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Many Religious Freedom Law Opponents Would Force Participation in Abortion

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

There’s a secret underneath Boycott Indiana’s false rhetoric about that state’s new religious freedom law: some of those involved also want to force you to help purchase and perform abortions.


Opponents of Indiana’s law (known as “RFRA”) say it discriminates, but neither it nor any of the nation’s 20 other RFRA laws mentions sexual orientation. They just create a general standard where religious claims sometimes win and sometimes lose.

To justify calling RFRA “anti-gay,” its opponents radically redefine discrimination without saying so. The ACLU campaigns to “end the use of religion to discriminate.” But read the fine print, and you’ll see they mean that if the government forces you to help or fund someone else’s choice related to sex, and you say no, you have committed “discrimination.”

Thus the ACLU says we must “end” a hospital or doctor’s office decision to “deny” performing someone’s “abortion.” It is likewise “discrimination” to refuse to help “same-sex couples planning their weddings.”

Most people reject this bizarre idea. If you don’t help someone else’s abortion or same-sex ceremony, you haven’t discriminated; you’ve exercised your own freedom. RFRA opponents know that people don’t accept this redefinition, so they simply don’t tell people that when they accuse RFRAs of discrimination they’ve changed the meaning of the word so they can coerce some people to help other people’s “choices.”

All the major activist groups that promote abortion or redefining marriage join the ACLU in their attempt to force people to participate in abortions and same-sex ceremonies. Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups, which define all abortions as health care, heralded a joint statement one year ago with the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, and many related groups. They condemned all “religious objections to discriminate,” or those that “deny health care,” as all being “cut from the same dangerous cloth.”


The statement is an open air pact between the two movements. It says, we’ll help you force people to assist with abortions if you help us force people to participate in ceremonies that, like abortion, utterly conflict with their most deeply held faith convictions.

This coalition is already succeeding in some legislatures. Just a few weeks ago, the District of Columbia passed two companion laws that would force Catholic schools to hire teachers who reject the Church’s teaching on marriage, and pro-life non-profit organizations to hire people who actively reject their position against abortion.

Unless Congress and the president disapprove these bills, the federal RFRA is the best chance to protect religious and pro-life groups from being forced by their political opponents to contradict their reason for existence.

Meanwhile, Oregon and Washington are considering laws that would force employers to cover late-term elective abortions in health insurance. California bureaucrats imposed the same policy a few months ago—and didn’t even exempt churches.

At a recent Brookings Institution forum, I asked how the movements to promote abortion and the redefinition of marriage can partner to force people to assist with abortions and to participate in same-sex ceremonies when throughout the country laws prohibit such coercion. HRC’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, responded that only clergy can object to “performing gay weddings”—everyone else must provide any “service that goes towards the wedding ceremony.”


HRC’s position is belied by recent efforts in Idaho and Houston, Texas, to punish pastors for their positions on marriage, but even on its face it’s bad enough. And its argument is consistent with the abortion giant Planned Parenthood’s. Together these organizations would repeal decades of laws that insist no one can be forced either to “perform” or to “counsel, suggest, recommend, assist, or in any way participate” in abortion or, in the case of the federal and state RFRAs, violate their religious convictions.

Everyone opposes discrimination. But the public will soon find some Easter eggs inside the basket of many of the organizations supporting Boycott Indiana: a redefinition of discrimination to force people to assist with abortions and same-sex ceremonies. RFRAs are the best defense against their coercive agenda.

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