In the Name of God: The LGBTQ+ Impact of the Religious Crusade Against Abortion

When France enshrined abortion rights in its constitution, it prompted me and a lot of other folks to wonder, what’s wrong with the United States?

What’s wrong with the United States is that the affairs of the church have collapsed into the affairs of the state. This is bad news for LGBTQ+ people as much as it is for women and other minorities.

For example, there’s the Alabama Supreme Court’s theology-ridden ruling (LePage v. Mobile Infirmary Clinic, Inc.) conferring personhood status on frozen IVF embryos as doing God’s will, with Chief Justice Thomas Parker writing for the majority that “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

With a ruling like this, reproductive justice is thrown right out the window. Women, girls, and people with the capacity for pregnancy in the state of Alabama are now relegated to the status of chattel and birthing incubators.

And if you still think of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as purely fiction, a strictly dystopian novel, read it now as a survival guide — because this ruling will have broader implications in the ongoing war against women’s bodily autonomy.

Pro-life versus the life of the child

Women, girls, and people with the capacity to give birth who are caught up in the battle of the “pro-lifers” need to know their lives don’t matter to these law makers and enforcers. Neither does that of the child.

While Justice Parker’s theocratic ruling takes his concept of “pro-life” to a newer, mean-spirited and punitive level, the label “pro-life” has always used religion to cloak the misogyny and transphobia of anti-abortion legislation, ever since Roe v. Wade became settled law in 1973.

But this feigned care for the fetus doesn’t extend beyond birth. Former Massachusetts Democratic gay congressman Barney Frank said that for pro-lifers, “life begins at conception and ends at birth.” Studies have shown that unwanted children born in states or areas where there are abortion restrictions have much more challenging lives and often live in poverty.

The Trump effect

Of course, the precursor to Alabama decision was the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) that overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Before Roe was overturned, abortion was a fundamental right under the Constitution. It afforded women, girls, and people with the capacity for pregnancy under the 14th Amendment full citizenship, the right to privacy, bodily autonomy, and respect for a person’s choice without judgment.

However, religion drove the Dobbs decision, which was influenced by conservative Catholic thinkers and right-wing theologians.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we saw that justice wasn’t blind, but rather, biased. This is an ongoing effect of the Trump presidency. Trump nominated 274 conservative Republicans to federal benches and three to the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — all of whom sided with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Today, as with that decision on Dobbs, the Supreme Court comprises six right-wing Catholics who account for two-thirds of the total number of justices, five of whom are pro-lifers.

Abortion rights are queer rights

Even before the Dobbs and Alabama rulings, a safe, legal abortion was already out of reach for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people due to health disparities. Cisgender women and girls are not the only ones who need abortion care. People who are nonbinary, intersex, trans and gender non-conforming need abortion care also.

“I am a transgender man, which means that although I am a man, I was assigned female at birth, which means that I have a uterus, which means that I could get pregnant. Which means that I could need an abortion,” Schuyler Bailar, a transgender athlete and activist, told CBS News in 2021. “I am here to remind you to make it absolutely clear that people of all genders can have abortions, and people of all genders should have safe and legal access to abortions.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2023 Abortion Patient Survey, 16 percent of U.S. abortion patients didn’t identify as heterosexual women. In the 2020 survey, 149,000 respondents who didn’t identify as either straight or cisgender obtained abortions.

In the name of God

Using religion to codify discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans has its roots in the 1993 passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Fast forward to 2018, and you have the U.S. Supreme Court ruling (in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on the grounds of religious freedom.

Under the guise of religious freedom, anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and court rulings go hand-in-hand because it’s all done in the name of God.

Reproductive justice, like all justice, is part and parcel of a person’s right to choose when and whether to exercise so many fundamental rights of personal privacy — and that extends to the difficult decision to have an abortion. The courts have no business pulling that apart, and neither should the church. Perhaps the United States needs to take a page from France’s constitution.