AOC: What right do fundamentalist Christians have to impose their theocratic views of abortion on others?

As a pro-life atheist, I’ve never been more confused.

That starts with the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is herself Catholic. Does she consider her own faith “fundamentalist”?

I presume she’d say the Church requires its members to be pro-life in their private conduct (isn’t she pro-choice?) but doesn’t require them to enshrine their beliefs in public policy. If that’s the case, I’d politely refer her to today’s news.

Beyond that, she seems to be arguing that abortion is some sort of religious right. Conservatives have accused the left for years of treating abortion as a sort of sacrament but it turns out we didn’t know the half of it.

Uh, what?

Since when does the fact that one’s religion permits a certain type of conduct excuse you of your civic duty to obey a law that prohibits it?

The Supreme Court addressed this subject 30 years ago in a famous opinion written by Antonin Scalia. Two men were fired from their jobs at a drug rehab center because they took peyote as part of a ceremony conducted by the Native American church to which they belonged. They applied for unemployment benefits but were denied by the state due to workplace “misconduct.” They sued, alleging that they had a First Amendment right to take peyote when practicing their religion and therefore should receive those benefits. Nope, said Scalia:

We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594-595, 60 S.Ct. 1010, 1012-1013, 84 L.Ed. 1375 (1940): “Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities (footnote omitted).”…

Respondents urge us to hold, quite simply, that when otherwise prohibitable conduct is accompanied by religious convictions, not only the convictions but the conduct itself must be free from governmental regulation. We have never held that, and decline to do so now. There being no contention that Oregon’s drug law represents an attempt to regulate religious beliefs, the communication of religious beliefs, or the raising of one’s children in those beliefs, the rule to which we have adhered ever since Reynolds plainly controls. “Our cases do not at their farthest reach support the proposition that a stance of conscientious opposition relieves an objector from any colliding duty fixed by a democratic government.” Gillette v. United States, supra, 401 U.S., at 461, 91 S.Ct., at 842.

AOC’s argument is weaker than the argument of the peyote-users. They claimed their faith compelled them to use the drug in ceremonies. No religion on Earth compels its members to engage in abortion as a religious duty, for obvious reasons. They may permit it, but if a generally applicable law prohibits it, oh well.

What she’s really doing here is making an Establishment Clause argument, not a Free Exercise argument. She’s framing abortion bans as the de facto imposition of Christianity on dissenting faiths. But as I can attest personally, you don’t need to be a Christian or even a religious believer to find abortion immoral, especially in the later stages of a pregnancy. The country has debated and forever will debate the propriety of legislating morality by preventing so-called victimless crimes, but abortion ain’t that. One can make a secular judgment, as a matter of morals rather than faith, that a child growing in the womb should have rights independent of its mother at some stage of pregnancy. If AOC can’t process that except as a manifestation of “theocracy,” she’s more hopeless than I thought.

Besides, any religious believer who wants to “exercise their faith” (in her words) by having an abortion will have no shortage of blue-state options. Pope Gavin I is promising a “sanctuary” in California for all of those red-state women in need of salvation.

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