Abortion As a Political Symbol

The procedure is at the nexus of a major clash that pits religious sectors against feminists and sexual minorities allied with Democrats

The brutal political legal struggle over abortion is in large part symbolic of the role religion plays in the United States, a country with a nominally secular government, a growing population of atheists but, nevertheless, a strong conservative current with enormous influence over public life.

You could say that religion has played an important role in American society and history. So much so that many of America’s public offices — even the presidency — are formalized with an oath taken on the Bible. To some extent, the current and deep polarization in the United States pits those who claim to be conservative and religious conservatives against secular and liberal groups.

“The land we live on was claimed in God’s name, but the world’s first officially secular government sits on it,” noted analyst Howard Fineman in his book, “The Thirteen American Disputes.”

American history reflects that in many ways, even now when according to the Pew Research Center, more than 75% of Americans believe that the role of religion in public life is declining, while 57% believe that religion has a positive impact on society.

But other surveys from the Pew Center, itself, showed that the percentage of adults who considered themselves atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” rose from 16% in 2007 to 29% in 2023.

In that time, the proportion of U.S. adults who identify as “Christian” has fallen from 78% to 63%.

Conservative justices on the U.S. high court are invoking a law enacted more than 150 years ago, and unenforced for 100 years, to enforce a nationwide ban on mail-order distribution of the abortion pill mifepristone.

The legislation, known as the Comstock Act, is 151 years old and prohibited using the mail to send materials deemed “obscene, lewd or lascivious,” or “immoral” or “indecent,” a category that some now seek to include contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and pornography, but specifically certain medications.

The idea is to further limit abortion options after the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a case that protected a woman’s right to seek an abortion for half a century.

And conservatives have also tried to outlaw the teaching of evolution and books they consider “improper,” while demanding freedom of expression.

You can connect states that oppose abortion to the most religious regions of the country and, not surprisingly, to those that Republicans govern.

Thus, abortion is at the nexus of a major clash that pits fundamentalist religious sectors against feminist groups and sexual minorities allied with the Democratic Party.

The clash adds bitterness to the polarization in the United States.

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About Stephen Routledge 173 Articles
Stephen is the Head of a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) in a public sector organisation. He has over twenty years experience in project, programme and portfolio management, leading various major organisational change initiatives. He has been invited to share his knowledge, skills and experience at various national events. Stephen has a BA Honours Degree in History & English and a Masters in Human Resource Management (HRM). He has studied a BSc Language Studies Degree (French & Spanish) and is currently completing a Masters in Translation (Spanish to English). He has been translating for more than ten years for various organisations and individuals, with a particular interest in science and technology, poetry and literature, and current affairs.

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