Culture War Politics & the Rise of Religious Exemptions against Reproductive Health Access: Pitting Patients Against Religious Freedom is A Losing Game
25 J. Gender, Race & Just. 1 (2022)
Recent cases and political movements have severely limited reproductive healthcare access for many across the United States. Religious freedom has been the purported reason for these intrusions into bodily autonomy. In this article, I show how the range of ways in which religious exemptions are growing and impinging on the legal rights of those seeking reproductive healthcare, and especially abortion care. I argue that while cases like Hobby Lobby undermine the original intent of religious freedom laws, much of the political rhetoric remains the same. The polarization between religion and sex and gender-related rights—another iteration of culture war politics—causes the growth in these exemptions. I recommend several policy reforms that can align religious freedom laws to their original intent and warn legal activists against proactive litigation in the era of Trump-appointed judges. Importantly, I present a novel survey of state-level religious freedom statutes and offer a roadmap for legislators to protect access to reproductive healthcare in their states.