Folks insisted that the sun revolves around the earth until science came along and straightened them out. It was the same with flat earth proponents, even though Flat Earth Society stubbornly—if not jokingly—holds its ground. However, religious opponents of birth control access and safe abortion have seemingly unlimited capacity to overlook the evidence. Witness Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) outrageous claim that when it comes to pregnancy following rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” as if Rep. Akin—a member of the U. S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology—was absent the day of that sex education lesson. The Congressman recanted, but religious people nevertheless continue to fight to enshrine their beliefs as public policy, science notwithstanding.
As a rabbi, I recognize the truth in science, just as my denomination and many other religious groups have long taught us to do. Part of being religious is the call to reconcile faith and the evidence, even when the domains conflict. Nevertheless, many politicians insist that religion automatically trumps science, no matter what. So when it comes to flat earth gone to Congress, it really is time “to shut that whole thing down.”
Let’s look at some other issues and go on record with the facts:
Emergency contraception DOES NOT cause abortion
Emergency contraception also known as the morning after pill does NOT cause abortion nor does it interfere with an established pregnancy. Emergency contraception is “contraception,” just like the label says. Any pastor, like me, has been called upon to refer women to Planned Parenthood, a pharmacy or a doctor for this safe form of birth control. Taken as soon as possible after a sexual assault or failure of birth control, it prevents pregnancy because it is contraception. The issue here is that birth control opponents are trying to re-define emergency contraception as a so-called “abortifacient.” If they succeed, our nation will take another incremental and troubling step toward enshrining a religious restriction and banishing an important resource for women.
Abortion DOES NOT cause breast cancer
The Guttmacher Institute cites exhaustive reviews concluding that there is NO association between abortion and breast cancer, nor is there any indication that abortion is a risk factor for other cancers. This myth gets plenty of play—I recently heard it from a religious abortion opponent offering testimony at a legislative hearing.
Abortion DOES NOT cause depression
Repeated studies have concluded that abortion does NOT pose a hazard to a woman’s mental health. The reasons women give for ending pregnancy demonstrate their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life; they take this decision seriously. What is more, through my work as a pastor, I have seen no link between abortion and depression. If anything, the majority of women, post-abortion, say through words or actions, “My pregnancy wasn’t right for me. I took the decision seriously and came to the conclusion that was best for me and my loved ones.”
Sex education for teens DOES NOT increase sexual activity
The evidence shows that comprehensive sex education does NOT make teens more likely to become sexually active and it does not increase sexual activity. If anything, the opposite: Comprehensive sex education programs delay sexual activity, reduce the amount of activity and reduce the number of partners. Sex education also increases condom and contraceptive use. As a pastor and counselor to teens and their families, I know how teens want, deserve and really need the truth.
So let’s accept the science. The earth is round. It revolves around the sun. And when it comes to today’s flat earthers gone to Congress, when it comes to religious distortions of scientific health care findings, it’s time to come out with the evidence and “shut that whole thing down.”