Pagans react to new abortion bans

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TWH – Over the last few weeks weeks, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Utah, and Alabama have both passed some of the most restrictive laws governing and criminalizing abortion in the United States since the landmark Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The Georgia and Alabama laws have been the most recent pieces of legislation limiting a woman’s right to choose, with the Alabama law being the most expansive in its eliminations of that right. The Pagan response has largely been one of outrage.

WomensMarch9Toronto

[Wikimedia Commons]

Georgia Law

HB 481, dubbed the “heartbeat bill,” was signed into law by the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp (Rep.) on May 7, 2019. The bill bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—around five or six weeks. Many women, however, are unaware of their pregnancy at six weeks. Three other states have passed similar bills, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio.

HB 481 differs from some of the other bills passed because it cites codes that include prosecution for women who intentionally commit acts that result in miscarriage, travel outside of the state to obtain an abortion, as well as the prosecution for anyone who assists them in doing so. In addition to doctors or other medical practitioners, the bill also names pharmacists, which is aimed directly at curtailing the use of emergency contraception like Plan B pills.

Alabama Law

On Wednesday of this week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (Rep.) signed HB 314 the “Human Life Protection Act” into law. In essence, it is a complete ban on abortion. It criminalizes abortion, making it a class A felony, while attempted abortions are now class C felonies. Cited within HB 314 is a 1975 bill, Section 13A-13-7 that, “…defines a person for homicide purposes to include an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.” While still on the books, the 1975 law is unenforceable and declared unconstitutional per Roe v. Wade.

The only abortion exemption to the Alabama law is when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy. No provision is made for victims of rape or incest. The other important difference from the Georgia bill is that it targets healthcare workers who perform abortions. The women seeking abortions are not held civilly or criminally liable.

Both Georgia and Alabama laws also seek to redefine what constitutes “personhood”, and are hoping that the passage of each legislation will result in a challenge to Roe v. Wade, possibly returning abortion legislation back to individual states under the State’s Rights privilege or to overturn women’s right to choose altogether.

Two other states have passed anti-abortion legislation, Arkansas and Utah. Those laws limit abortion procedure to the middle of the second trimester. Prior to these two most recent laws, all of those passed so far this year in attempts to essentially ban abortion have already been challenged in court and are not yet in effect. Previous bills that attempted to limit abortions to six weeks were appealed and struck down.

Pagan Reactions and Responses

The Governor Kemp’s signature had barely dried on the Georgia bill when social media lit up with reactions to the signing. Many Pagans were angry, scared, and wondering what to do next.

TWH reached out to a number of Pagans for their reactions and thoughts. Thorn Mooney (Thorn the Witch) commented,

I think there’s a tendency in our communities to write off Southerners as necessarily backwards, conservative, and beyond saving. Like, ‘Thank goodness I don’t live there!’ So many of us can just go back to our daily lives like this doesn’t affect us. But this impacts everyone, and it will spread if unchecked. There are witches and Pagans—myself included—who choose to stay in the South and fight the oppression that’s rooted here. Not everyone gets to leave. We need our allies in other parts of the country to pay attention and to help us, not to just make fun of our accents and write off the whole region as ignorant.

Pagans for Secularism wrote,

These draconian new restrictions on abortion are the latest a series of moves by Trump’s party to place Christian ideology above universal human rights. It is heartbreaking to see the US, a beacon of secular democracy, stray further and further away from its constitutional requirement to keep church and state separate. Secularism protects everyone, regardless of religion and belief. That’s why all of us – men and women, Christian and non-Christian – must resist the imposition of religious codes on US justice.

Wiccan author Yvonne Aburrow commented,

Anyone who has lived anywhere near a country or a state where abortion is illegal will know of the harrowing trips made by women to access abortions, because they already have too many kids or just aren’t ready to have them.

If Republicans are serious about wanting to prevent abortion, they should require men to have (reversible) vasectomies.

Quite often, women are pressured by men into having sex without a condom, which is why there are unwanted pregnancies, so there’s a consent issue here as well. That combined with the lack of sex education, or the provision of abstinence-only sex education, exacerbates the issue. But it’s quite clear that Republicans don’t care about the foetus after it’s born, otherwise they’d provide universal healthcare and ban guns. What they want is to prevent women from having sex.

All that Alabama’s new law will achieve (if it’s even constitutional) is to drive abortion underground and cause women to die.

A few years ago, a woman in Ireland, Savita Halavappanar, died entirely needlessly because the hospital refused her a medical abortion after she started haemorrhaging. This is the sort of thing that will happen in Alabama. We’ve already seen women being imprisoned for having miscarriages.

There’s a rising tide of anti-choice rhetoric in Canada too, but thankfully it is still marginal at the moment (I hope).

As Pagans, we should have a sex-positive (but not sex-pressuring) culture with excellent consent practices and responsible use of contraceptives. We should also support people’s autonomy over their own bodies.

Heron Michelle, a Witch and priestess who writes the blog Witch on Fire, wrote,

America was founded on the ideas of liberty and self-determination, including the freedom from oppressive religious interference from the State. Free-will and sovereignty are also primary tenets of Modern Witchcraft.

I’d say that pagans and witches actually do hold sacred all life, with a genuine focus on nurturing and protecting that life once it is born into the world. I also acknowledge, after years of spiritual work through past life retrieval, that a being’s Spirit, with their identity, life purpose and destiny, merge with their bodies at the moment of live birth, when they can exist separately from their mother’s womb. Until that moment, I believe that a woman retains sole rights of determination over her own body.

These new anti-abortion polices are also a clear violation of the separation of church and state, with an extremist ideology of Christianity being imposed on the entirety of our (supposedly) pluralistic society. Any “Forced-birth” legislation that denies women of their reproductive free-will, isn’t “pro-life” at all; it is a patriarchal, theocratic, fascist form of control over “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which is anti-American, anti-woman and anti-Witchcraft.

If we allow this degradation of our separation of church and state to take hold, it will inevitably open the door to further infringements upon the freedom of religion that Pagans and Witches now rely upon. It is imperative that we use our voices, powers, and votes to protect reproductive rights, because the fate of personal freedoms for all of us, hang in the balance.

Magickal Responses

Some people immediately began organizing magical actions to be undertaken.

Michael M. Hughes, author of Magic for the Resistance, offered up a ritual: Hands Off, Laws Off: Hekate Invocation for Reproductive Rights on his blog. The ritual was adapted from the one he offers in his book and designed to be used as activism.

Drawing of Hekate from a lead curse tablet found in the Agora at Athens. [Courtesy of the American School of Classical Studies.]

Hughes wrote, “As conservatives and evangelicals continue to make gains in their crusade to control women’s bodies, we cannot afford to stay silent. If you, too, are outraged and angered by recent anti-choice legislative victories (notably in Georgia, Ohio, and Alabama), please consider adding a bit of #MagicResistance to your pro-choice activism.”

Hughes has been organizing mass magical workings each moon focused on impacting the current administration, and binding them from doing harm since February 24, 2017.

Rayna Templebee, a South Florida Witch, beekeeper, and academic, is also organizing immediate magickal action. Templebee has started a Facebook group, titled The Big O for Roe. She is inviting people interested in adding their energy to the spell to join the group. They plan on casting the spell during the May full moon.

Templebee wrote that “There was so much anger and frustration among my friends about the latest idiotic legislation to limit access to abortion and even birth control, I knew we needed a way to channel that anger into a magickal act so it wouldn’t eat us up inside.”

She added “Using sex magick just seemed to make the most sense–sex is never just about reproduction–it’s about connection, joy, holiness, anger–so many things. Everyone who has sex needs the autonomy to make their own decisions about what happens in their bodies and when.”

[Public Domain]

Templebee wrote the spell below and gave her permission to share on The Wild Hunt.

Big O for Roe: a Reproductive Freedom Spell

“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.” ~Margaret Sanger

On the full moon and through the waning moon, ANYONE WHO FEELS CALLED should dedicate a non-reproductive orgasm to REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM FOR ALL. We use the waning moon to remove barriers to equality and any orgasm is a good orgasm—solo or with partner/s. To carry the energy farther wear Suffragist purple, white, and yellow like our powerful ancestors in the struggle for reproductive freedom. Decorate with sunflowers to remind yourself you are the source of life. A force that cannot be denied. When you orgasm, hold VICTORY in your mind for as long as you are able.

Victory will take the form of the Supreme Court refusing to hear any cases that seek to overturn Roe vs Wade, or upholding the legal protections we currently hold via Roe… it will take the form of respect for the awesome power of women’s bodies… and it will take the form of reproductive freedom for all bodies. After you bask in the delicious power of your magickal orgasm, share this with a friend and donate to the ACLU, National Abortion Federation, or Planned Parenthood. We turn our anger and frustration over these horrific attempts to take away our bodily autonomy into sexy smiles of victory—and together affirm that our bodies are our own and women’s rights are human rights.

Templebee wrote that this magickal work “channels our anger and frustration into strengthening the protections offered by Roe–in a really fun way. Having fun in these repressive times is a serious act of resistance!”