Jennifer Fulwiler

Why my support for abortion was based on love…and lies

Jennifer Fulwiler
By Jennifer Fulwiler
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January 24, 2013 (NCRegister) - When I was younger, I was always particularly shocked when I heard about societies where it was common to abandon or kill unwanted newborns. In college I once read a particularly graphic description of a family in ancient Greece "discarding" a newborn baby girl. I was shocked to the point of breathlessness. I was also horribly confused: How could normal people be okay with this, let alone participate in it? Nobody I knew would do that! Were people that different back then?!

Because of my deep distress at hearing of things like this, I found it really irritating when pro-lifers would refer to abortion as "killing babies." Obviously, none of us pro-choice folks were in favor of killing babies; to imply otherwise, in my mind, was an insult to the babies throughout history who actually were killed by their insane societies. We weren't in favor of killing anyone. We simply felt like women had the right to stop the growth process of a fetus if she faced an unwanted pregnancy. Sure, it was unfortunate since fetuses had potential to be babies one day, and we recognized that there was something special about that. But, alas, that was a sacrifice that had to be made in the name of not making women slaves to their bodies.

I continued to be vehemently pro-choice after college. Though my views became more moderate once I had a child of my own, I was still pro-choice. But as my husband and I began a religious search that led us to Christianity, we were increasingly put on the defensive about our views. One day my husband was re-evaluating his own pro-choice ideas, and he made a passing remark that startled me. He said:

"It just occurred to me that being pro-life is being pro-other-people's-lives. Everyone is pro-their-own-life."

It made me realize that my pro-choice viewpoints were putting me in the position of deciding who is and is not human, and whose lives are worth living. I (along with doctors, the government, or other abortion advocates) decided where to draw this very important line. When I would come across claims that life begins at conception, I would scoff. Yet I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with my defense:

"A few cells is obviously not a baby, or even a human life!" I would sneer to myself. "Fetuses eventually become full-fledged humans, but not until, umm, like, six months gestation or something. Or maybe five months? When is it that they can kick their legs and stuff?...Nine weeks?! No, they’re not human then, those must be involuntary spasms..."

I was putting the burden of proof on the fetuses to demonstrate to me that they were human, and I was a tough judge. I found myself looking the other way when I heard that 3D ultrasounds showed "fetuses" touching their faces, smiling and opening their eyes at ages at which I still considered abortion okay. Babies -- I mean, fetuses -- seen yawning at 12 weeks gestation? Involuntary spasm. As modern technology helped fetuses offer me more and more evidence that they were human too, I would simply move the bar of what I considered human.

I realized that my definition of how and when a "fetus" became a "person," when he or she begins to have rights, also depended on his or her level of health: The length of time in which I considered it okay to terminate a pregnancy lengthened as the severity of disability increased ("I wouldn't be comfortable with abortion after 26 weeks, unless the fetus had a disability," I once said). It was with a sickening feeling in my stomach that I realized that, under the premise of wanting to spare the potential child from suffering, I was basically saying that disabled babies had fewer rights -- were less human -- than able-bodied ones.

At some point I started to feel like I was more determined to be pro-choice than I was to honestly analyze who was and was not human. And I saw it in others in the pro-choice community as well. On more than one occasion I was stunned to the point of feeling physically ill upon reading of what otherwise nice, reasonable people in the pro-abortion camp would support.

In reading through the Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart, I read that Dr. Leroy Carhart, an abortion advocate who actually performs the procedures, described some second-trimester abortions by saying, "[W]hen you pull out a piece of the fetus, let's say, an arm or a leg and remove that, at the time just prior to removal of the portion of the fetus...the fetus [is] alive." He said that he has observed fetal heartbeat via ultrasound with "extensive parts of the fetus removed."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which presumably consists of well-educated, reasonable, intelligent men and women, spoke out against this procedure. When I discovered their reasoning, I felt dizzy. They didn't oppose it because it's clearly infanticide in its most grisly form; they opposed it because of the inconvenience of dismembered body parts. In their amici brief to Stenberg, the ACOG explained in detail why they believe it's better to kill these babies outside the womb, in a procedure they refer to as "D&X":

D&X presents a variety of potential safety advantages over other abortion procedures used during the same gestational period. Compared to D&E's involving dismemberment, D&X involves less risk of uterine perforation or cervical laceration because it requires the physician to make fewer passes into the uterus with sharp instruments and reduces the presence of sharp fetal bone fragments that can injure the uterus and cervix.

There is also considerable evidence that D&X reduces the risk of retained fetal tissue, a serious abortion complication that can cause maternal death, and that D&X reduces the incidence of a 'free floating' fetal head that can be difficult for a physician to grasp and remove and can thus cause maternal injury.

I read the Court documents from Stenberg in a state of shock. A few years before, a friend of mine had her baby prematurely, and I had visited him in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He was so beautiful, just like the full-term newborns I’d seen, only smaller. Seeing him and the other babies lying there so peacefully in their incubators, I was overwhelmed with feelings of wanting to protect these precious, innocent little babies. So I found myself in a state of cold shock that I was reading of people -- not just fringe crazies, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and some Supreme Court Justices -- casually speaking about the inconvenience of the severed heads and bone fragments of dismembered children ("fetuses") the same age as those babies in the NICU.

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It took my breath away to witness the level of evil that normal people can fall into supporting. They were talking about infanticide, but completely refused to label it as such. It was when I considered that these were educated, reasonable professionals who were probably not bad people that I realized that evil mainly works by getting good people to believe in lies. I also took a mental step back from the entire pro-choice movement. If this is what it meant to be "pro-choice," I was not pro-choice.

Yet I still couldn't bring myself to say I was pro-life.

I started to recognize that I was no better than Dr. Carhart or the concurring Justices or the author of the ACOG brief, that I too had probably told myself lies in order to maintain my support for abortion. Yet there was some tremendous pressure deep within me that kept me from truly, objectively looking at what was going on here. Something within me screamed that to not allow women to have abortions at least in the first trimester would be unfair in the most dire sense of the word.

It wasn't until I re-evaluated the societal views of sex that had permeated the consciousness of my peer group, took a new look at the modern assumptions about the act that creates those fetuses in the first place, that I was able to let go of that internal pressure I felt, and to take an unflinching look at abortion.

It all begins with sex

Here are four key memories that give a glimpse into how my understanding of human sexuality was formed:

  • When I was a kid, I didn’t have any friends who had baby brothers or sisters in their households. To the extent that I ever heard any neighborhood parents talk about pregnancy and babies, it was to say that they were happy that they were "done." Kids seemed like an optional add-on that a couple may or may not choose to add to their marriage, as long as they deemed that caring for offspring wouldn't ruin their ability to have fun together -- which was, as far as I could tell, the main purpose of marriage.
  • In sex ed class we learned not that sex creates babies, but that unprotected sex creates babies. After we were done putting condoms on bananas, our teacher counseled us that we should carefully decide when we might be ready to have sex based on important concerns like whether or not we were in committed relationships, whether or not we had access to contraception, how our girlfriends or boyfriends treated us, whether we wanted to wait until marriage, etc. I do not recall hearing readiness to have a baby being part of a single discussion about deciding when to have sex. Not one.
  • On multiple occasions when I was a young teen, I heard girls my age make the comment that they would readily risk dangerous back-alley abortions or even consider suicide if they were to face unplanned pregnancies and abortion wasn't legal. Though I was not sexually active, it sounded perfectly reasonable to me: That is how much we desired not to have babies before we were ready. Yet the concept of just not having sex if we weren't ready to have babies was never discussed. It's not that we had considered the idea and rejected it; it simply never occurred to us.
  • Even as recently as 2006, before our marriage was validated in the Catholic Church, my husband and I had to take a course about building good marriages. It was a video series by a nondenominational Christian group, and in the segment called "Good Sex" they did not mention children or babies once. In all the talk about bonding and back rubs and intimacy and the importance of staying in shape, the closest they came to connecting sex to new life was to say quickly that couples should discuss the topic of contraception.

Sex could not have been more disconnected from the concept of creating life.

The message I'd heard loud and clear was that the purpose of sex was for pleasure and bonding, that its potential for creating life was purely tangential, almost to the point of being forgotten about altogether. This mindset laid the foundation of my views on abortion. Because I saw sex as being closed to the possibility to life by default, I thought of pregnancies that weren't planned as akin to being struck by lightning while walking down the street: Something totally unpredictable, undeserved, that happened to people living normal lives.

For me, and for many others I knew, being pro-choice was actually motivated out of love: I didn't want women to have to suffer with these unwanted pregnancies that were so totally out of their control. Because it was an inherent part of my worldview that everyone except people with hang-ups eventually has sex, and that sex is, under normal circumstances, only about the relationship between the two people involved, I got lured into one of the oldest, biggest, most tempting lies in human history: To dehumanize the enemy. Babies had become the enemy because of their tendencies to pop up out of the blue and ruin everything; and just as societies are tempted to dehumanize the fellow human beings who are on the other side of the lines in wartime, so had I, and we as a society, dehumanized the enemy of sex.

It was when I was reading up on the Catholic view of sex and new life that everything changed.

I'd always thought that those archaic teachings about not using contraception were because the Church wanted to fill its coffers by pushing the faithful to have as many kids as possible, or something like that. What I found, however, was that their views expressed a fundamentally different understanding of what sex is. And once I heard it, I never saw the world the same way again.

The way I'd always seen it, the standard position was that babies are burdens, except for a couple times in life when everything is perfect enough that a couple might temporarily see new life as a good thing. The Catholic position is that new human life is always a good thing. They said that it's fine to attempt to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons, but warned that if we go so far as to adopt a "contraceptive mentality," feeling entitled to the pleasure of sex while loathing (and perhaps trying to forget all about) its life-giving properties, we not only disrespect this most sacred of acts, but we begin to see new life as the enemy.

I came to see that our culture's widespread use and acceptance of contraception had led to this mentality toward sex being the default position. As a society, we'd come to take it for granted that we're entitled to the pleasurable and bonding aspects of sex -- even when we're in a state of being vehemently opposed to any new life it might produce. The option of abstaining from the act that creates babies when we feel like we'd be unable to care for a baby had been removed from the cultural lexicon. Even if it would be a huge crisis to get pregnant, you have a right to have sex anyway, the cultural wisdom whispered.

If this were true -- if it was indeed morally okay for people to have sex even when they felt that a baby would ruin their lives -- then, in my mind, abortion had to be okay.

Ideally, I would have taken an objective look at when human life begins and based my views on that alone...but the lie was too tempting. I didn't want to hear about heartbeats or souls or brain activity. Terminating pregnancies just had to be okay: Carrying a baby to term and becoming a parent is a huge deal, and society had made it very clear that sex is not a huge deal. As long as I accepted that for people to engage in sex in a contraceptive mentality was morally okay, I could not bring myself even to consider that abortion might not be okay. It seemed inhumane to make women deal with life-altering consequences for an act that was not supposed to have life-altering consequences.

So this idea that we are always to treat the sexual act with awe and respect, so much so that we should abstain if we're vehemently opposed to its life-giving potential, was a radical, new message. For me, being able to consider honestly when life begins, to open my heart and my mind to the wonder and dignity of even the tiniest of my fellow human beings, was not fully possible until I understood the nature of the act that creates these little lives in the first place.

The great temptation

All of these thoughts had been percolating in my brain for a while, and I found myself increasingly in agreement with pro-life positions. Then one night I was reading something, and a certain thought occurred to me. From that moment on I was officially, unapologetically pro-life.

I was reading yet another account of the Greek societies in which newborn babies were abandoned to die, wondering to myself how normal people could possibly accept something like that. Then, a chill tore through my body as I thought:

I know how they did it.

I realized in that moment that perfectly good, well-meaning people -- people like me -- can support gravely evil things through the power of lies. From my own experience, I knew how the Greeks, the Romans, and people in every other society could put themselves into a mental state that they could leave a newborn child to die: The very real pressures of life -- "we can’t afford another baby," "there's no dowry for another girl," "this disability would overwhelm us" -- left them susceptible to that oldest of temptations: To dehumanize other human beings. Though the circumstances were different, it was the same process that had happened with me, with the concurring Supreme Court Justices in Stenberg v. Carhart, the abortion doctors, the entire pro-choice movement, and anyone else who's ever been tempted to dehumanize inconvenient people.

I imagine that as those Greek parents handed over their infants for someone to take away, they remarked on how very unlike their other children these little creatures were: They can't talk, they can't sit up. Surely those little yawns and smiles are just involuntary spasms. I bet you anything they justified their choices by referring to these babies with words that stripped them of their human dignity. Maybe they called them something like "fetuses," and walked away confident that the lives that had been taken were not really human at all.

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Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.


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Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

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Arguments don’t have genitals

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By Jonathon van Maren

“As soon as he grows his own uterus, he can have an opinion.”

That was a comment left on The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s Facebook page by a woman who presumably opposes men speaking out against misogyny, domestic abuse, rape culture, and female genital mutilation as well. Apparently, you see, male genitals disqualify people from speaking out on various human rights issues deemed by women who define themselves by their uteruses while protesting angrily against being defined by their uteruses as “women’s issues.”

Which abortion isn’t, by the way. It’s a human rights issue.

To break it down really simply for our confused “feminist” friends: Human beings have human rights. Human rights begin when the human being begins, or we are simply choosing some random and arbitrary point at which human beings get their human rights. If we do not grant human rights to all human beings, inevitably some sub-set of human beings gets denied protection by another group with conflicting interests. In this case, of course, it is the abortion crowd, who want to be able to kill pre-born children in the womb whenever they want, for any reason they want.

Science tells us when human life begins. Pro-abortion dogma is at worst a cynical manoeuvre to sacrifice the lives of pre-born human beings for self-interest, and at best an outdated view that collapsed feebly under the weight of new discoveries in science and embryology. But the abortion cabal wants to preserve their bloody status quo at all costs, and so they make ludicrous claims about needing a uterus to qualify for a discussion on science and human rights.

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In fact, feminists love it when men speak up on abortion, as long as we’re reading from their script, which is why the carnivorous feminists have such a support system among the Deadbeat Dads for Dead Babies set and the No Strings Attached Club.

Male abortion activists have even begun to complain about “forced fatherhood,” a new cultural injustice in which they are expected to bear some responsibility for fathering children with women they didn’t love enough to want to father children with, but did appreciate enough to use for sex. Casual fluid swaps, they whine, should not result in custody hearings.

This is not to mention a genuine social tragedy that has men forcing or pressuring women to have abortions or abandoning them when they discover that the woman is, indeed, pregnant.

Or the fact that abortion has assisted pimps, rapists, and misogynists in continuing the crimes of sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sex-selection abortion.

And coming against these disgusting trends are thousands of men in the pro-life movement who believe that shared humanity means shared responsibility, and that when the weak and vulnerable are robbed of their rights, we have to stand up and speak out.

We are not at all convinced by the feminist argument that people should think with their reproductive organs or genitals. We think that the number of people currently doing that has perhaps contributed to the problems we face. And we refuse to be told that protecting the human rights of all human beings is “none of our business” and “outside of our interests.”

Arguments don’t have genitals, feminists. It’s a stupid argument trying to protect a bloody ideology.

Reprinted with permission from CCBR.


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Rachel Daly

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Gvmt strikes UK Catholic school admission policy that prefers Mass attendees

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By Rachel Daly

St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Epsom, England, was ordered to change its admissions policy after it was ruled discriminatory by the nation's Office of Schools Adjudicator, according to Your Local Guardian. St. Joseph's reportedly had been granting preferred acceptance to students whose families attended Mass at the affiliated church.

St. Joseph’s School is for students from age 4 to 11 and describes itself as “enjoy[ing] a high level of academic success.” The school furthermore places high priority on its Catholic identity, affirming on its homepage that “We place prayer and worship at the center of everything we do.”

The school states in its current admissions policy that it was "set up primarily to serve the Catholic community in St Joseph’s Parish" and that when the applicant pool exceeds 60 students, its criteria for prioritizing students includes "the strength of evidence of practice of the faith as demonstrated by the level of the family's Mass attendance on Sundays." 

Opponents of this policy reportedly argue that since donations are asked for at Mass, it could allow donation amounts to influence acceptance, and that forcing non-accepted local students to seek education elsewhere imposes a financial burden upon their families. 

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As Your Local Guardian reports, the adjudicators dismissed claims that donation amounts were affecting school acceptance, given that it is impossible to track donations. Nonetheless, the adjudicators maintained that "discrimination ... potentially arises from requiring attendance at the church rather than residency in the parish."

The Office of Schools Adjudicators, according to its website, is appointed by the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State of Education, to perform such functions as mediating disputes over school acceptances. The Office's ruling on St. Joseph's will require the school to release a revised admissions policy, which is expected in the next few days.

Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.


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Carolyn Moynihan

African women at risk of HIV, hostages to birth control

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By Carolyn Moynihan

Which should be the priority for a health organisation: preventing an incurable disease, or preventing a natural function that might have adverse physical consequences?

Preventing the disease, you would think. But the World Health Organisation would rather expose African women to HIV-AIDS than withdraw its support from a suspect method of birth control, arguing that childbirth is also risky in Africa. Riskier, apparently, than the said contraceptive. And at least one of WHO’s major partners agrees.

This is one of the stories you will not have read in coverage of the International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne last week, despite the fact that WHO made an announcement about it during the conference and the findings of a highly relevant study were presented there.

The story is this: there is increasing evidence that the method of contraception preferred by family planning organisations working in Africa (and elsewhere) facilitates the transmission of HIV. The method is the progesterone injection in the form of either DMPA (Depo Provera, the most common) or NET-En (Noristerat).

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa receive the injection every three months. The method overcomes problems of access. It can be given by nurses or health workers. A wife need not bother her husband for any special consideration; the teenage girl need not remember to take a pill.

But for 30 years evidence has been accumulating that, for all its “effectiveness” in controlling the number of births, the jab may also be very effective in increasing the number of people with HIV.

Three years ago at another AIDS conference in Rome, researchers who had analysed data from a number of previous studies delivered the disturbing news that injectables at least doubled the risk of infection with HIV for women and their male partners.

That study had its weaknesses but one of the experts present in Rome, Charles Morrison of FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International, a family planning organisation that also works in AIDS prevention), considered it a “good study” and subsequently led another meta-analysis that addressed some of the issues with previous research.

Last week at the Melbourne conference he presented the results. His team had re-analysed raw data on the contraceptive use of more than 37,000 women in 18 prospective observational studies. Of these women, 28 percent reported using DMPA, 8 percent NET-En, 19 percent a combined oral contraceptive pill, and 43 percent no form of hormonal contraception. A total of 1830 women had acquired HIV while in a study.

The analysis showed that both injectables raised the risk of infection by 50 percent:

Compared to non-users [of any hormonal contraceptive], women using DMPA had an elevated risk of infection (hazard ratio 1.56, 95% CI 1.31-1.86), as did women using NET-En (1.51, 95% CI 1.21-1.90). There was no increased risk for women using oral contraceptives.

Similarly, comparing women using injections with those using oral contraceptives, there was an elevated risk associated with DMPA (1.43, 95% CI 1.23-1.67) and NET-En (1.30, 95% CI 0.99-1.71).

Morrison also noted:

The results were consistent in several subgroup and sensitivity analyses. However, when only studies which were judged to be methodologically more reliable were included, the increased risk appeared smaller.

Morrison acknowledged that observational studies such as the FHI analysis depended on have their limitations. He is looking for funding to conduct a randomised controlled study – something that, after 30 years of suspicions and evidence, still has not been done.

So what is his advice to the birth control industry? Stop using this stuff in regions with a high prevalence of HIV until we are sure that we are not feeding an epidemic?

No.

One reason is that FHI is at least as interested in contraception as it is in HIV prevention. Though its website reflects a broad range of development activities, its core business is integrating birth control programmes with HIV prevention. The WHO – one of its partners -- describes the US based, 83 percent US government funded non-profit as “a global health and development organization working on family planning, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.”

Another reason is that FHI 360 has a vital stake in precisely the kind of contraceptives that are under suspicion. Its annual report refers to:

Our trailblazing work in contraceptive research and development continues, as we develop and introduce high-quality and affordable long-acting contraceptives for women in low-income countries. Research is under way to develop a new biodegradable contraceptive implant that would eliminate the need for removal services. We are also working with partners to develop an injectable contraceptive that would last for up to six months. Currently available injectables require reinjections monthly or quarterly, which can be challenging where health services are limited.

That project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

So Morrison did not argue in Melbourne for restrictions on the use of injectables, and neither did the WHO, whose representative at the conference outlined the UN body’s new guidelines on contraception and HIV. Mary Lyn Gaffield said a review of studies up to – but not including Morrison’s – did not warrant a change to WHO’s policy that DMPA and NET-En should be available, without restriction, in areas of high HIV prevalence.

The most WHO will advise is that women should be informed of the risk:

“Women at high risk of HIV infection should be informed that progestogen-only injectables may or may not increase their risk of HIV acquisition. Women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition considering progestogen-only injectables should also be informed about and have access to HIV preventive measures, including male and female condoms.”

Condoms? How do they defend such cynicism? By equating the risk of HIV with the risks of motherhood – complications of pregnancy or childbirth, maternal death and the effect on infants... And yet motherhood remains risky precisely because 90 percent of the world’s effort is going into contraception!

Seven years ago a meeting of technical experts convened by WHO to study the injectables-HIV link showed the reproductive health establishment worried about that issue, to be sure, but also concerned that funding was flowing disproportionately to HIV-AIDS programmes, setting back the cause of birth control. The integration of family planning and HIV prevention spearheaded by FHI 360 looks like they have found an answer to that problem.

Whether African women are any better off is very doubtful. They remain pawns in a game that is, above all, about controlling their fertility. They and their partners are encouraged to take risks with their health, if not their lives, while researchers scout for funds to do the definitive study.

FHI had an income of $674 million last year, most of it from the US government. Couldn’t it give Charles Morrison the money to do his research today?

Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com.


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