According to newly disclosed documents, the United States Supreme Court intends to overrule Roe v. Wade, which is the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court decision authorizing abortion as a constitutional right in the United States. If it is indeed overruled, it will inevitably have consequences on women’s reproductive rights across the country, not to mention the reasoning that is being used to nullify the decision could very well open the door to more threats to our rights.
“The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions,” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito writes. The argument imposed here is that Roe v. Wade was unconstitutional, and that abortion should therefore not be under federal protection. Instead, it suggests that it should be under the authority of the state governments to establish their own laws in regard to abortion.
If this argument is to be considered valid, this could lead to the annulment of many other rights we hold as Americans. To suggest that our rights are not backed by the Constitution and should be left for states to decide, who’s to say that they will not later use this argument in an attempt to overrule interfaith marriage, interracial marriage, and desegregation? Let alone the fact that this leaked decision gives no exceptions for rape or incest. That may sound like a stretch, but sometimes it only seems that in 2022 in the U.S., we are moving backward.
Studies show that nearly a quarter of women in the U.S. are expected to undergo an abortion at a point in their life. Overruling Roe v. Wade will bring out inequalities such as those suffered by minorities, who disproportionately live in lower-income areas and are more likely to have little to no access to healthcare. Women, in general, will also face harm when denied abortions, with an increased risk of developing health problems in comparison to those who do undergo abortions.
Furthermore, major studies suggest that women who don’t obtain abortions and end up giving birth suffer economic hardships that last several years and are more likely to raise the child alone. If Roe is undone, as many as 26 states will outright ban or severely restrict abortions, not to mention abortion clinics in neighboring states that choose not to restrict it will see a surge in patients that will further limit the ability for women to have access to abortions.
As Muslims, we know that religion is not compulsory, nor should we ever try to enforce our religious beliefs on others. It is only fair to expect the same of others, especially in a secular country with no official religion. Might I add: a country that was founded due to pilgrims escaping religious persecution, looking for a place where they could practice their beliefs without consequence and not be forced to follow the rules of the majority?
The belief of the majority of Muslims is that a fetus is not given a soul until 120 days from conception, therefore abortion is considered legal in Islam prior to ensoulment, with considered exceptions in circumstances of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and health of the mother.
It’s direct hypocrisy for the government of a country with this given history to enforce laws based on a set of beliefs that a group of Christians holds. What happened to the separation of church and state? This puts the rights of anyone who does not hold the particular belief of life upon conception in danger.
The belief of the majority of Muslims is that a fetus is not given a soul until 120 days from conception, therefore abortion is considered legal in Islam prior to ensoulment, with considered exceptions in circumstances of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and health of the mother. That being said, we should not limit our belief in the federal legality of abortion to our Islamic beliefs. Meaning, that just as Christians should not expect everyone to believe in ensoulment upon conception, we too should not expect others to believe in ensoulment after 120 days, nor should we expect others to abide by this rule.
If it were not for the argument of ensoulment, there would be no valid argument for banning abortion. Abortion is a controversial political issue because it involves using religious views to judge the morality of performing one. However, as Muslims, we must keep in mind the Quranic principle that there is “no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:256).
This means that we should legally support the rights of women to undergo abortion, without using their motives or religious beliefs as a factor in supporting it lawfully. Doing so would support our belief as Muslims in religious freedom.
Now, upon reading this, some Muslims may argue that it is our duty to educate others about halal versus haram. Your intentions may be in the right place, but you need to know where to draw the line.
First things first, it is important to remember to respect a person’s privacy. It is a very personal matter and opening up about it is already something that is not easy for a lot of women and maybe considered extremely personal. It’s important to know your place and respect another woman’s privacy if you are not in a position to offer unsolicited advice.
Moreover, in the case of a non-Muslim, you simply cannot expect them to have the same religious belief as us Muslims about ensoulment after 120 days. Therefore, it is useless and inappropriate to suggest that abortion be avoided after this time period, and this is where freedom of religion comes into play. In the case of a Muslim woman intending to get an abortion, the same issue of privacy applies.
However, if you are in a position where it is appropriate to offer advice on the matter, you must understand that there may be valid, underlying factors to consider abortion, even after those 120 days, such as fetal abnormalities that have developed, or the health risk that is imposed on the mother. Some women may not feel comfortable sharing their reason behind this big decision, and it is important to respect that. So think before you judge, and give advice kindly and wisely. In the end, whatever decision a person makes is between them and Allah.
With that in mind, we must support rights that complement freedom of religion, that includes freedom of abortion, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, etc. Even if we don’t support certain aspects of these issues in the laws of Islam, it would be contradictory to restrict the rights of others, especially those who are not practicing Islam and in a democratic, secular country. It is not un-Islamic to believe that the government should not impose a particular religious ideology, regardless of whether or not we agree with the beliefs that the ideology holds. Especially when the country governed is one as religiously diverse and constitutionally secular as the United States.
On that note, if we want to discourage abortions, banning them is certainly not the solution. To bring abortion rates down significantly, we have to provide sex education and make contraception more easily accessible and affordable.
We need to show support for our women and minorities and their rights and freedom unconditionally because that is the right and Islamic thing to do. Right now the rights of women, Muslims, and non-Muslims alike are under attack by the highest court in the country.
We must not stay quiet about this injustice; we must make noise. Share your thoughts, start a discussion, practice your right to protest, sign petitions, write to your local and federal representatives, and make sure to vote in both local and federal elections! Use your voice, vote for individuals who support your views and are eager to make our country a better place for everyone!
Aside from these arguments about why we should support these rights as Muslims, there are also many arguments to suggest why not supporting abortion and other much-needed rights would be a disastrous idea. We can take a look at our own American history, the prohibition era of the 1920s, as an example. This was an era when the sale of alcohol was illegal. This did little to nothing to lower the consumption of alcohol among Americans and resulted in consequences such as an increase in crime rates and billions of dollars lost in tax revenue due to illegal distribution efforts.
Prohibition taught us that if someone really wants to do something, banning them from it will likely not stop them from doing it. Oftentimes they will find other ways to get what they want, and banning something can do more harm than good. This also holds true in a case such as abortion, as many women have and will self-abort if not given access to safe abortion clinics, which is dangerous to the woman’s health and life. So in reality, providing access to abortions is not encouraging abortions, rather it is encouraging the safety of our women.
On that note, if we want to discourage abortions, banning them is certainly not the solution. To bring abortion rates down significantly, we have to provide sex education and make contraception more easily accessible and affordable. Research has already proven that teens who receive comprehensive sex education are much less likely to become pregnant than those who receive abstinence-only education or no sex education.
While teens are not the only ones to get abortions, sex education is still important within the community, as we still face a problem in which many women are never taught everything they need to know to prevent pregnancy until it is too late. The other important factor in preventing unwanted pregnancies and ultimately limiting abortions is access to contraception.
Women should talk to their health care provider to determine the contraception that is the best fit for them. For those that are uninsured, there are subscription plans and healthcare platforms such as Nurx and GoodRx that provide birth control at affordable prices without the need for health insurance. Planned Parenthood also offers free condoms at its health centers. A vasectomy is also something to look into if concerns arise about the side effects of some forms of contraception.
In short, not supporting the rights of our women for the sake of preventing the small minority of Islamically unlawful abortions is not a practical answer; we have much more to lose if we restrict all women for the personal decisions of a few.
True Muslims keep the best interests of everyone in mind. They make the most ethically sound decisions, which in this case would be supporting freedom of religion and keeping the reproductive rights of women safe, especially as this affects the health and safety of women.
To make a difference, we need to exercise our freedom of speech, start conversations, sign petitions, and educate our children and communities. We need to educate them about our duty to fight for the rights of those in danger of losing them, and for those who deserve to practice their respective beliefs and lifestyles, just as we have been fortunate enough to practice our Islamic beliefs and lifestyles without any laws set to prevent us from doing so. We should fight to make sure Roe v. Wade is not overturned, and if we succeed it’ll be a victory for all women in America.
Be sure to join Action Network along with other democratic organizations like Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), Progressive Democrats of America, and Progressive Change Campaign Committee — to name a few — and sign their collective petition to call on Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to supersede the resolution of the Supreme Court.