Sarah Darer Littman

While I agree with Jonathan L. Wharton that one can’t necessarily figure out where someone stands on a woman’s right to control the decisions she makes over her own body based on party affiliation, his piece left out some critical details. Indeed, his framing of those who seek to insert government between a woman and her OB-GYN as “pro-life” is extremely problematic. 

Prof. Wharton rightfully notes, “For many Americans, their abortion stance is a religious one. And this is not for all major religions including Protestants, since there’s disagreement as to when life begins.”

I am a woman of faith, who supports a women’s right to control her own decisions in conjunction with her doctor, without government interference. I consider myself firmly “pro-life,” but not in the sense that Wharton (and anti-abortion activists) use it.

That’s because my faith teaches that the saving the life of the mother takes precedence over that of the fetus, until the baby draws its first breath. At that point, their lives have equal value. My faith also teaches me that our obligation to be “pro-life” doesn’t stop the minute a fetus emerges the mother’s womb. That is why I support investment in public education, in universal healthcare, in literacy programs, and laws that protect the environment so that the recently born can grow up in a world that’s still viable.

It’s why I pay my taxes without complaint (okay, maybe a little complaining, I’m human) so that we can afford to do these things.

Whether the law is created by a judicial decision on the federal level or imposed by legislators on the state level isn’t the issue here, although that is how conservatives have framed it.

The issue is whether conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices are going to vacate a long-held federal precedent that has allowed women like me to practice our religious freedom, so that state legislators can impose laws that abrogate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

That’s the issue social conservatives obscure with their “pro-Life” framing and their heinous laws criminalizing women for trying to make medical decisions with their doctors. Does anyone else remember when conservatives were up in arms about the Affordable Care Act because they “didn’t want government coming between them and their doctors”? I sure do. Yet somehow these same conservatives are more than happy for state legislatures to come between women and their doctors.

What Wharton also fails to highlight in his piece is that the very makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court has been altered by the unethical shenanigans and utter hypocrisy of Senate Republicans. Remember that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia, because “the American people should have a say in the court’s direction. It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent.” Garland was nominated in March 2016.

Yet the same Mitch McConnell rushed through the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated in May 2020, the so-called “Biden rule” against election-year appointments he quoted in 2016 apparently having slipped his mind for political expedience.

“Abortion policy is not just a partisan matter,” Wharton writes. “As much as media outlets and pundits suggest that one side of the aisle is against or for abortion rights, it’s more nuanced than a red-blue partisan issue.”

Yes, there are certainly socially moderate Republicans who support women’s bodily autonomy and respect the Establishment Clause, and there are socially conservative Black and Latino Democrats who join their Republican counterparts in wanting to limit the same. Yes, labels can be reductive and lacking in nuance. I remember discussing parenting with a Republican state legislator, who commented that I “sounded like a conservative.” When my kids were in school, I found that I was much more conservative about things like offering underage kids alcohol than the allegedly “conservative” parents of their friends.

But to claim that this critical issue for women across the country is truly a “both sides” non-partisan issue is disingenuous. The state legislatures that are passing these draconian laws are all Republican-controlled. Nuance is one thing, but ignoring the facts of the matter is another.

Sarah Darer Littman is a critically-acclaimed author of books for young people. Her latest novel, Some Kind of Hate, comes out Nov. 1 from Scholastic Press.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of or any of the author's other employers.