Helen Alvare

Planned Parenthood’s war on women’s well-being

Helen Alvare
By Helen Alvare
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December 12, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Following President Obama’s re-election, the HHS mandate requiring most religious institutions to provide health insurance that covers “free” contraception, sterilization, and morning- and week-after pills is still on the books. Despite the strong outcry against the mandate, the Obama presidential campaign continued to ratchet up the pressure on religious conscientious objectors during the summer and fall of 2012.

HHS Secretary Sebelius’s “war on women” motif was carried seamlessly into campaign advertisements for Obama’s re-election. Female voters in targeted states were treated to ads exhorting them to “Vote like your lady parts depend on it. Because they kinda do.”

Most revealing was a TV ad featuring actress Lena Dunham, who stars in a show about the sex lives of unmarried women. Comparing voting for Obama to losing one’s virginity, she closes with the suggestion that it’s “super uncool to be out and about and someone says, ‘Did you…’ and you say ‘No I wasn’t ready.’” She adds, “Before I was a girl, now I was a woman.” Voting for Obama, apparently, is akin to great sex.

The result is an administration—led by men, but fronted by women—blatantly in favor of the view that to be “for women” (and to be super cool), you should support casual sex and the free contraception that facilitates it. The Obama campaign’s real message about the HHS mandate translates as follows: If you object to coercing religious institutions into sponsoring free contraception, you are no friend to women.

An Alliance Against Religious Freedom

This is an unprecedented type of campaign against religious liberty in the United States. It is characterized by a formidable alliance, bolstered by money, power, and market branding, between the White House and so-called “women’s advocates,” in particular Planned Parenthood. Despite emerging legal questions about Medicaid fraud, and its unapologetic cheerleading for legal abortion, Planned Parenthood remains a powerful brand as a “women’s advocate.” Obama frequently associates himself with it by name.

Little surprise that Planned Parenthood receives hundreds of millions of dollars from federal and state governments; in 2009-2010, such grants and reimbursements totaled nearly $475 million.

The Obama administration has also deployed its Department of Justice (or withheld Medicaid payments) to states whose legislatures have re-directed their family planning funds away from local Planned Parenthoods in favor of providers without an abortion connection. Returning the favor, Planned Parenthood spent $15 million pushing for Obama’s re-election.

Any American citizen or institution that visibly opposes this powerful alliance might realistically worry about its future. This is new for Christians in America. In decades past, only the most extremist abortion interest groups—e.g., Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League—visibly denounced the beliefs and practices of Christian churches regarding human sexuality, marriage, and family. But today, these groups command the prime-time podium at the Democratic National Convention, and count the president of the United States as their closest political ally.

Christianity’s Challenge to the Alliance

Faced with this alignment, religious citizens and institutions cannot win protection of their freedom merely by petitioning the government for wider “exemptions” from laws the government has headlined as “progress toward women’s equality.” This is definitely not a good place for Christians to be. In this situation, it is not even enough to win lawsuits (as I suspect the plaintiffs ultimately will) that require the government, under either or both the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to grant larger exemptions. This is necessary but not sufficient.

Instead, for the good of women and the good of society, Christians must engage in a hard conversation: what does women’s freedom truly include? Christian citizens, Catholics in particular, must explain why their witness on contraception contributes to, and doesn’t derogate, women’s long-term flourishing. These conversations must certainly deal with the world as it is—culturally, politically—but can never forget to speak of the world as it ought to be, the world parents hope to leave to their daughters and sons.

Christian churches need to be frank about what they are proposing concerning sex, parenting, and marriage. They shouldn’t hide the ball; that rightly infuriates people. And they should especially remember those people who often slip through the cracks, who are forgotten or ignored by the alliance of Planned Parenthood and the federal government: our poorest and least educated fellow citizens who suffer the most from the loss of a healthy marriage culture.

In this spirit, I propose that we consider the positions of the government and of the Catholic Church (which has the most developed literature) on contraception, with a practical eye for how to persuade our political leaders and fellow citizens that, even as the government keeps providing contraception through its own programs, it should allow religious witness on contraception to live, lighting a different path that some may wish to follow.

While the Catholic position on contraception is primarily considered from this point forward, it should be noted that many Evangelical Protestants have come to respect, admire, and embrace Catholic concerns and even convictions respecting a contraceptive mentality.

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The Planned Parenthood-Government Case for Contraception

Planned Parenthood and the government argue for larger and more aggressive birth control programs, even at the expense of religious freedom, along the following lines: Contraception can prevent pregnancy, and women need and want to avoid pregnancy for many years of their lives. Having a child “changes everything.” Your life (your heart, your schedule, your bank account, etc.) is now in someone else’s hands. Pregnancy itself, in fact, can in some instances risk a woman’s health, or interfere with her long-term personal, professional, and financial goals.

Children impact women’s life course uniquely. One can argue endlessly about whether this is due to women’s biochemical makeup, or whether it is socially constructed, but the bottom line is that unmarried mothers take custody of the children in over 81 percent of cases. And mothers are far more likely than fathers to adjust (or want to adjust) their work schedules to allow for more time with their children. Even if a woman chooses abortion over birth, it is she who will bear the lion’s share of abortion’s physical, emotional, and spiritual costs, not the father.

Add to this the fact that today’s women become sexually active in their late teens or early twenties, but do not marry until their late twenties. Even after they marry, American women do not generally want more than two children. Consequently, women are sexually active for many years, but hoping to avoid pregnancy.

In sum, when it comes to contraception’s cost and availability, considering how crucial is the difference between being pregnant and not being pregnant, between mothering and not mothering—whether because abortion is hard, or because raising a child is a lifelong project—easy access to low-cost contraception seems a basic necessity.

Reasonably Refuting the Case for Contraception

Confronted by this chain of thought, how does any person or entity, religious or not, begin to suggest that it’s reasonable to oppose contraception, and instead promote sexual restraint; stable, lasting marriages; and a more generous disposition toward having children? This three-part series will attempt to outline a response.

A preliminary note: As regards “contraceptive” drugs and devices that really act to destroy an already-formed embryo (morning- and week-after pills, depending upon the woman’s cycle), religious institutions are not likely, relatively speaking, to have trouble gaining public support for their conscientious objection. This could change in the future, but at the present time, people still generally draw a moral line between preventing conception and destroying an already-conceived life. There is even an easy feminist case for doing so. Consider the oft-repeated admonition of feminist author Germaine Greer in her book The Whole Woman: “Whether you feel that the creation and wastage of so many embryos is an important issue or not, you must see that the cynical deception of millions of women by selling abortifacients as if they were contraceptives is incompatible with the respect due to women as human beings.”

Educating about the potential post-conception abortion-effects of morning and week-after drugs is vital. The harder task, however, is objecting to the provision of contraception itself, and proposing in its place another disposition toward sex and children. How to make the case before an audience who would not begin to engage the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of the issue revealed even in brilliantly executed (not to mention prescient) documents such as Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body? Both sources have enough intellectual firepower to reach beyond the faithful to the skeptical, but most citizens are unlikely, ever, to read them.

How to make the case in a context where objections to widespread contraception have no serious purchase on either political party? (I refer to past political support for government-promoted, large-scale contraception programs, not legal access to contraception. No church seeks a legal ban upon contraception, which has been declared a constitutional right since Griswold v. Connecticut.) It should be remembered that Republican president George H.W. Bush was crowned “rubbers Bush” by his colleagues in Congress for his untiring interest in reducing poverty through government-sponsored birth-control programs, and that Richard Nixon’s administration famously produced the National Security Study Memorandum 200, which recommended similar programs as part of US national security strategy.

Democrats’ support for massive contraceptive programs today, both at home and abroad, and even at the cost of religious freedom, is different for the most part only in its insistence that its goal is first, and only, a “woman’s rights” agenda, not a population or national security agenda.

Still, even in the face of such obstacles, there are good reasons to hope that the public isn’t totally deaf to a new way of thinking about women’s freedom as regards human sexuality and contraception.

First, the churches are no longer in the position of making a “theoretical/what might happen” argument. The nation now has both lived experience, and data amassed, over the last fifty years of the so-called sexual revolution. Dissatisfaction has surfaced. It is a stunning (and comforting) reality that so long after its origins, this revolution still attracts so much criticism.

Second, women on both sides of the argument agree that women’s equality and flourishing are necessary, even while they disagree on how to achieve these goals. We have known this to be true in principle, but today it has become increasingly obvious in fact. Many of the most ardent opponents of the HHS mandate and of the sexual revolution’s effects are women.

Consider, for example, the eminent historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s Feminism is Not the Story of My Life and Mary Eberstadt’s Adam and Eve After the Pill. Think of the nine female scholars, lawyers, and doctors who have written in my new volume Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves and the more than 36,000 women who have signed the open letter “Women Speak for Themselves,” openly challenging the administration’s choice to burden religious freedom for the sake of a false conception of female freedom. (I started the petition with a friend, Kim Daniels; it spread wildly beyond the three dozen women we initially contacted.)

In light of these signs of hope, as well as the previously described obstacles, how does one make a plausible case against axiomatically linking contraception with women’s freedom? That will be the topic of my next two essays.

Helen Alvaré is associate professor at George Mason University School of Law and a senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com


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The Romanian Orthodox Church's Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest Wikimedia Commons
Bogdan Stanciu

Romanian news outlet sanctioned for discrimination in attacking pro-life initiative

Bogdan Stanciu
By Bogdan Stanciu

BUCHAREST, Romania -- A decision of CNCD, Romania's Council Against Discrimination, has recently become definitive, recognizing the right to dignity of all Orthodox Christians in the country.

Last year, PRO VITA Association - Bucharest branch, one of the main nonprofits in Romania defending life, family and religious liberty, filed an official complaint with the Council, showing that a blog post dated May 17, 2013 and hosted on the Adevarul.ro platform prejudiced the image of Christian Orthodox believers.

The article, signed "Alex Dumitriu," challenged the support given by the Romanian Orthodox Church to the “One of Us” European initiative, which required a ban on public funding for the destruction of embryos during research and medical procedures.

The blog post described the Romanian Orthodox Church as an “anti-human, criminal and anti-life organization, whose purpose is spreading suffering and abjectness, mysticism and ignorance for their own profit.”

The applicant argued that these allegations created a degrading and hostile atmosphere for Orthodox Christians in Romania, thus harming a whole community.

The Council agreed that the affirmations in the article referred to both the clerics and the simple believers and discriminated against the Christian Orthodox community. It concluded it was discrimination, infringing upon the right to dignity granted to persons of Christian Orthodox confession.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

The council cited the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that freedom of expression is not an absolute right in Europe, carrying with it duties and responsibilities. Also, the Adevarul.ro platform was fined a symbolic sum of 2,000 RON (approximately 445 EUR).

It is for the first time in Romania that a media institution is sanctioned for discriminating against Christians.

As a brand, the Adevarul newspaper has continued the tradition of a title established in the 19th century, but after 1989 it took over the infrastructure and human resources of the recently-deceased communist newspaper Scanteia, the official propaganda channel of the Romanian Communist Party. Today it has also developed Adevarul.ro, an online platform that is one of the most popular media channels in Romania.

Adevarul.ro has recently made it a habit of harassing the Romanian Orthodox Church with almost daily frequency, presenting negative aspects in the church and tendentious articles of opinion about this institution and about Creationism and Christianity in general, in what looks more and more like an ideological guerrilla warfare.


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Paul Russell

Nitschke heads a suicide cult that must be stopped

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell

Following The Australian's news story today about another young life lost that was related to Philip Nitschke and the Exit organisation, senior journalist, Angela Shanahan says that Nitschke and Exit must be stopped.

Shanahan opens: 

PHILIP Nitschke, contrary to his claims as an advocate of euthanasia for the terminally ill, is the chief mover of something resembling a suicide cult.

The case histories of Lucas Taylor, 26, and Joe Waterman, 25, who committed suicide after being in contact with Nitschke’s group, Exit, leave little doubt of that.

Lucas Taylor was the subject of the other article in today's paper while Joe Waterman's story was covered earlier in the ABCs 7:30 Report that created the original furore leading to the medical board suspending Nitschke's practicing licence today.

Covering the information Judi Taylor found on her son's computer after his death the story adds: 

His heartbroken mother realised that her son was not the only young person on this site. Nor was anyone on the site interested in the motivation for his thoughts of suicide, nor in helping Lucas to overcome his feelings.

“They were only interested in the ‘endgame’,” she said, including detailed advice about where and when and how to go about it.

Again, this destroys any pretence that Nitschke and Exit are only involved in advising sick and dying people about how to commit suicide. This is a macabre and clandestine death industry. Hope joins with Angela Shanahan in calling for this organisation to be stopped and is joined now in our call for a National Inquiry into Exit and other euthanasia organisations by the mothers of both of the young men mentioned in this article.

Shanahan closes by saying: Nitschke’s claim of political persecution is risible. He and his organisation must be stopped.

Reprinted with permission from NoEuthanasia.org.au.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

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Leaving the Matrix: what is the cost of conversion?

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By Hilary White

What do you do when you decide to leave a sexually disordered lifestyle? What do you do, when all the people you have contact with, all your friends, even your family, have accepted and embraced a way of living and thinking about life that you have realized is harmful, psychologically and morally destructive, and which you know you must leave? What is the cost of conversion?

We can easily get caught up in the tumult of the ever-escalating legal, political, and cultural war against the traditional worldview and anthropology, so much that we forget that the “issue” is about real, individual human beings and how they should, concretely, order their lives. We culture warriors must remember that what we are asking people to do is difficult, that it can incur huge sacrifice and loss and will often require enormous upheaval and change. We are asking people to leave not only a “lifestyle” of sexual activity, but an entire world, populated with family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and an entire global culture that embraces and aggressively promotes it.

I include not only the experience of leaving the “gay lifestyle,” but of leaving a worldview, a cultural paradigm that accepts and promotes sexual license of any kind in general. It is more than the questions surrounding the so-called “ex-gay” movement, and more than the issue of living chastely in an increasingly sexually obsessed world.

How ought a person who experiences same-sex attraction react when it begins to dawn on him that, for whatever reason, he cannot continue to live according to the world’s paradigm? We know how the homosexualist movement says he ought to react, and we know that the secular world (nearly all the world, therefore) is in more or less complete agreement. He should reject such self-negating thoughts. He should embrace his “orientation” and start to seek out same-sex sexual relationships, and carry on in the way that they tell us life is now normally lived.

He should engage in sexual encounters with various people, sometimes setting up “relationships” for varying lengths of time, breaking up, moving on, finding someone else, perhaps cohabitating, and maybe, some day, “settling down” with one person, either in “marriage,” or not, as the mood strikes. This is what the world now presents to us as normal. Nearly every television show and movie set in our times says this is just how people live nowadays. 

It is only too easy for those of us who live out here in The Real to forget how totally different our lives are from that of the majority of our fellow men. We shout, “jump!” because we see a whole other lush, green and happy world, but they see nothing but the shadows on the cave wall.

But those few of us left who think this is not a very good way to live, that it is morally and psychologically destructive, have in large part to forge our own way in life, figure out a set of rules and standards to live by alone, all the while fighting the pressure to conform. Even for those of us not plagued by sexual feelings towards people of the same sex it isn’t easy.

It is particularly not easy for those of us who have decided later in life to try to embrace a different path, but who had previously followed the world’s advice, and who had never known any other way of living. What does it take to totally change a worldview, a method of organizing one’s life and all social relationships? How hard is it to reinvent a way of life that the world has not only abandoned, but aggressively rejected and condemned?

The cost will usually be, at least, the loss of nearly all one’s friends, sometimes even very close friends. Very often it will include alienating, sometimes permanently, one’s own family. Since the Sexual Revolution’s paradigm has now been embraced by three or four or more generations, it will often mean alienation from parents and siblings.

It will sometimes mean the loss of good relations with co-workers and colleagues, and sometimes even the loss of jobs and careers. I know a man, a previously highly respected author, who was totally rejected by the entire literary establishment of his home country, a heavily secular nation, when he embraced Catholicism, including its sexual moral teachings. He told me that he expected he would never be published again outside the Catholic niche press. None of his previous friends would speak to him and for the first two years his mother had refused to take his calls.

He had been asked again and again why, if he felt he had to become a Christian, he could not have become an Anglican. And why this “sudden obsession” with “outdated” and “retrograde” sexual morality? He said that, in essence, he was treated as he would have been in the 19th century had he “come out” as a homosexual. Chastity, in other words, is the new perversion.

It is a momentous decision to leave that world, and people who make that transition compare it to leaving the Matrix: a painful, shocking and revelatory experience of a totally new and previously unguessed-at world that can leave the person disoriented, feeling as though he is now living in a kind of “parallel universe” in which he is alone and alienated from friends and family and fellow citizens.

There is an increasing number of us “converts” to a more morally sane life, who often find that once we have made the transition we are alone again. And even when we find others, a new community and friends – usually in a church – we learn that we must keep the door to the past closed. It’s not that we fear rejection, far from it, and it is not even a matter of shame.

But we understand that in a civilized society, no one wants to hear about barbarity, and we learn that to keep our past life closely in mind is to allow it to continue to rule the present. Close friends will know about our past, but, outside the most intimate circles it is passed over silently. We have reinvented ourselves and moved on, but the price is sometimes to become people with no past. To be wholly remade, it is necessary to leave behind the person we were.

It works. I can say that it is possible to be radically morally rebuilt, that one can reconstruct an entire personality, consciously dismantle past habits of thought and approach to life and replace them with better ones. The damage from the previous life, whether physical or psychological, can be permanent, but it is possible to construct a way of living that is morally and psychologically and physically healthy, and reorder a life in such a way that the damage does not rule your present. 

But it’s expensive. For me, it started when I was still living in British Columbia. I felt something new beginning in my mind and felt a yearning spring up that could not be satisfied by anything I’d experienced… the usual convert’s tale.

I’d been aware all my life that the kind of world we lived in, and the kind of life we lived in it, was somehow just not right. I loved old films and television shows that depicted a totally different way of living. I was close to my grandparents and wondered why we no longer lived that way. When I moved to the mainland in my early 20s, I somehow started going to Mass again, and that was when the real struggle began. I knew full well that the way I lived and thought about life was deeply at odds with the Church.

But I was alone. None of my friends were Catholic and none of them could begin to understand what it was I had begun to talk about. And I had made no friends at the large inner city parish I attended. I had tried to join a few things, and had volunteered a bit, but I could see that I had nothing in common with them. It seemed as though these people lived in another universe, one I could not even want to enter. A priest suggested I get involved in the pro-life movement, and I rejected this idea out of hand as totally absurd.

I thought I could only ask God for help. I prayed for “Catholic friends.” This brought no change, so I scaled down and said, “All right then, just one. Just one Catholic friend.” In the end, I simply got up and left one day. I’ve written elsewhere that I just got in a car and went “on holiday” out east, and never returned. When I landed in the far-eastern Canadian town where I was to undertake my own radical conversion, I only stopped there because I had run out of continent.

And it was there I discovered a whole new world, a moral universe of whose existence I had been previously totally ignorant. I met my “Catholic friends,” and was able to start the painful task of first deconstructing and then rebuilding my entire worldview, my character, my beliefs, my total understanding of life, the universe, and everything.

“Painful”? I barely survived. It took a year but I emerged a new kind of person in a new kind of world that I had never suspected existed. I met a group of other people who had undergone the same experience and we traded war stories. We agreed that it was like living in a parallel universe, and we bonded over the loss of previous friendships and family relationships. We helped each other, this little group of Catholic refugees on the rain-washed East Coast, to figure out a way to live in a world to which we no longer belonged. 

We talk about the programs set up by various individuals and groups that propose to help people, (mainly men) leave the homosexual lifestyle. We defend the right of psychotherapists to offer healing and help for people who have been damaged by their own choices and by the violence and sins of others. We lobby our Parliaments, we write articles, we even argue in comment boxes on the internet. We sometimes get brave and give talks and engage in public debates where we confront our ideological opponents in public venues. In all this, we rightly speak against the New Paradigm that the world has embraced and we urge people to reject it. It’s a form of evangelization.

But I think we need to keep in mind, while we are doing this good work, that what we are asking people to do, concretely, is momentous. Indeed, from the point of view of heaven, it is of cosmic significance. In less exalted terms, however, we are asking something almost unimaginably difficult of people ensnared in a way of living and thinking that they may not even completely understand themselves.

So much of our anti-culture, our death-culture, has been simply absorbed unconsciously, so much of it has been fed to us with our Fruit Loops and Saturday Morning Cartoons from earliest childhood, that we often have no way of knowing anything else exists. We have become people trapped in Plato’s Cave, knowing only the vaguest shadows of reality.

It is only too easy for those of us who live out here in The Real to forget how totally different our lives are from that of the majority of our fellow men. We shout, “jump!” because we see a whole other lush, green and happy world, but they see nothing but the shadows on the cave wall.

Ultimately, the Matrix is not only unreal, it is designed to make men miserable, but in such a way that they are hardly aware of being miserable. It not only enslaves, but tortures its victims. There is a reason that suicide, divorce, drug use, violent crime, self-harm, eating disorders, depression, … misery, in short, have grown to such colossal proportions in our societies.

If I may make a suggestion, maybe we could start writing and talking about how much better it is to live in The Real. How much happier it is possible to be when living a morally integrated life of self-control, not being pushed around either by lust or by the merciless demands of a lust-worshipping culture...a life of real freedom, in other words. It might help make the jump less frightening.


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