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Religion, politics make for a dangerous mixture

By Anna Eskamani
On October 11, 2011

The number of anti-abortion-related bills that made their way through state legislatures last year is 351. That number is staggering and is double the amount of anti-abortion bills that were proposed the year before.

Now, anti-choice is not a new trend. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Roe v. Wade that a woman has a constitutional right to privacy and therefore a choice to terminate her pregnancy, the movement to strip away that choice has been growing.

The main difference between last year's legislative sessions relative to the ones preceding them is the political makeup of our nation's leadership. The 2010 midterm elections marked a huge shift to conservatism, and according to Americans United For Life, today we have hundreds of anti-abortion-rights legislators and 12 new anti-abortion-rights governors.

This includes our very own Gov. Rick Scott, who actually hosted a party at the governor's mansion celebrating four out of the five anti-choice bills that were passed into law here in the Sunshine State. Yes, this is an awfully awkward party theme to have, but it was well attended by both political and religious leaders.

As a woman, I find it incredibly ironic that these conservative legislators who constantly preach for small government are continuously practicing big government policies with our bodies. What I find to be even more frustrating than this conservative hypocrisy is the influence that religion has played in these decisions.

Church and state are two entities that are better left separate, yet the bulk of anti-abortion bills are designed to please religious conservatives while ignoring more pertinent issues, such as a woman's health or rights.

Let's look at a few examples. In the great state of Mississippi, one of the most radical anti-abortion measures is taking shape as a 2012 ballot initiative. The amendment would change the meaning of the word "person" in the state constitution and define human life as beginning not with birth but with the moment of fertilization. If the amendment were to pass, it would outlaw abortion in the state entirely - even in cases of rape and incest. It might even ban some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization, according to Mother Jones.

Les Riley is the activist who drafted this amendment, and he is now promoting it through his "Conceived in Rape Tour." Les himself is a neo-secessionist who once supported an effort to form an independent theocratic republic in South Carolina that would establish a "free southern Republic" built on biblical law.

Back in Florida, we have our own anti-choice ballot initiative that will prohibit public funds from being spent on abortions and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage. In addition, it would also eliminate Florida's strong constitutional right to privacy as it pertains to women's healthcare choices, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

I should also mention that there will be another ballot initiative in 2012 that aims to repeal the constitutional ban on funding religious groups. So, let's cut abortion funding but increase religious funding. Are you sensing a trend here?

We live in a nation that was built on freedoms: freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

However, religion seems to be dominating our political discourse when it comes to these bills, and we as women are the ones being most affected by it. Is this really about religion, or is this about taking away a woman's right to choose? Or is it conveniently both? The answer is up to you, but one thing is for sure: Religion and politics is always a dangerous combination. We should be united to keep the two separate rather than let it drive us against each other.

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