Friday, January 8, 2016

Convert a shield into a sword

Let's start with this comic. Go ahead and click on it and then come on back.

Adam Sonfield of The Guttmacher Policy Review wrote the article Learning from Experience: Where Religious Liberty Meets Reproductive Rights. As I've mentioned once or twice before Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) were created to make sure the government does not unduly prevent people from practicing their religion. But many Fundies now are trying to use that law to subvert the rights of others.
These demands reflect an increasingly stark formulation of how and when people and institutions should be granted religious exemptions from their legal obligations—a formulation in which the concept of balancing competing rights, responsibilities and needs seems to have given way to religious liberty trumping all other concerns. Social conservatives are in effect using laws like RFRA to erode rights, programs and services that they wish to eliminate entirely but have been unable to do so directly through other means.
A set of 7 cases around employers not wanting to associate with their insurance companies providing contraceptives is before the Supremes. RFRA laws have also been used to battle funding abortion and LGBT rights.
Conservatives assert that any burden on religious liberty is inherently unacceptable, regardless of the tradeoffs, the harm to others and how attenuated that burden might be. That absolutist stance has allowed them to convert religious liberty from a shield against government intrusion into a sword that can be used in the political process.
What to do? RFRAs point up a balance between the rights of a religious person and the rights of others, such as women and LGBT people. What is an undue burden on religion and what is an appropriate burden? The balance should be addressed in the RFRA itself and we should push for that balance.

When Indiana enacted its RFRA last year there was a huge blowback. The state legislature was forced to amend the law to explicitly state that the RFRA could not be used to deny services based on a wide range of personal characteristics. Alas, I'm not sure we were included.

Yeah, this work won't advance the rights of those targeted by an RFRA. But it could prevent the erosion of rights.

Aphra Behn of Shakesville explains how the erosion of access to abortion has affected her life. She didn't find a person with whom she wanted to have children until age 35. But she had to think long and hard about whether to go through with becoming a mother. Due to age and family history the chance of fetal abnormalities was high and many of these problems would not appear until late in the pregnancy. Such pregnancies have a higher risk of harming her, not just the fetus. She didn't want to be in the situation that some hospital or insurance administrator (perhaps associated with the Catholic Church) would decide an acute situation wasn't sufficiently life-threatening for them to do an abortion. So the lack of availability of an abortion was what prompted her to decide to not get pregnant. Abortion is health care.

I talked with my niece yesterday. Her 17th birthday was the day before. She won't be old enough to vote in the November election (being just 2 months shy of 18). But that didn't stop her from sharing her opinion on a couple of the campaign's issues. According to her, not having full rights for LGBT people is stupid. Of course, she has said her favorite relatives are the gay ones. As for abortions, if she ever needed one only seven people will be allowed to share an opinion – herself, her partner, her parent (but only to the point of answering the question are you or I able to raise this child?), a trusted friend, maybe her pastor, the doctor, and the nurse. That's it. Smart girl. She liked the phrase I've heard elsewhere: My body is not a democracy – you don't get a vote.

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