This time it’s in the Senate, folks. In case you just crawled out from under a rock, I’m talking about the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act that was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Democratic Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan and Republican Representative Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, along with a long list of Congresspersons. The bill tried to keep any federal funds from being used to pay for an abortion but was also worded in such a way that it would have prohibited women from purchasing private coverage to cover abortions. That’s a ridiculous restriction on the reproductive freedom of every woman who needs health care, and an even further economic restriction on what private citizens can purchase with their own funds. Women would be losing the coverage they have now!
The letter I sent to my Senators last month was, like everything I send to Senator Isakson, not read as far as I could tell, because his office just responded with a form letter babbling about his religious beliefs. That’s a bit better than Senator Chambliss’ office, at least, which doesn’t even do that much. Still, that form letter was something of a straw breaking this particular camel’s back, and it inspired me to write another letter back to Senator Isakson, one that he hasn’t responded to at all. I’m not terribly surprised, as I asked that he not respond at all if his only response was going to be another form letter. Still, writing it prepared me, to a certain extent, to respond to the alert going out about the renewed Stupak amendment, which is why I mention it here.
While I am as guilty as the next person of just signing my name to most of those petitions and requests for action and so on that come through my mailbox or via Facebook or Twitter or whatever rather than actually writing anything original, we all know that the intended recipients must stop reading them after the second or fifth or at the very least the twenty-fifth letter, no matter how good her intent may be. If he’s hostile to the content, I can’t imagine he pays much attention after the first one. It’s all, “Blah blah blah.”
I know perfectly well that all Senator Isakson and others like him are going to do is toss out their rehearsed prepared, “I will always vote my religious beliefs in this matter” every time the word “abortion” comes up, and every time “health care” comes up, they are going to associate that with “abortion” somewhere in their minds.
Because I know all of that, I didn’t just sign my name this time. I wrote a real letter. I’d share it with you, but I already hit send, and there’s no way that I could reproduce it — it was one of those one-time things. But I can try to lay out my thought process, and encourage you to write your own letters to your elected representatives, so that they’ll receive many, many real letters, rather than just a lot of copies of the same old thing.
It’s up to us to short-circuit those old patterns. It’s up to us to stop using our own tired rhetoric and to start by reminding these elected representatives that whoever elected them, whether we voted for them or not, we are their constituents, and when they took office they took an oath, most of them on the Bible, a book that many of them consider sacred. They swore on that book to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
That Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to every person in this nation. It promises us a nation ruled by law, not a theocracy. It promises that we will all stand equal before the law.
Whether the Senator or Congressman’s religious beliefs do or do not agree with abortion is irrelevant. Abortion is not illegal in the U.S. It is occasionally medically necessary. As a legal procedure, an occasionally necessary procedure, there’s no justification for an amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act making it illegal to use federal dollars to fund said legal procedure or to make it illegal for women to procure private policies that pay for it.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not pro-abortion. I’m pro-choice. Abortion is at an all-time low in the U.S., and I’d like very much to see it stay that way. I’ve looked at the history, and the statistics, and I know all too well that when abortion is illegal, women — girls — die trying to end pregnancies illegally. They will find a way to do it, one way or another. Making abortion illegal will not make unplanned pregnancies go away, any more than Prohibition made alcohol go away or the War On Drugs made illegal drugs go away. That has never worked, not once in the history of mankind. I don’t ever want my daughter to need an abortion. I don’t want her to have to make that choice. But if she needs that right, I want her to have it.
Back to the point here: the logical conclusion of my argument is that voting on a bill or amendment based solely on religious beliefs violates a congressperson’s oath of office, which requires that he or she uphold the law, not any scripture. If a Senator or Representative finds that he or she cannot serve due to his or her religious beliefs, that’s understandable, and I’m sure his or her resignation would be accepted.
Is that anti-religious? No. I take oaths very seriously, and anyone who believes that his deity is real should think twice before taking an oath to uphold the law and then turn around and betray both the law and his commitment to the deity at the same time. As I recall, the Bible talks about giving to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and giving to God what is God’s. In this case, every Senator’s honest vote belongs to Ceasar. How many of them will have the moral fiber to vote honestly, rather than kowtowing to earthly lobbyists?
(Can you tell that when I was a Christian, I was really, really fundamentalist?)