Sep 20, 2021

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, joined by other religious freedom organizations, today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to protect both reproductive and religious freedom by upholding the court’s nearly 50-year-old precedent that decisions about pre-viability abortions must be made by pregnant people, not politicians.

In an amicus brief filed with the court today, Americans United, the American Humanist Association, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, and the Interfaith Alliance Foundation explained that the viability standard established by the court in Roe v. Wade is the only possible, secular standard that respects freedom of conscience in our religiously diverse country and avoids government-endorsed religious favoritism that was so abhorred by the framers of our Constitution.

The organizations explained that to bar abortions earlier than the point of viability, as in Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban at issue in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would hopelessly entangle religious theology about the beginnings of life and the permissibility of abortion with our country’s political and legislative processes – threatening even greater religious strife and encouraging lawmakers to codify religious beliefs into law.

“The Supreme Court should strike down Mississippi’s abortion ban and uphold the foundational American principle of church-state separation, ensuring that all of us are free to live and believe as we choose and make our own decisions about reproductive health care,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.

“The abortion bans enacted by Mississippi, Texas and other states are part of the Christian nationalist agenda designed to impose one narrow set of religious beliefs on everyone else. This agenda threatens everyone’s freedom to live and believe as we choose and widens inequality in our communities, especially for those most harmed by these abortion bans – women, LGBTQ people, Black, Indigenous and People of Color, those struggling to make ends meet during a global pandemic, immigrants, young people, residents of rural communities, and people with disabilities,” Laser said.

The organizations’ brief was authored by Richard B. Katskee, vice president and legal director of Americans United, and AU Legal Fellow Adrianne M. Spoto.

“The Supreme Court’s recognition of the constitutional right to an abortion, in conjunction with the viability standard, has protected the rights of pregnant people to make critical decisions in keeping with their own deeply personal religious and philosophical beliefs,” said Katskee. “Abandoning the viability standard would violate the freedom of conscience of pregnant people, and it would threaten far greater religious and political strife than already exists around the issue of abortion.” 

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.