Annie Laurie Gaylor is the co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and editor of Freethought Today.
Freedom from religion foundations wouldn’t exist without the Catholic Church’s war on reproductive rights. Women have to save ourselves from theology-festered misogyny – the rising of women means the rising of us all.
In the wake of the child abuse scandals, Catholic Ireland must choose between women, children and their rights, or bishops and their wrong; between reproductive freedom or returning to the dark ages. Humanity should come before dogma, however as the tragic and unavoidable death of Savita Halappanavar last year proved, Catholic Ireland hasn’t reached this point of consciousness. A doomed fetus was placed above the life of a woman due to adherence to religious dogma. ‘But the Bible says abortion is murder’ many have cried, yet Gaylor notes that it doesn’t actually say this at all. What it does is provides ammunition for anti-women ideas, dooming them to be subservient, responsible for all of mankind’s sins though maternal servitude. Yupp, we get periods and the pain of childbirth in order to atone for sins on a global and timeless scale. Bit of a shit deal, in my opinion.
Gaylor goes on to tell us about her life growing up in Wisconsin before Roe vs Wade. Her mother was the one to go to if you had an unplanned pregnancy, and she would help you get to Mexico City for a termination. It was also illegal there, but considerably safer than back alley abortions in the US at the time. In 1971, Wisconsin’s first abortion clinic opened, and three weeks later a Roman Catholic attorney raided the clinic, stole records and appointment details, and removed a 17 year old girl from the clinic, despite being literally in the stirrups at the time of the raid. In response, Gaylor’s mother raised money to send the women who had appointments to New York for a termination.
Women were attempting to give themselves abortions using coat hangers and dying. Abortion was, and still is, a matter of life and death. No woman can call herself free until she has complete control over her body, until she can make the decision whether or not to become a mother. Yet legal abortion doesn’t mean much if it remains, or becomes, inaccessible; if it remains expensive, if clinics are shut down to the extent that entire areas are without a single clinic, if remaining clinics have strict regulations imposed on them.
The root of this bodily control is religious influence in governments and laws. Secularism (that is the removal of religious influence and dogma from all legislation, laws and governmental decisions, so that religious belief is a personal and private thing alone) is vital for women’s advancement, safety and control over their own bodies and reproductive healthcare choices. To empower women, we must disempower the Catholic Church, and all other religious institutions. Free thought is the best weapon women have in a world where religious dogma expects our silence and subservience.
We may not have a god on our side, but we have humanity and the enlightenment. Morality does not stem from theology, but from nature.