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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/30/20

The Destruction of Abortion Rights and the Rise of Religious Authoritarianism

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Expulsion of the Russian envoy to the Holy See Felix von Meyendorff by Pope Pius IX. He didn't like Russian envoys any more than he liked women having control over their own bodies.
Expulsion of the Russian envoy to the Holy See Felix von Meyendorff by Pope Pius IX. He didn't like Russian envoys any more than he liked women having control over their own bodies.
(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: Jędrzej Brydak (1837-1876))
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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)


Introductory Note:

The current version of this column, which itself is based on two previous columns of mine on the same subject, was published elsewhere (see below) before Trump's announcement of the choice of Judge Amy Coney Barrett ( to replace Justice Ginsburg on the Bench. (We won't comment on how the Trumpublicans© in the Senate under Moscow Mitch are redefining the Yiddish term "gall.") Presumably Judge Barrett will be confirmed before the election, with Trump hoping of course that she will be a vote for him in case an election gets to be decided once again by the Supreme. I'm not actually sure that that would happen. But that is a matter for another time.

What is a matter for this time is that Judge Barrett is a self-defined Far Rightist whose doctrines, as she makes clear are informed by Catholic Dogma (not used derogatorily). All of her positions on abortion and contraceptive rights are based on an extreme version of the "life begins at the moment of conception" doctrine, a concept new-at-the-time invented and handed down by Pope Pius IX in 1869 (see below). And so, for example, Judge Barrett would illegalize abortion for genetically-damaged fetuses at the option of the parents, thus condemning both the child and the parents to living the rest of their lives in that state, and in many cases changing their economic circumstances, to satisfy Judge Barrett's religious doctrine that life begins at the moment of conception. That is an example of religious authoritarianism --- religious views determining the content of the law and government policy in carrying them out dictatorially --- to the extreme. This is what our nation will be facing if former Vice-President Biden does not win the Presidency and if the Democrats do not then move to restructure the Supreme Court as outlined below. And so, to the column originally intended for this space.


As many observers have noted, with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg our nation is heading into what could be an enormously retrograde period in regard of individual rights and liberties. In the immediate future Trump is going to get his far-Rightist woman (whichever one) confirmed to the Supreme Court. Even if John Roberts, a Rightist himself, but not that far a Rightist, continues to maintain something of an institutionalist approach to the Constitution and the role of the Court, again as is well-known, in the immediate future the Court will at least be a consistent 5-4 Right. And Trump, actually celebrating the Justice's death (while at the same time revealing what he thinks of his chances of re-election with fair vote-counting), gleefully said words to the effect of "Now I can win a second term, 6-3."

Now, IF Biden can win the Presidency, and IF the Democrats can take the Senate with more than one seat to spare (one does not want to be in the position of having to count on Joe Manchin), as is well-known, the Democrats could a) end the filibuster, b) admit the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as reliably Democratic states, and c) pack the Court. Of course, even with the requisite number of Senate seats, that master of the Senate Rules Moscow Mitch could possibly figure out a way to gum up the works. But before we would need to start worrying about that, we would have to get to that position first.

In the meantime, Trump could remain in the Presidency. Notice that I did not say "win," because I don't think that he can. But the Trumpublicans© probably have cheating systems in place (including the mass theft and destruction of paper ballots before counting) that even Greg Palast (How Trump Stole 2020) hasn't thought of. So, especially with the Court suddenly tilted sharply his way, Trump could still be there. And then, in terms of civil liberties, everything would be under attack. Especially Roe v. Wade and abortion rights (and oh how I wish that the pro-abortion rights movement would use that term instead of the more common "we favor abortion." For actually, no one favors abortion if it can be avoided. But that's another story.) The battle will be joined.

The essence of Roe v. Wade was that, until the generally accepted time of fetal viability outside the womb, 24 weeks, nation-wide women were to have freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy. The anti-abortion-rights movement lay fairly low during the 1970s. It began ramping up with the advent of the Reagan Administration. In the 1980 campaign, Candidate Reagan and the leadership of the Republican Party decided to use the issue as one means of bringing the then-developing Political Religious Right further into their Party.

It was at about that time that the anti-abortion-rights forces began using the term "pro-life" to characterize their movement. ("Pro-life" is a term that was actually invented after the end of the Second World War by Hitler's Pope, that great pro-lifer who kept his own counsel about the Holocaust during the War, Pius XII.) And since that time, even some elements of the pro-choice movement have used the term "pro-life" to describe the anti-choicers. Thus at least some focus has been lost over what was in fact at the center of Roe v. Wade, which was decided on a "right to privacy" interpretation of the 14th Amendment. But there is a very big additional support-for-individual liberties issue out there, just waiting to be mobilized. And that is the issue of religious authoritarianism.

As it happens, the position of the anti-abortion-rights forces is based exclusively on the religious concept of "when life begins." They make no bones about this. As is well-known, they equate abortion with murder, because according to them "life begins at the moment of conception." But that is an entirely religious concept. Let's repeat that for many people, even on the abortion-rights side, miss it. "Pro-life" is an entirely religious concept. For the Protestant side of the anti-abortion-rights movement the authority for their position is the "inerrant word of God" as found in one particular version of the Bible.

That the version most often cited by the anti-choicers is the King James version, an English translation created in the early 17th century by a 52-member committee of scholars and theologians, is a point often missed by the "inerrantists" (and their critics as well). (If the King James version were to be regarded as "inerrant," one would have to assume that "God" spoke through every member of that committee. And, of course, what does that say about the myriad other versions of the Bible, appearing in numerous translations from the original Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin? Why, it also might be asked, did God wait so long to have an inerrant version produced?)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)
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