Living, Breathing Women: AHA Partners with NARAL to Protect Choice

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a policy manual in 2012 titled, “Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems.” The document highlights “the inextricable link between women’s health and human rights and the need for laws and policies that promote and protect both.” It also calls for countries to remove barriers to abortion access, provide appropriate and accurate sexual and reproductive health education and services, and treat women with respect (what a concept!). One can imagine President Trump reading all this and tweeting: “WHO?”

The Trump administration poses a terrifying threat to reproductive freedom, women’s rights, and healthcare. In his first week in office, the president reinstated the Global Gag Rule, defunding any international organization that discusses abortion with patients. Humanists find it unacceptable that an estimated 47,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions, and more unnecessary deaths will result from this policy. Within our borders, reproductive freedom is jeopardized by Trump’s vow to appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion, his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and his zeal to defund Planned Parenthood. His intention to limit women’s access to appropriate medical care and women’s ability to make choices about their bodies is reprehensible.

As humanists, we firmly believe that women have a right to choose to keep or terminate a pregnancy. We believe that women are not simply “hosts”—we are creators, artists, fighters, healers, and dreamers. As humanists we accept the evidence that greater access to contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies and that limits on abortion and medical care drive abortions underground, where they are less safe for the woman.

The American Humanist Association stands in support of the multitudes of women and allies who participated in the Women’s March (low estimates at 3.3 million people, the largest protest in US history), and it encourages more action. We are partnering with NARAL Pro-Choice America to ensure that the progress made in recent years isn’t lost. NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) is an incredible organization speaking up for abortion access, reproductive health and education, healthy pregnancies, and contraception.

My support for NARAL and abortion access is relatively new for me. In my Catholic high school, to the surprise of many, my adolescent atheist self found common ground with my religious peers in pro-life arguments and narratives. I did not see a link between the anti-feminist abstinence “education” I was receiving and the issue of abortion. I remember vividly Jason Evert of the Chastity Project teaching my entire high school that French kissing is “too far” because it reminds men of penetration. We wrote letters promising virginity to our future husbands. We read a book by theologian Peter Kreeft explaining that feminism is “an attack on nature and God” and “the view which opposes a woman’s ‘true self’ to her female, womb-equipped body.” I did not see then that the pro-life (or as journalist Laurie Penny puts it, “forced birth”) movement is anti-women—the messages I was receiving about how to treat my body and protect it were solely for the man who would one day own it. I was disgusted by this so-called education and the non-sexual, reproductive role I was supposed to play as a woman, but I was still stuck on “but it’s a baby.”

It was years later in college when I finally heard a friend and NARAL intern succinctly and convincingly explain how limiting abortion access harms women, increases unwanted pregnancies, and makes the world a more dangerous, masculine-dominated place. I am not the only atheist who felt “duped” by the pro-life movement; blogger Libby Anne at Patheos wrote an article in 2012 about her journey from pro-life to pro-choice and her realization that pro-choice legislation is much more successful in decreasing the overall number of abortions while creating a world where women can make their own decisions.

It’s been five years since I integrated a pro-choice stance into my humanist worldview, prioritizing protecting and advocating for women who are living, breathing, and pregnant now. I am now proud to volunteer for NARAL’s Massachusetts chapter, especially as we get ready for our 34th annual Chocolate Madness event.

As a humanist, you can actively support the pro-choice movement by phone-banking, signing petitions, or organizing within your own community. Sign up as an AHA volunteer here. Urge your senators to oppose Trump’s anti-choice Supreme Court nominee. Attend one of NARAL’s events in your area. Talk openly about sexual health and abortion; reduce the stigma. Take steps to respect women and practice consent. Resist, and persist.

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