Female autonomy rooted in Christianity

by Abby Nye

Last week, President Trump made the decision to allow employers to choose whether or not they would provide free birth control through insurance for female employees. This decision was made to accommodate for employers’ religious beliefs, according to ABC News’ article, “Women’s health docs say Trump ignores birth control science”. What employers decide to do will say a lot about how the church views female autonomy. If many employers decided to take away that right to free birth control, it will be a nod toward the controlling tendency of a few church members over women’s rights. Autonomy is defined as acting on reasons that are one’s own, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Trump’s recent act provides employers with the right to take away a woman’s choice of contraception, and therefore her autonomy.

The decision is related to the one Whitworth President Beck Taylor made last spring to end Whitworth’s affiliation with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides free and accessible birth control to women without insurance. Both the national and school decision are reflections of how the church views female autonomy. President Taylor claimed that making the Planned Parenthood decision didn’t reflect the school’s opinion on female autonomy, but was a reflection of the church’s popular view against abortion.

Degrading a medical center that caters to the independent choices of women speaks to the underlying sexism pervasive in the Christian church. Similarly, Trump’s decision potentially prevents women from being able to make an independent and personal decision on the basis of religious beliefs. Both decisions reveal the popular fear the church has of female autonomy. If free birth control is one aspect of female autonomy, we must look at what it would mean to take it away, especially within a church context. To me, this decision is a direct refutation of the way that Jesus viewed women.

In Genesis 1:27 we are given the image of the creation of man and woman, both created equally in the image of God. In John 8, we see Jesus defending a woman who committed adultery. In John 4, Jesus calls a Samaritan woman to go and preach his word. In Luke 8, Jesus heals a woman who is debilitated with a reproductive ailment, and raises a young girl from the dead. Time and time again, we are provided examples of female equality, empowerment and autonomy supported by Jesus himself.  

Before any decision is made on behalf of all women on the basis of religious beliefs, it is imperative to understand where these beliefs come from. If it were really a decision made to accommodate for the church, then women should be provided with the choice of all medical decisions, especially her own birth control option. This decision seems to have been made to give more control to male government officials, and out of fear for female autonomy. Let us not forget that Jesus himself was the divine advocate for female autonomy and empowerment, and our decisions as Christians should be modeled after him.

Contact Abby Nye at anye19@my.whitworth.edu