A guest blog
Recent events, starting with the SCOTUS decision to overturn the “accepted law” of Roe v. Wade, have again brought to the fore not just access to abortion (mostly for lower income and BIPOC women), but also a debate on what life actually is and what life isn’t – and how that is determined.
From the Pro-Life side, the argument is that a soul is created at the moment of conception. The problem with that viewpoint is that it can only be attributed to a religious belief in, not only a soul, but when a soul is recognized as coming into being. For many Christians, as previously mentioned, this is the moment of conception, and that’s fine for them to believe, and for them to define the ways they live their lives based on that belief. That is their right under the Constitution of the United States, according to the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law on establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”)
Many Jews, however, believe that a soul is recognized in a body only after the first breath, and there are numerous Jewish scriptures which specifically state the welfare of the mother (including mental wellbeing), in all cases, takes precedence over the welfare, and even the life, of the fetus inside her. That is fine for them to believe, and for them to define the ways they live their lives based on that belief. That belief, too, is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Atheists and agnostics may believe that there is no soul granted, or that a soul is unproven. That non-belief is also protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The argument that an embryo — defined as the beginning stages of a fetus, which is where many Pro-Life supporters start protecting the “child” — is a fully fledged human being is difficult to rationalize scientifically. Take, for instance, the freezing of embryos, which can be done within five-six days of conception. The embryo would still be viable, potentially decades from now. An actual infant, by contrast — whether the child was actually delivered as a live birth, or at any stage after what medical science considers viability(approximately 24 weeks) — would die if frozen.
What it really comes down to, and what a Jewish congregation in Boynton Beach, Florida is currently suing the State over, is that there is no scientific basis for determining that the health, life or welfare of a fetus should take precedence over that of the mother caring it.
The ONLY basis for prioritizing the fetus over the mother — or prioritizing the mother over the fetus, I am not saying otherwise — is RELIGIOUS IN NATURE.
Therefore, any argument which prioritizes the fetus over the mother, if set into law, must therefore either create a de facto establishment of religion, or will prohibit the free exercise of a religion by another with different beliefs.
And, to be clear, the same is NOT true for the opposite argument, that the mother is prioritized over the fetus, because, if someone disagrees with that, and feels the fetus actually is more important, they have an easy, legal option: Don’t Have an Abortion. By contrast, saying that, because one religious group feels abortion is wrong, and it is therefore illegal to obtain an abortion, those with the opposite — and equally valid, in the eyes of the Constitution — view will have no legal recourse.
Roe v. Wade was originally decided as a Right to Privacy issue. But it was always — and still is, today more than ever — a Freedom of Religion issue, also.