A woman who was pregnant with her fifth child discovered that she had cancer during her second trimester. It was a treatable cancer as long as she received the treatment promptly after diagnosis. Unfortunately, though, if she received treatment for the cancer, such as chemotherapy, it would kill the fetus. An abortion was recommended by her doctor. Nonetheless, the couple felt that she should bear that child, and once the child was born, she would seek treatment for her cancer.
I hope that my friend knew she was valued, not just as a baby maker but as a mother and a woman. I hope she chose her path because she was concerned her life after cancer might have been limited, that she had a better chance of saving a life, even if it wasn’t her own.
Sadly, the woman died. She left her husband as a widower with five young children including an infant. He remarried in time, though, and despite challenges, the family lived happily ever after with a new mom.
But what if that mother had felt differently? What if she had wanted to do everything that she could to live for her existing children? Would that have been selfish? Would the U.S. government have let her abort the fetus? That depends on her state of residency now.
The Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling effectively reversed their 1973 decision on Roe vs. Wade, leaving it up to each individual state to regarding any regulations of abortion.
The Texas law (SB 8) passed in 2021 is one in a long line of extreme anti-abortion laws passed by states in recent years. It limits abortion to the point when cardiac activity is detected (at about six weeks) without exception — even in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Most women don’t even know that they are pregnant at six weeks.
Unique to Texas, however, the law uses the power of the civil courts and offers a $10,000 bounty to anyone who successfully sues someone who has aided and abetted (or attempted to aid and abet) a woman in getting an abortion after six weeks. The accused who loses a trial must pay the court and attorney’s fees.
The policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a prominent church in Utah, is that abortion is morally wrong except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. Even the standards of this conservative church are more liberal than many abortion laws passed by states in the last few years — including Utah, which has a trigger law banning all abortion that went into effect in June 2022, except that Planned Parenthood has blocked enforcement with its present lawsuit.
The powerful, multi-decade anti-abortion movement has become the single-issue political identity of many conservative Christians across the Bible Belt and beyond, and it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles of men and women.
Adam and Eve
The antiquated Christian belief that women are temptresses like Eve has been around for millennia. It spawned out of the incorrect interpretation of the Garden of Eden story, that it was somehow “Eve’s fault” that Adam had to partake of the forbidden fruit; that Eve had allowed Satan to beguile her, and Adam was obligated to partake of the fruit in order to save Eve. Apparently, since Eve needed saving, it was now Eve’s job to be Adam’s helpmeet.
Sound familiar? That’s what I was told as a child. But it’s not true.
Amazingly, how we view the story of Adam and Eve has a strong impression on how we view the fundamental roles of men and women in Western societies today.
Research done by a woman named Beverly Campbell, in a book that was commissioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden,” reveals that the modern definitions of “beguiled” and “helpmeet” have morphed from the original ancient Hebrew and impair our understanding of this Bible story.
“Helpmeet” is derived from several words. “Help” is derived from two Hebrew root words, one meaning “to rescue” or “to save” and the other meaning “to be strong.” And “meet” means “equal to” and “fit for.” Like the right hand and the left hand, men and women are not the same, but they are meant to fit together. Eve is an equal partner to Adam.
“Beguiled” is a mistranslation of a rare verb in Hebrew that is no longer used, so it is impossible to translate in a few words. “It is safe to say that it indicates an intense multilevel experience which evokes great emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual trauma,” says Hebrew scholar Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy. “Eve was motivated by a complex set of inner drives, anchored not only in her physical, but also her intellectual, nature.”
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. They would stay in a spiritual form there until they understood their mission, that of love and sacrifice. Unable to have children in the Garden of Eden, Eve realized that the only way she could fulfill her role as the mother of all living was to partake of the forbidden fruit.
God told them that if they did partake of the fruit, they would die. But this commandment is the only one I know of with the caveat, “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself.” Eve, and Adam, who also partook of the fruit, were willing to face death so that we, their descendants, could live. Both Adam and Eve played an important role in this decision. Adam was all about obedience; however, with this commandment, they were dealing with somewhat of a trick question. Ultimately, God did not want to force them to make that choice because the burden of doing so was great. The burden was particularly heavy for Eve and her female descendants who bear the children. Adam and Eve both had the opportunity to choose, and they chose correctly.
The Impossible Decision
Like Adam and Eve, women who are considering the difficult decision of abortion are often faced with two or more conflicting conditions that drive their decision. They are pulled in many directions — moral, ethical, religious, social, marital or familial, medical, physical, and economic. Life is messy. The choice to have an abortion rises to the surface most often out of necessity.
As long as women continue to have difficult pregnancies, experience medical challenges, get abused, and face economic brick walls — and as long as women are shamed mercilessly by their own family and friends for having an unwanted pregnancy, there will continue to be a need for safe, legal abortion in this world. It’s time to give women — and families — a break. Setting medical needs aside, the use of abortion is a symptom of a larger, deeply rooted societal dysfunction.
Male domination has been a driving force in world cultures since the beginning of humanity, and the practice is unjust and wrong. When men belittle or treat women as lesser or inferior, everyone suffers. Historically in the United States, women have slowly gained privileges such as being able to own property (mid-1800s) and being able to vote (1920). Many women are still waiting for equal wages, paid maternity leave and affordable daycare, but granting them these privileges would not lessen the role of men. Most couples rely on both of their incomes, and giving women equal protections would benefit the whole household.
The right to have an abortion must be included in that list of privileges, yet so many politicians are more concerned about appearing moral than actually passing moral legislation. When abortion is legal, fewer women die of childbirth-related ails. When women can have safe abortions earlier in a pregnancy, there is less room for complications, and the chances are higher for the woman to bear a child later in life. Anti-abortion advocates focus more on the rights of the unborn child, but the worth of all souls is great — including those of pregnant women.
The 14th Amendment and the ERA
Long overlooked, the 14th Amendment offers incredible rights to Americans. The first section reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Ratified in 1868 to free the slaves, the 14th Amendment has faced many setbacks in the courts because of culture battles, but it was successful as the basis of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was the basis of winning a Supreme Court case in 2015 that permitted LGBTQIA+ to legally marry throughout the country. The 14th Amendment was also quoted during the Women’s Lib era as the basis of the rights they fought for, and they also wished to pass a new amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), that would codify rights for LGBTQIA+ as well as abortion rights, among other things. The text is as follows:
Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
To pass an Amendment to the Constitution, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 of 50 states). The deadline for the ERA was in 1982, and they were short two states. In recent years, however, new efforts have been made to pass the ERA. Nevada (2017), Illinois (2018), and Virginia (2020) have all ratified the amendment. In March 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that extended the deadline for the ERA. All that is left to do now is for the Senate to pass the resolution, as well, along with many other bills that face the Filibuster challenge.
The U.S. House of Representatives presently has a bill on its roster designed to protect abortion rights and to codify Roe vs. Wade. It is expected to face significant challenges in the Senate — unless we can sufficiently increase the Democrat majority in the 2023 election.
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision does not negate the need for abortions, but simply punishes those who get them.
We are already seeing the impact of banning abortion. It hurts our society from the ground up, likely in ways many men do not understand. Women must be viewed as equals in our society and should be respected for their insights and unique perspectives. I pray that our society does not go further down this “Handmaid’s Tale” of digression.
May women unite and renew the fight to pass the ERA, and may Democratic senators find a way to steer around the Filibuster. It is our best hope.
About the Author
Emily Olsen is the interim chair of 1Utah Project and the chair of the Utah Progressive Caucus. She has an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Brigham Young University. She lives in Ogden, Utah, with her husband.
Lindell, Chuck. “Texas leaders vow to defend abortion law,” Austin American-Statesman, September 9, 2021. https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/09/09/texas-abortion-law-leaders-vow-defend-law-banning-most-abortions/8261683002/
O’Kane, Caitlin. “Texas ‘whistleblower’ website used for snitching on abortions shut down,” CBS News, September 7, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-abortion-law-whistleblower-website-snitching-shut-down-twice/
Campbell, Beverly. “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden.” Copyright 2003.
Reardon, Sophie. “Justice Department seeks emergency order to block Texas abortion law,” CBS News, September 15, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-abortion-law-justice-department-emergency-order-block/
Stracqualursi, Veronica. “House passes joint resolution to remove ERA deadline.” CNN, March 17, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/17/politics/congress-era-deadline-joint-resolutions/index.html
Winslow, Ben. “Utah joins lawsuit to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Fox 13 News, July 29, 2021. https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/utah-joins-lawsuit-to-overturn-roe-v-wade