Religion and Politics in the US

Welcome to RelPol, a student peer reviewed online magazine. This magazine is part of the assessment for the module "In God We Trust" @ the University of Hull.

How closely is the issue of abortion in the USA related to religion?


Abortion and women’s reproductive rights have been a widely debated topic is recent years in the United States. Roe v Wade [1] in 1973 was a landmark case, extending a woman’s decision to have an abortion arguing that a woman’s reproductive decision is a matter of personal privacy, but that this right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life. However over 40 years later the debate over whether women have a right to an abortion is still underway.

Why is abortion such a widely debated topic in the United States, the debate ranges from whether it is right or wrong? When life truly begins? To whether a woman has the right to makes the decision?  It is important to take into context US religious beliefs when asking these questions as they are an incredibly important factor in individuals’ views on the issue. 55% of U.S. adults say it should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 40% who say it should be illegal [2]

Over 200 anti-abortion measures have been enacted across 30 states over the last three years alone. In 2014 16 states undertook anti-abortion measures’ directly targeting women with low economic means for instance Indiana removed abortion from health insurance, multiple states increased mandatory delays up to 72 hours, [3] effecting women with low-incomes who were unable to take multiple days of work, afford travel and childcare. Effectively making the possibility of having an abortion unavailable to these women.  Interestingly of the states that introduced new laws almost all of them where highly religious southern states, with strong republican values.AbortionRestrictionsMap-040215

In 2003 the Federal Abortion Ban outlawed certain safe, medically appropriate abortion care often necessary to protect women’s health as early as 12th Weeks and the ‘non medical front’ a grass roots organisation in Kansas and Oklahoma are campaigning for a full ban of abortion in all states which many doctors describe as deeply disturbing and believe that the safety of the mother is being ignored in these cases.

Arguably there is a link between religious beliefs and adherence and political views, with many strong Christian Baptists aligning themselves with the Republican Party, which promotes tradition family values, and sanctity of life.  In Congress the percentage of republicans is higher than the amount of democratic seats, and the protestant faith makPF_15_01_05__ReligionCongress_political_makeup640pxes up the biggest religious group. Meaning that a large amount of republican protestant doctrine would be brought into congress.

Members of the Republican Party have often presented controversial view on reproductive rights, such as Sarah Palin Governor of Alaska who argued that she would never support abortion even if her own daughter was raped. [4] This view is drastically at odds with mainstream public opinion, but not something that has not been seen in the political sphere before with current republican candidate Ben Carson likening abortion to slavery. ‘a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave what if the abolitionist had said, you know, ‘I don’t believe in slavery. I think it’s wrong. But you guys do whatever you want to do’? Where would we be?’ [5]

This is a stark difference to politicians in the Democratic Party such as Obama who is one of the most pro-choice politicians in power, arguing that ‘Government should not intrude on family matters’ [6] believing that it is a personal and private decision for the mother to make away from politics. Obama also continues to support policies that are in place to help women who have unwanted or unplanned pregnancies specifically women of less means, who previously many not have had access to support. imrs

However strong religious beliefs does not always mean pro-life, for example the case of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. [7] An Organisation that for 40 years has been a voice for reproductive choice. There policy is based around the idea that ‘becoming a parent or becoming a parent again when and under what circumstances is deeply personal decisions’ and that it is not the place of government to force any one particular reproductive health decision upon any woman.

The RCRC is vocal on their support for women of colour, low-income, young women, and servicewomen. Who are disparately impacted by laws surrounding access to abortion care. Their main concern is that these women have the same right to safe, legal and moral care as everybody else and are not unfairly treated. Since 1976 the Hyde amendment has been upheld by the government which stops federal funds being used for abortion services, with only some very limited exceptions. Meaning that women who receive their healthcare form state programs have their access to safe and legal care denied. Already struggling women are forced to pay out of their own pocket for multiple trips to the clinic prior to an abortion which can be large amount coercing her not to go through with an abortion.

Furthermore current military policies do not allow on-base clinics to provide abortion care to servicewomen, even if a woman is paying for the procedure herself. For servicewomen it can be difficult to get approved for the time off, especially if a woman is stationed in a state with limited access to abortion care. Prohibiting women from using their own funds to obtain abortion services at military facilities not only discriminates against them but also endangers their health and career potential.

Therefore the relation between religious beliefs and reproductive rights are very closely intertwined. While it is not always the case in general it appears that there is a correlation between strong Christian values and pro-life, anti-abortion views. This could be because of the importance that Christian groups place upon the sanctity of life and traditional family values. It is clear to see that in the areas with high religious adherence there is more policy towards pro-life in these states, and that they are almost entirely in the South bible belt of America known for strong republican leanings.


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This entry was posted on December 2, 2015 by in Uncategorized, Vol 3, 2015/16.
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