Abortion, Marriage, Religion and the Law


Update 10/05/12: Obama has announced his support for marriage equality. I am overjoyed, but not surprised, by this announcement, and here’s why. 

I was recently sent a video of a speech made by Barack Obama relating to the separation of church and state, his stance on abortion, and what that means. In part, Obama stated:

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

I am very strongly pro-choice. Anyone who knows me knows this. I grew up in a household with a strong feminist mother who not only believes in equal rights for all, and imparted these values on me, she also worked as a nurse and a midwife in a time when abortion was not safe, was not legal, and resulted in many deaths.

I don’t remember when she first told me, I have known it for as far back as I can remember. Maybe it was a tough reality for someone growing up to be faced with, to know what these women went though, but it was their reality and I was not sheltered from it.

When it comes to the law, religion can play no part. Although religious values can guide us to an answer that is both right and true, the answer must apply to all faiths to be considered in the eyes of the law. We cannot apply our own values to another person’s body. We just can’t.

This same argument applies to marriage equality. How can anyone say that their religious beliefs or personal experiences should play any part in another person’s right to marry? If the law is to continue making it illegal for two people of the same gender to marry, then they need to come up with a better reason. A reason that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those who have no faith.

I can tell you why they haven’t – because there isn’t one.


Photo: Featured image from here

  • http://twitter.com/NazKovacs Nazanin Kovacs

    Completely agree with you Tamsin! Sorry I can’t articulate a more thoughtful answer right now, had a long day at work :)

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog/ Miss T

      Haha! I know the feeling 😉

  • John_A_James

    Unusually for an atheist, I am actual personally pro-life…if faced with an unwanted pregnancy, I don’t think I could agree to the abortion of something that could possibly come to full-term and become a human-being like myself…

    BUT…I am politically pro-choice. I am a man…ultimately it would be the woman’s decision, not matter what I think. And I believe it is every woman’s right to make that choice…

    Anytime you deny someone choice, you deny them freedom. I may not always agree with your choice, but I will defend your freedom to make that choice…

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog/ Miss T

      It’s interesting that you articulate it like that. Personally, I don’t think I would ever have an abortion. I don’t think I would ever have had one should I have been in that situation. I can’t imagine how hard that choice would be to make. 

      But as that’s my own body, and my own business (although I disagree with you that the father does not have a say), I have never felt it makes me pro-life and I don’t agree it makes you pro-life either.  I am not pro-abortion, and would never actually recommend someone have an abortion. But abortions must be legal. My mother has seen first hand what happens when they aren’t. That’s why I say I’m pro-choice, not because of what my choice what be, but because I, like you, defend everyone’s right to be able to make the choice. 

      • John_A_James

        Oh, don’t get me wrong – I think fathers should have a say…but pro-choice still means in the end it’s the woman’s choice (but I hope she would listen to the father’s point of view before making a decision)

  • ChrisD

    I feel I have to say something here about the consequences of legalising abortion. By doing this we are essentially condoning the acceptability of termination under all circumstances. I’ll relate a relevant story: a week or so ago I skyped with my daughter, S, who’s holidaying in SE Asia. She had to take a friend, M, to the clinic who realised she was pregnant. M showed no emotion or regret at all before or after the procedure: she kept going on about how cheap and easy it was to get a termination in SE Asia. S found this quite distressing. Later she found out that M had been having sex with her boyfriend (before the trip) for 2 months without contraception, because she had left her perscription elsewhere. She also had had more than one termination previously.
    Making abortion easy poses a moral dilemma. This is not just about religious beliefs: it is about the attitude to destroying human life. The problem with this girl is selfishness and hardness of heart. She has no regard for the significance of what she is doing: she can’t be bothered using contraception because abortion is easy and she has the money.
    In addition, I can’t say that I think that the ‘choice’ is limited to a woman having control over her body, such as deciding whether or not to have knee surgery. We’re talking about terminating a separate human life. The real issue has little to do with a woman’s body in the majority of cases. It is largely due to the unwillingness of the woman to be hampered with the responsibility of raising a child. I’m not saying for or against here: I’m just saying let’s look at the issues for what they really are.
    The pro-life/pro-choice dilemma is complex: it is frought with contradictions, in a similar way to the drug legalisation debate. But we must realise that in making abortion easy, there are two sides to the coin. Yes, we protect those who would do it anyway and so can damage themselves. But we can also encourage utter indifference and abdication of responsibility, to the extent where multiple human lives can be created and destroyed without a second thought, such as in the senario I have described above.

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      The cavalier attitude mentioned in this story is truly disturbing for me to hear.

      I stand by my beliefs, however.

      Yes, by making it legal and safe we are opening the door to people being able to terminate at will, like in your story, but I feel this attitude of abortion being an alternative to contraception is a minority of those who seek abortion.

      There are too many stories, too many reasons why someone may want or need an abortion. They could be a victim of abuse, a victim of rape. They could be in danger or their own life could be at risk. They might not have the money to support another child, or live in a country where their child would not have access to food and water.

      MamaMia published an article today on how many women die from unsafe abortions – 1 woman every 8 minutes, with 99% in developing countries where access to safe abortion is limited, as is access to contraception.

      I can’t read something like this and still believe that abortion should not be legal and safe.

      How easy it is, well, that’s something I don’t know.

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