A Muslim woman’s thoughts on the overturning of Roe v. Wade

The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court, effectively ending access to abortion, has sent shockwaves across the globe. While the decision immediately affects those who are able to conceive and give birth within the US, its true impact spreads far wider.

The news has been described as dystopian. Comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale abound. There’s little doubt that we’re at the edge of a slippery slope – one leading to a pit into which we can see the rights and autonomy not just of women but of all people hurtling towards certain death.

It’s therefore alarming to hear some Muslim voices express support for the decision. While they claim that it is in keeping with Islamic views on abortion (it isn’t), their reasons for supporting the end of reproductive rights in an ostensibly democratic Western nation show how much they have in common with far-right pro-lifers.

The main reason being a deep-seated hatred of women’s autonomy, evidenced by an obsessive need to control women, and women’s bodies in particular. But the irony is that Muslims who describe far-right talking points as ‘Islamic’ don’t realise they’re on the side of people who would support the genocide of Muslims, including pregnant women and babies, while claiming to be pro-life.

''Muslim women have the God-given right and autonomy to make their own spiritual and moral decisions. And whether or not we like it, that includes a woman’s right to make mistakes. It includes her right to make choices that others may see as Islamically wrong. It includes her right to use her own judgment to arrive at a decision of her choosing – even if that decision is one that an imam, Twitter sheikh or aunty might frown upon.''

In reality, the pro-life lobby is a white supremacist endeavour.

Anti-racism advocate Jane Elliott has pointed out that it exists not to protect life, but rather to protect white people from the threat of being outnumbered in what they perceive to be their home nations. Therefore, any claim that this victory for the pro-life movement is also a victory for Muslims is repulsive to say the least.

Muslims, by and large, are anti-abortion. Even Muslims who engage in sex outside of marriage are unlikely to treat the possibility of abortion lightly. But not only is ‘abortion is haram’ a flat, thoughtless position to take, it’s also inconsistent with basic Islamic principles.

Abortion in Islam remains a complicated issue which requires nuance. Moreover, the notion of ‘life’ beginning at conception does not apply in Islam (nor in Judaism). The Islamic concept of ‘ensoulment’ applies from when the foetus is 120 days (17 weeks) old. Before this time, while the foetus is a living being inside the womb, it isn’t considered a human life.

Still, even abortions at less than 120 days come with restrictions. It’s important to note, though, that along with restrictions there are also allowances. These allowances, such as exceptions for rape or mental/physical incapacity, prove that the Islamic position on abortion is not black and white.

And beyond that, jurisprudential (fiqh) rulings on right and wrong, permissible and forbidden, are so immensely diverse that no one Muslim has the right to declare that the ruling they follow is universally applicable.

Regardless of the permissibility of abortion, though, there’s one right of Muslim women that’s of key importance here. And that is their right to spiritual autonomy. Muslims, of any gender, are answerable to God as God’s sentient creation. They are answerable as individuals for their own decisions, actions and choices.

Muslim women therefore have the God-given right and autonomy to make their own spiritual and moral decisions. And whether or not we like it, that includes a woman’s right to make mistakes. It includes her right to make choices that others may see as Islamically wrong. It includes her right to use her own judgment to arrive at a decision of her choosing – even if that decision is one that an imam, Twitter sheikh or aunty might frown upon.

The consequences of that decision are a matter between the woman and God.

But while the ummah remains ever forgiving of men, affording them 70 excuses before passing judgment, women’s behaviour and choices continue to be relentlessly policed.

Unfortunately, with the seemingly ubiquitous online presence of trad Muslims, what we’re also seeing among Muslims is a growing antagonism towards feminism and women’s rights by extension. As part of this, I’ve also noticed a ‘Jordan Peterson-ification’ of Muslims, observable in men ranging from random Muslim incels (Mincels) online to prominent speakers and scholars.

When situated within this context, some of the current Muslim discourse around Roe v. Wade being overturned is unsurprising.

Along with denying the need for access to abortion, these Muslims are likely the same ones who support marital rape, demonise women seeking divorce, and shame women for not wearing, or not wearing the right sort of, hijab. The common thread tying these views together is again a denial and deep-seated hatred of women’s autonomy.

Ultimately, abortion is an intensely personal experience. It demands both empathy and respect for the bodily and spiritual autonomy to which women are wholly entitled. That empathy and respect can be manifested in giving choices to people who are pregnant, including the ability to access safe abortions. Because banning abortions doesn’t stop them – it only causes people to turn to riskier, more unsafe practices.

Back in 2018, when the Eighth Amendment banning abortion was repealed in Ireland, Muslims on Twitter were similarly expressing views against abortion. At the time, I had tweeted that “Women having the autonomy and freedom to make their own moral and spiritual decisions is 100% an Islamic value”.

Four years later, at least in some Muslim circles, the discourse on abortion seems to only have taken a turn for the worse.

The most heartbreaking part, perhaps, is that in 2022 women’s bodies continue to be controlled and instrumentalised by patriarchal institutions. And I can hardly think of anything more un-Islamic than that.

Afroze Fatima Zaidi is a writer, editor and journalist. She has a background in academia and writing for online platforms.

Follow her on Twitter: @afrozefz.

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

Source: alaraby.co.uk

A Muslim woman’s thoughts on the overturning of Roe v. Wade