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Why Abortion Rights Conversations Should Include Muslims


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Source: Informed Comment

With the striking down of Roe, the Federalist Society’s bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court has allowed states to dictate as they will to women over the disposition of their own bodies. Judge Samuel Alito alleged that it was “rational” to protect a blastocyte, a just-fertilized human egg. No one in history ever found that rational. They might have found it doctrinally sound if they were believers (and that only recently). Let’s take a poll of scientists as to whether that is rational. It is actually the imposition of Catholic and Evangelical theology on rational people who reject that theology, and it violates the First Amendment by establishing religion.

It also takes key constitutional rights over their own persons away from American women. Seven of the 13 states with abortion trigger laws make no exception for rape or incest, though all have exceptions for conditions that endanger the life of the mother. It isn’t clear that the exceptions extend to conditions that merely threaten the health of the mother but are not fatal. For instance, if a woman could end up crippled but not dead, these absolutist bans likely do not make an exception. It has been shown that abortion bans make doctors and nurses skittish about that sort of decision, or even treating miscarriages, which many Christian fundamentalists are now trying to categorize as a crime.

The US Right wing has made hay with American Exceptionalism and the war on Muslims (a.k.a the “war on terror”) for decades. One of their central arguments was that the U.S. is more civilized in its treatment of women than are Muslims.

I wrote in 2005, Marine Lt. General James Mattis said Thursday:

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

. . . One of the reasons that the Neoconservatives are wrong that unilateral war can be used for good, for spreading democracy, is that war brings out the worst in human beings, making some of them sadists and racists. Sometimes it is necessary to fight a war to defend oneself. An elective war is always a mistake. It twists one’s own society, and someone else’s as well.

Mattis went on to serve as the odious Trump’s Secretary of Defense (because of course he did). Notice how he justified depicting killing people as “fun.” It was because the Taliban were mean to their women, he alleged.

George W. Bush used to bring Afghan women to sit in the balcony of the House for his State of the Union message every year, to underline that he had liberated them. Bush never put the sort of resources into Afghanistan that might have allowed women to advance, switching his attention to invading and occupying an oil state, Iraq. So of course they were props for his wars of aggression and have now fallen right back under Taliban rule.

This use of Muslim women by the American Right has all along been dishonest propaganda. Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have had women heads of state, whereas the US has not. Tunisia’s 2011 constitution recognized the legal equality of women and men, whereas the US ERA amendment was shot down by the US Right.

Recent polling shows that a majority of Muslim Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, tracking closely with general US opinion on the subject. Only 16% believe abortion should be illegal in most cases. 80% of Evangelicals believe it should be illegal in most cases. That is, the U.S. Right wing is taking away from Muslim women rights most of them claim for themselves in their own religious traditions. So much for American exceptionalism.

The American Religious Right is only one example of a global phenomenon. The Muslim world has its equivalent, in groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, of the Evangelical Christians and right wing Catholics, determined to impose their moral and legal ideas on the rest of the population through gaining leverage over the state.

As I have noted before, the American conviction that all Muslims are fundamentalists has led to a misunderstanding of Muslim societies. The 18 Muslim-majority societies with Draconian anti-abortion laws are all countries where the Muslim Religious Right is powerful. In contrast, more secular or “civil” Muslim countries often have laws that are more liberal. In countries where women have a relatively high status, such as Turkey and Tunisia, predictably abortion is offered on demand. I earlier observed:

Gilla K. Shapiro, writing in Health Policy and Planning, found that ten
Muslim-majority countries out of 47 surveyed permit abortion on demand. These are Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Another two, Burkina Faso and Guinea, allow abortion in cases of incest and rape, which the new Texas law does not, and Sudan allows it in case of rape.

Several other Muslim-majority states allow abortion where the mother’s physical or mental health would be impaired, not just if her life was endangered . . . Even Saudi Arabia permits abortion where the mother’s health is in danger, as do all but 18 of the 47 nations Shapiro surveyed . . .

Since 43 U.S. states have some restrictions on abortion, in fact, there are more Muslim-majority countries with abortion on demand than there are U.S. states [who allow that] . . .

In medieval Islam, the Hanafi school, which predominates in Turkey and much of Asia, permitted abortion up until 3 months. Some Shafi’is, the school favored in Lower Egypt, also allowed it that late date. Let me underline this. A significant proportion of medieval Muslim jurists favored rules for abortion that were more permissive than today’s law in Texas . . .

Shapiro did a comparative survey of abortion laws in 47 Muslim-majority countries. She identifies 7 levels of abortion rights. The least permissive are laws that only make an exception for a danger to the life of the mother. The new Texas law resembles those in 18 Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon, which only allow this exception.

Interestingly, Algeria, Gambia, Malaysia and Sierra Leone allow abortion where the pregnancy threatens the mental health of the women, which is not an exception common in Republican-dominated states. They only seem to mention conditions that threaten the life of the mother.

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