The freedom to worship freely — or not at all — is what’s missing in the abortion debate

October 11, 2022 6:00 am

The Supreme Court has violated the freedom of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the author argues. Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images.

The Supreme Court majority did not just overturn Roe v. Wade, it overturned religious freedom. While claiming to promote religion, a look at its decisions show it is promoting only its own intolerant dogma and running roughshod over the religious and personal ethics of the greater majority of Americans.

This is readily seen. The morality of early abortion is solely a matter of faith or — if one is non-religious — conscience. Not science or objective fact. It is purely a personal religious or ethical belief:

  • Early abortion is murder only in religions or personal ethics that believe a right to life is conferred at conception.
  • Early abortion is not murder in religions or personal ethics that believe a right to life is not conferred at conception, but at some point later in pregnancy, variously asserted from quickening to birth depending on the particular faith or moral code.

Science cannot address the ethical question when unborn human life ought be conferred a legal right to life. That issue is solely a matter for theology and moral philosophy. Both those disciplines have disputed furiously for 2000 years, and neither have come close to consensus.

In fact, for 2,000 years the majority of church leaders, believers and moral philosophers have held that the soul or a right to life is not conferred at conception but at some point later in pregnancy, including the Catholic Church until 1869. For the same 2,000 years a large minority have held this occurs at conception.

You cannot pass a law based on the belief of this faith or that personal ethic. A law must be based on non-religious grounds — open to people of all faiths and no faith. Only then is it a civil issue allowing voting.

The earliest point in pregnancy where non-religious grounds appear possible is viability (about 24 weeks) or later. At that point, were the fetus born prematurely, all people no matter their faith must agree it is a baby and has an inalienable right to life. Therefore, should not an unborn fetus at that point also have the same right?

But before that point, no successful non-religious argument convincing to the majority on both sides has ever been found in 2,000 years. Therefore, early abortion before viability remains solely a matter of faith or personal ethics. And the justices of the Supreme Court know it. 

As such, the U.S. Constitution guarantees and protects both sides’ right to free exercise of their diametrically opposite beliefs on early abortion. The one thing neither side can do is legislate its beliefs on the other. You cannot vote on your neighbor’s religious or ethical beliefs, nor any legislature vote on yours. And the justices know it.

See, for instance, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, in which the decision states, “One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” 

But the intolerant court majority, in violation of U.S. Constitution and their oath of office, are attempting to establish their personal religious belief — which finds abortion odious — in law by a devious tactic: Lying that it is a civil issue which may be put to a vote. This allows them to fatuously claim they did not ban abortion. Instead, the voters did. They know the founders clearly intended — and earlier courts have ruled — that your constitutional right to believe and practice as God or conscience guide depends on no vote. They simply lie.

Therefore, I urge every American who holds religious freedom inviolate — whether Democrat, Republican, pro-life, pro-choice, Christian or non: 

  • Sue every state with restrictions on abortion before viability — for violating the religious freedom of those who wish early abortion.
  • Support only candidates who swear to defend religious freedom. This need not be partisan: Choose candidates of your own persuasion, as long as they support religious freedom. Choose those who pledge to respect and protect the right of both sides to practice their opposite beliefs on early abortion. Do not ask candidates their personal position on abortion; that is their right and not at issue. 

Ask their position on religious freedom. 

If they waffle, vote them out.

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Walter McClure
Walter McClure

Walter McClure is a senior fellow and chairman of the Center for Policy Design, where his chief concern is large system architecture.