciousness, which is lacking in a fetus, “there is increasing evidence that the fetus never experiences a state of true wakefulness in utero and is kept, by the presence of its chemical environment, in a continuous sleep-like unconsciousness or sedation.”

But we don’t like this; we need fetuses to feel pain so we can push our anti-choice agenda so we will just say that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks despite the utter impossibility of this being true.

And getting back to that pesky Founding Fathers issue: You would think that if abortion (along with the Ten Commandments) was such an issue for the Founding Fathers that they would have banned it in the Constitution. Instead, the Constitution says nothing about abortion and nothing about the Ten Commandments. But these, again, are pesky facts.

You can choose to read Thomas Jefferson’s writings, including the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom to find out how Jefferson felt about people like National Right to Life pushing their religion on people and not letting those people even vote on it or you can just choose to pretend that Jefferson was rabidly anti-abortion. You know how Republicans feel: they embrace the 2000-year-old Christian cry of “Do not ask questions: just believe!”

If you do choose fact over belief, just know this: Jefferson (and the other Founding Fathers) may not have said a word about abortion and religiously mandated fetal pain at 20 weeks but they did have a lot to say about people like Darrell Issa, Trent Franks, and National Right to Life, who push narrow religious agendas.

In the Virginia Statute, Jefferson, who was very much dedicated to science, wrote:

That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

The claim that fetuses are fully developed human beings at 20 weeks is a religious opinion or belief, not backed up by science. We may not know how Jefferson would have felt about abortion bans because he doesn’t talk about it, but he does mention that he is very happy that the clergy’s hopes for “obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States” has come to nothing because “the returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes.”

In fact, opposition to abortion is religion-based, a violation we are told again and again of “God’s Law”. The Constitution may not guarantee the “right” to abortions but it most certainly forbids the legislation of particular religious viewpoints (in Establishment Clause).

(Just for the record, my Norse ancestors believed life began not at fertilization, not at quickening, and not even at birth, but at naming; that it was with the naming of the child that the soul entered the body and life began. Until a baby was named, it was not a living human being. In the name of religious freedom, if conservatives actually did believe in religious freedom (they don’t, except for their own), this point of view would have as much validity as theirs since this, again, is a religious belief about life, and not scientific.)

A final pesky fact: Jefferson, who is addressing Dr. Rush in the above-mentioned letter (Sept 23, 1800) announced that he has sworn “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the minds of man” and he is very clear here what sort of tyranny he is talking about: religious tyranny, the same sort now threatening D.C. and every other neighborhood in the United States.

20 Replies to “Abortion: Religion-Based Bigotry Versus the World of Facts”

  1. this idea that this country is build on religion is absolutely hilarious and there is not one iota of fact to support it. Barton of course is a complete lunatic who has his following who will always agree with what they want to see.

    Even Christians should dread Christian rule or religious laws. Remember that under a Christian rule you have to be kept in line lest the Christians lose control of you. Individual thought is not allowed

  2. He also orders that all the innocent unborn babies be killed in Samaria:

    Hosea 13:15 Although he [Ephraim] may flourish among rushes, the east wind shall come, a blast from Yahweh, rising from the wilderness; and his fountain shall dry up, his spring shall be parched. It shall strip his treasury of every precious thing. 16 Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.

  3. Ackkk! It’s too early for this…let me have a few sips of the morning brew, hair of the dog, before getting “the good news”…

    And “they” want to inflict this crap on all of modernity as the “correct way” to live in society?
    This is consciousness and “the way” see the light? Ackkk! No wonder my parents kept me away from this stuff!

  4. This is an excellent article. Just one more against the anti scientific and anti historical communities. I just want to know why the Media is allowed to print, post, etc. out and out lies that don’t serve the people?

  5. The “vegetable” in question was likely, in the Southeast, to have been Eupatorium capillifoliatum, commonly known as dog fennel, though it is a boneset and not a fennel. Prepared as a mild tea, it reduces the swelling around injured bones and joints and acts as a febrifuge; as a strong decoction (a fistful to a quart of water, thereafter boiled down to a third of volume) it is a lung decongestant, an emmenegogue, and dries up milk (it was called “dog fennel” because it was given to hound bitches who had developed caked breasts or mastitis). Mares who eat it in the field are apt to slip their foals.

  6. By the way, check in at Hatewatch, where an article critical of the “manosphere” has brought an invasion of crazies from the fringe MRM. They seriously propose that massive numbers of women go around committing “rape by envelopement”, a term of art not from the legal field, but that of porn. As for the rest…but see for yourselves.

  7. I will have to wait until I’ve recovered from writing this article…need sanity-restoring downtime between each sally, but thanks for the tip.

  8. Some of the MRM crazies described below believe men should be allowed to go to court to obtain a “paper abortion”: an order that requires a pregnant woman to either undergo an abortion or abjure all claims for support/indemnity against the father of the child. I have no proof that this class of men overlaps that of men adamantly against letting *the woman* decide to get an abortion, but I’m betting they do.

  9. Sounds like you could use some coffee. Damn, to do what you do, I’d have to be twenty years younger and stocked up with plenty of Cuban coffee and red wine.

  10. 20 years younger would be nice. Substitute tea for coffee and all’s good though I had to admit a lot of that tea is now decaf…

  11. Excellent article. Thank you! The illegality in Spanish and Portuguese colonies notwithstanding, the Puritans practiced abortion even after they immigrated to the colonies. In fact, abortion was mostly a safe, quick procedure practiced by midwives for centuries, until the mid 1800s when doctors made a case for abortions only to be performed by doctors (is there a financial thread here?).

  12. So, when does sedition become Sedition and treason become Treason?

    The object of sedition is to violate the public peace (Germany prohibits cults/hate groups from any form of recruiting based upon this premise).

    Sedition is the stirring up of rebellion against the government in power. Sedition is encouraging one’s fellow citizens to rebel against their state, whereas treason is actually betraying one’s country by aiding and abetting another state (isn’t that what the teabaggers and their astro-turf masters have been “ginning up”?)

    Sedition does not consist of levying war against a government nor of adhering to its enemies, giving enemies aid, and giving enemies comfort (that’s considered Treason). Nor does it consist, in most representative democracies, of peaceful protest against a government, nor of attempting to change the government by democratic means.

    So, would the GOP argue that they are removing civil rights, sovereign rights, legal precedence from Americans via the vehicle of the democratic process, which they’ve usurped, in order to remove rights settled by law on sound principles based upon democratic governance? If so, they aren’t they guilty of seditious criminals acts bordering on treason by giving Christian Nationalist “aid and comfort”, plus, levying war against women in order to enact a theology laid claim by Dominionist?

    Isn’t there ample evidence to make arrest and seize their “records” as evidence?

  13. See the latest antics of “Bad Bart” Barton at the rightwingwatch.org web site.

    “Jesus, David Barton, and the Sixth Amendment”

  14. How I wish I too could distance myself enough to find hilarity in the repeal of rights women have been endowed by our Creator, and our Constitution. Oh. Wait. The Constitution never mentioned that women are ‘created’ equal – not even to each other, much less to men. Good heavens – do I hear the sound of suffragettes marching in platform heels and corsets, being alternately starved and force-fed in mental institutions, for ‘effrontery’ and persistence? Shall we ignore 40 years of precedent, for the return of patriarchal oppression and denial of our value as anything but chattel…..that’s livestock, ladies. To this band of good ol’ brothers, we’re nothing more than cows, to breed at the whim of the man who owns our bodies – be it father, husband, brother, or son.

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