My Faith Is Feminism

Rewind to Friday, November 28th. I followed news coverage about a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Although a political motive wasn’t obvious yet, I knew the incident was driven by abortion abolition. The following Thursday, I had an appointment at my local clinic. I spent the whole week considering if I should reschedule until after Christmas. Despite months of planning and researching an IUD, I felt vulnerable. Outside of my local clinic, anti-abortion protesters organize with signs that look like Robert Lewis Dear Jr. could’ve made himself. What if an unwelcomed guest made their way into the waiting room of my clinic?

Thursday night came and I decided to go. I refused to let injustice win. There was a police car in the front parking lot and an officer that greeted me at the clinic doors. I met with a doctor and successfully got access to the birth control I deserved. I never thought I’d be so frightened about pursuing healthcare. My new IUD is my own piece of freedom. Not all women, unfortunately, have this freedom.

In 2016, women still constantly fight for their right to govern their own bodies. During presidential debates, GOP forerunners talk about an abortion video that has since been debunked as faux. Republican Congressmen (and Congresswomen) keep trying to defund it. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a Texas abortion case, which could possibly revoke precedents established by Roe v. Wade. In 2016, women still constantly fight for their right to govern their own bodies. In 2016, Planned Parenthood unrighteously faces criticism about the true value of their clinics.

We can’t stop talking about Planned Parenthood funding. Viral content on social media networks, such as this one, reveals how Planned Parenthood handles their funds. Annually, the clinic receives on average $528.4 million from government health service grants (compliments of Medicaid and Title IX) and $391.8 million from private donors. With these monetary contributions, clinics offer a wide range of services. For instance, most services include STD/STI treatment and contraception, not exclusive to women.

Often, I notice myself, along with other reproductive justice advocates, repeating, “The federal government doesn’t fund abortion.” Only 3% of the clinic’s overall services are abortion, but not a single penny of government grants are used to fund abortions. This is true, and there’s an evident need for this argument in our political climate, but there’s a larger problem in this phrase. This statement inherently implies the federal government shouldn’t fund abortion. It perpetuates the stigma towards those that do pursue abortion.

Although conservative rhetoric leads us to believe women pursue abortion because they don’t want to be mothers, women pursue abortion for a number of reasons they can’t control. Abortion has the potential to save women’s lives. Not all women are healthy enough to birth offspring; their unborn child might not survive the pregnancy. According to a Guttmacher Institute study, many women aren’t financially ready to have a child. (I wonder if this would be different if there was more welfare support.) Plus, the need for an abortion drops once women have increased access to birth control. Planned Parenthood clearly serves as the safe women many women wouldn’t otherwise have. If a woman’s freedom includes access to healthcare, why not hold the government accountable for abortion?

Americans are starting to realize the myth religious freedom is. Syrian refugees flee the Middle East to find a safety net in the United States. It’s apparent now who does and doesn’t support their cry for help. If Muslims don’t have a place in American society, they don’t have the freedom to practice Islam. Conversely, the pro-life movement imposes Christian values — which I often question are Christian at all — on a woman’s right to choose.

Yet, the United States was founded by religious freedom. The story we’re told, as early as kindergarten, often begins with the Mayflower (if not Christopher Columbus, but that’s for another day). The Puritans sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to flee from Church of England. As British refugees, they discovered the New World to practice their religion freely.

A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to the order of existence. My religion is feminism, or what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes as “the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Feminism defends an individual’s right to make their own decisions, including a women’s choice to pursue abortion or not. While you can absolutely practice feminism as a Christian and Muslim, you cannot deny a woman’s right to choose as a feminist. If my religion is feminism, and women are deprived the right to an abortion, my religious freedom is already being fringed upon.

It’s time to re-consider why the government shouldn’t fund abortion. When we risk Planned Parenthood funding, we risk women’s freedom. Women deserve an answer. I hold the American government — and public alike — accountable for justice for all, not some. Injustice anywhere affects justice everywhere. Where is women’s religious freedom?