Jonathon van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars

The abortion of JFK’s children was evil – but it’s also a tragic loss

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Did you know that John F. Kennedy had more than four children? That writers Christopher and Peter Hitchens had two other siblings? That Marilyn Monroe actually had a large number of children?

I’m not particularly fond of the argument that I’ve heard many pro-lifers use: “Abortion is wrong because of all the amazing people we’ve aborted. One of them could have had the cure to cancer!” Abortion is fundamentally wrong because it ends the life of a developing human being, whether that human being would turn out to be a drug addict or the president of the United States. However, it is an interesting thought experiment—not least of all because so many people considered heroes by the Left have aborted their children or had their children aborted.

For example, I think of liberal icon President John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy Family is probably the closest thing America had to a royal family, although revelations over the last several decades have rather firmly repudiated the idea of an impossibly happy Camelot, as historians reveal anecdote after sordid anecdote of relentless philandering. Anecdotes of President Kennedy’s devastation at the 1963 death of his two-day old son, Patrick, are well-documented. The Kennedys also lost a daughter in 1956—Arabella, as her parents intended to name her, was stillborn.

Revolutions famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different.

But stories abound of JFK’s affairs ending in abortions. Mimi Alford, a White House intern that JFK had a relationship with for over a year, reported that when she told the president she believed she was pregnant, he “took the news in his stride.” Shortly afterward, she was contacted by a White House staffer named Dave Powers, often assigned to protect the president’s reputation.

“An hour later,” Alford recalls, “Dave called the dorm and told me to call a woman who could put me in touch with a doctor in New Jersey. The intermediary was a necessary precaution, because abortion was illegal. That was pure Dave Powers: he handled the problem immediately, and with brute practicality. There was no talk about what I wanted, or how I felt, or what the medical risks might be.”

Another of JFK’s famous mistresses, Judith Campbell Exner, reported having an abortion in 1963 after becoming pregnant by the president. Not all Kennedys, it seems, end up in Washington, D.C. Some of them end up in trash cans behind seedy clinics, victims of their parents’ sexual ideology.

Another icon of the Left that comes to mind when I think of the human cost of abortion is the late author and columnist Christopher Hitchens. Fans of the Hitch are fierce in their devotion, with his brother Peter, a well-known conservative author, noting that his brother’s fans often burn with fanatical hatred against him, furious that a conservative Christian (who wrote his brilliant book The Rage Against God partially in response to his brother’s philosophically feeble atheist tome God Is Not Great) could bear the same last name as their hero. Both brothers are extraordinary writers and journalists, having collectively written dozens of books and published essays and columns in the most prestigious publications.

What many people don’t realize is that there were originally four Hitchens siblings, not two. As Christopher relates in his Vanity Fair essay “Fetal Distraction”:

I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh.

Christopher noted further that at least two children of his own had their lives ended by abortion, recalling sombrely that, “at least once I found myself in a clinic while ‘products of conception’ were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.”

Perhaps this was because Christopher Hitchens allowed himself no illusion, writing that, “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows that emotions are not the deciding factor. In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and, whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs.”

Although to my knowledge Peter Hitchens has never addressed the fact of his aborted siblings in print, on abortion he has much to say. “Those who wonder what they would have done had they lived at the time of some terrible injustice now know the answer,” he has said. “We do live in such a time. And we do nothing.”

When considering the lives and careers of the Hitchens brothers we know, we cannot help but wonder what the lives of the two that we do not would have been like.

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The list of politicians, writers, and cultural figures who have discarded their own children are myriad. Comedian Chelsea Handler has talked openly about having an abortion. Sharon Osbourne calls having an abortion at seventeen the mistake of her life. According to author Norman Mailer, the tragic Marilyn Monroe had twelve abortions by her late-twenties. Whoopi Goldberg of The View, Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy, Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz all aborted children. Ava Gardner reportedly aborted two of Frank Sinatra’s children, while the smut-peddling rapper ‘Lil Kim aborted the Notorious B.I.G’s child, which they conceived during an affair. Famed singer Sinead O’Connor had an abortion while on tour in Minneapolis.

It’s especially bizarre, I think, when those on the Left turn out to enthusiastically celebrate any new revelation of a cultural figure having an abortion. The more they admire the person, it seems the happier they are at the “courage” of said person having had an abortion. A bit unintentionally insulting, don’t you think? I admire you so much! I’m so glad you terminated a child that might have had your talent or been a lot like you!

Revolutions, however, famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different, even though we’ve replaced guillotines with Planned Parenthood clinics. The crowds cheered both, and the similarity between a howling mob and a pro-choice rally is striking to say the least. Perhaps it is Peter Hitchens who has the best explanation: “I think that abortion is much beloved by revolutionaries,” he noted gravely, “because they always like the mob to get their hands in blood and commit some sort of crime of their own.”

Abortion is evil because it violently destroys a human being. But one of the reasons abortion is tragic is that it has robbed us of so many who might have given so much to humanity.

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Lazy, incompetent, and ideologically driven: the mainstream media on pro-life issues

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

Nov. 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Conservatives don’t like the media.

I’ve noted before that the Right and the Left have managed to construct nearly air-tight bubbles for people, in which they only ever read or hear things that confirm their point of view. FOX News versus MSNBC, the cable news networks versus AM radio, versus The Blaze. The 24-7 non-stop ideology outrage machine has helped create a chasm between conservatives and liberals that is often impossible to bridge with facts—which is why the Left doesn’t care that Hillary Clinton is a phenomenally corrupt hack who lies to committees and in hearings as a matter of course, and a certain segment of the Right doesn’t seem to care that Donald Trump has no idea what he’s talking about, and is making things up as he goes along.

The divide goes deeper. Conservatives don’t trust the media because for a very long time, the media hasn’t shown any interest in accurately telling their stories. Pro-lifers, for example, are almost always painted in caricature. I’ve seen TV reporters go from door to door, looking for someone who was upset with pro-life literature being distributed, and refusing to interview those who said the literature had changed their mind about abortion. We’ve been told point-blank by reporters that when it comes to pro-life issues, “We don’t cover those kinds of stories.” I’ve had reporters ask me the same question—word for word—four or five times in order to see if they could get me to stumble. They weren’t interested in our point of view, they were interested in making us look bad. That is why pictures of abortion victims will inevitably be labeled “obscene” and “inappropriate” by the media, but drag queens waving their genitals at crowds filled with children and families during Pride Week will be labeled “celebratory” and “exuberant.”

Other times, reporters will show up to cover pro-life rallies or pro-life outreach, interview people, take pictures, take camera footage, and then never run a story. If the pro-life movement is going to look good, you can bet editors are going to spike the story. And if the pro-choice movement is going to look bad, you can bet that editors are going to spike that story, too. When the Planned Parenthood scandal broke a few months ago, a reporter from CBC Saskatoon called me to ask whether I thought that the abortion industry was providing baby body parts to researchers in Canada, as well. I directed him to statements made by Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada admitting that yes, they do. The reporter was stunned. “Wow. I didn’t think this kind of thing happened here. I’ll talk to my editor and call you sometime next week.” No, you won’t, I thought. And he didn’t.

It’s not that the Left is never outraged about anything and the Right is. We’re just outraged about fundamentally different things. Leftists work themselves into a hysterical lather over “cultural appropriation” in the form of people doing yoga or wearing sombreros at Halloween. Conservatives like myself see a lot more to be angry about when we hear that Planned Parenthood is shipping cases of chopped-up fetuses to research labs. Conservatives are often incredibly frustrated by liberals, because while liberals find racism everywhere and manage to interpret virtually any statement as a dog-whistle alerting us all to the seething racism just below the surface of society, they refuse to see brutal realities unfolding right in front of them. Abortionists killing babies and selling their corpses. Porn fueling misogyny—and yes, even racism and rape culture. Horrific sexual violence celebrated in mainstream television shows. You know, real problems.

To be fair, many journalists are as much lazy and incompetent as they are ideologically driven. When it comes to stories about conservatives or pro-lifers, it seems as if the barest minimum of research is done, if any. The pro-life organization I work for, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, has been covered by the media around 150 times so far this year. Only once did a reporter—from the National Post—call me back to fact-check something an abortion activist had said about us. I appreciated it, and told him so. “Well,” he replied, “reporting the facts is just our job.” That may be true, but many journalists don’t care to make the calls or Google searches it takes to confirm facts before reporting them.

Beyond that, the Left-Right divide also breaks down over more fundamental differences. The enormously popular content aggregator Upworthy, for example, seeks to push feel-good stories and activist material and help certain good causes go viral. At the end of the day, though, they would have a much different definition of the word “good” than a Christian would. They push abortion, for example, as well as the sexual anarchy currently being propagated in the form of dozens of new “orientations.” When we’ve polarized to the point where we can’t even agree on whether or not something is “good” or “bad,” you know that the chasm is long and deep.

And one final point: Why does almost every news outlet, from the Huffington Post to to even FOX News seem to think that nonstop articles titled “176 Tips for Mind-Blowing Sex” are somehow news? Scrolling through my newsfeed, I sometimes feel like I’m looking at Cosmopolitan or some other soft-core smut rather than the news sites I actually signed up for. Sex tips are not news. Stories about that one weird sex thing you did is also not news, and writing about it makes you a weird exhibitionist. Reporting on what people are doing in the bedroom every day is getting tiresome. If only our infantile culture could stop playing with themselves for five minutes, maybe they could pay more attention to the important things going on.

To be well-informed, read beyond the headlines. Read both sides of every story, and then fact-check it. I’m tired of conspiracy theorists who think George Bush blew up the World Trade Centre because it’s easier to watch a video on YouTube than it is to read the brick-sized 9/11 Commission. In the Information Age, it’s essential to find rigorously researched sources that you can depend on. 

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The insane message legalizing ‘death with dignity’ sends to the suicidal

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

Nov. 16, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - I’d like the defenders of euthanasia and so-called “death with dignity” to explain something to me. How is the legalization and relentless promotion of “assisted suicide” not the “glorification of suicide”?

I’m tired of all of transparently mindless babble about how “assisted suicide” is not a slippery slope. The phrase itself screams with denial: “Wanna kill yourself? Here, let us help you with that.” When helping people kill themselves is referred to as “end-of-life care” rather than “accomplice to murder,” who will be picking up the phone at the other end of the suicide prevention hot line?

Here’s the thing. I know many people who struggle with depression. I would wager that everyone does. If we’re honest, we can admit that many people who struggle with mental illness would, in a particularly black moment, consider suicide if it was easily available and relatively painless. That is the reason the number one cause of death by gun in Canada is suicide—because many people who would not have ordinarily taken their own lives do so in a fit of palpable darkness.

The idea that our government, our health care system, our society, would send such mixed signals to those contemplating suicide is criminally negligent and outright disgusting. Suicide is never the answer, campaigners used to say. Now, I suppose, they’ll have to qualify. Suicide is never the answer—except sometimes. It’s complicated!

That’s already happening.

Consider Laura, a healthy 24-year-old from Belgium. Doctors recently approved her request for euthanasia, because she had “suicidal thoughts.” The solution to suicidal thoughts is now suicide, apparently. One of Laura’s friends, who was also suicidal, had died by euthanasia some time previously.

The story hasn’t caused much of a stir, though. Five people a day die by euthanasia in Belgium, and reports have emerged that many elderly people are increasingly being killed without their consent, like aging house pets being put to sleep. For some reason, we’ve managed to abolish the death penalty for rapists and serial killers but approved the needle for the old, the sick, and the depressed.

And then there is the Netherlands, where a report noted that a minimum of 50% of those killed by euthanasia were suffering from depression at the time. The Dutch researchers didn’t find this a big deal, stating that there was no reason to believe that the death requests by these people were not thought through properly, as if requesting death was not in and of itself a sign of warped thought processes.

This is not some conspiracy theory, either. In 2013 the Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers admitted that there had been at least 45 “psychiatric euthanasia deaths” in that year alone.

The impact of families can be tragic, as Tom Mortier can attest. He filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights to challenge Belgium’s euthanasia laws after doctors killed his mother because of “untreatable depression”—and nothing else. The heart-broken Mortier, who wasn’t even contacted by anyone, said his mother was depressed because of a recent break-up—and the doctors who killed her didn’t even have any psychiatric qualifications.

But where there’s death, there’s often money—from greedy heirs hoping to hasten the exit of their elderly parents, to the Swiss suicide groups who are cashing in on the suicide boom. Just last year, the Swiss suicide company Exit announced that they would be expanding their services to healthy people who struggle with depression or other forms of mental illness.

It was only a few years ago that a Canadian man was convicted of manslaughter for advising a woman with depression to commit suicide. With the Canadian Supreme Court’s recent ruling on euthanasia, it seems that such things are soon about to arrive in our healthcare system.

Everyone knows someone who has struggled with depression or mental illness. Most of us know people who have attempted suicide. And some of us have had the extraordinary privilege of having elderly relatives, with all their aged beauty and wisdom, to enrich our lives and our perspectives. I don’t exaggerate when I say that a euthanasia regime in Canada would pose a very real threat to many of the people we hold most dear, and greatly cheapen the lives of so many mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones.

Suicide, of all things, is not something we should be sending mixed signals about.

We don’t have to make a slippery slope argument. All we have to do is look to where euthanasia has already taken hold. There, we see medical practitioners busily digging graves at the bottom of the slope to accommodate the day’s fresh kills. 

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For secular progressives, history is the enemy. And why? Because, as Chesterton points out, history is full of things they wish to repudiate and forget. Shutterstock

Why progressives are terrified of history

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

“The modern mind is forced towards the future by a certain sense of fatigue, not unmixed with terror, with which it regards the past. It is propelled towards the coming time; it is, in the exact words of the popular phrase, knocked into the middle of next week. And the goad which drives it on thus eagerly is not an affection for futurity. Futurity does not exist, because it is still future. Rather it is a fear of the past; a fear not merely of the evil in the past, but of the good in the past also. The brain breaks down under the unbearable virtue of mankind. There have been so many flaming faiths that we cannot hold; so many harsh heroisms that we cannot imitate; so many great efforts of monumental building or of military glory which seem to us at once sublime and pathetic. The future is a refuge from the fierce competition of our forefathers. The older generation, not the younger, is knocking at our door.”

- G.K. Chesterton

For secular progressives, history is the enemy. And why? Because, as Chesterton points out, history is full of things they wish to repudiate and forget. We live in an age where our public figures are held to a standard that was invented in the past decade, and each week brings a new sexuality or orientation with a fresh speech code attached to it and a new “phobia” title with which to saddle the unfortunate heretics, many of whom simply cannot keep up. Groveling public apologies in one of the public confessionals known as Late Night Television are necessary when a violation takes place, so that the androgynous progressives can rouse themselves from the fainting couches.

History, of course, was filled with real men and women who had no time for such drivel. The suggestion that mentally ill men in possession of entirely healthy penises should be allowed into the girl’s bathroom would have been met with a hearty guffaw, or immediate and appropriate suspicion—men of the past were not so stupid as to forget that given the chance, boys will often peek at girls. That knowledge, however, has been lost to history.

History is also full of horribly transphobic, repulsively homophobic, and dreadfully anti-feminist people. Indeed, it’s hard to see how secular progressives ever manage to find any historical heroes at all. The God-fearing Abraham Lincoln? Just imagine how Bill Maher would mock and yell and howl at his Second Inaugural Address today. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Well, did you know that he was once better-known as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., that he appealed to God’s authority in his crusade for equal rights, and that he firmly held a Christian position on homosexuality? You probably didn’t. We don’t teach history anymore.

I say this simply because by the standard applied by the Progressive Left today—by which they drive Christian people out of business, and accuse politicians of various new bigotries—history’s heroes simply would not make the cut. Secular progressive ideology is too new. History has been retroactively rendered a graveyard of homophobic bigots, and regardless of heroism or towering achievements, they are simply fortunate to have not lived in a time where their great deeds would have done nothing to avoid a social media lynching for failing to identify a robust Olympian father as a woman.

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with veteran journalist and Christian historian Ted Byfield to discuss these trends. History, he noted, has heroes and villains. That is why history is so dangerous for secular progressive types, and that’s why they’ve replaced the teaching of “history” with the teaching of social studies. Social studies borrows from history, but is actually an entirely different pursuit.

In order to find the way forward, Christians must refresh themselves on what happened in the Past. History is one of our greatest weapons, because without it, we can have no context for what is happening and how we can respond. A tree without roots blows over at the first gusty breeze.

Ted Byfield is now 87 years old. He has watched our culture turn into something barely recognizable. And yet, he thinks history holds the answer to the future.

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The chickens of the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s have come home to roost, with marriage hollowed out, abortion widespread, and any and all sexual appetites uninhibited and celebrated.

The triumphalism of the sexual revolutionaries: the death of ‘safe, legal and rare’

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

Oct. 8, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - One of the most consistent trends on the “progressive” Left as of late is a loud and exuberant triumphalism. The sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s has come of age, with marriage hollowed out and redefined, abortion widespread and legal, and any and all sexual appetites uninhibited and celebrated.

That triumphalism is manifesting itself in two ways. First, there is the ongoing and vicious marginalization of all those who disagree. From hapless conservative academics to Christian bakeries, florists, and pizzerias, the new orthodoxy must be acknowledged and obeyed, lest re-education be necessary. Second, many things the Left once argued for on the basis that they were tragically necessary evils are now celebrated openly as wonderful freedoms to be embraced and enjoyed.

Take divorce, for example. There was a time when reasonable people could agree that divorce was, at its very best, an admission of failure. Something, somewhere, obviously went wrong, regardless if one spouse was at fault or if both were. It is a thoroughly mauling thing for all involved—philosopher Peter Kreeft once called divorce “the murder of the one flesh.” In cases where there are children, the results are devastating—a mother and a father, a family, make up a child’s whole world. When that world falls apart, the personal and social implications are profound. Was divorce tragically necessary at times, especially to allow people to leave, if they had to, an adulterous or abusive relationship? Yes. But it was still tragic.

Now, increasingly, so-called progressive commentators are lauding divorce as a good thing, not just as a safeguard for the once well-known “triple-A”—abuse, abandonment, and adultery—but as an easy way to check out of an arrangement that’s easier to exit than a cell phone contract. The sheer ease with which someone can obtain a divorce—the secular version of Islam’s thrice-stated “I divorce you”—creates an instability in marriages and a thoughtless approach to entering them.

But commentators such as the sleaze-monger Dan Savage constantly tout the idea that a marriage doesn’t “fail” just because it’s over. A marriage can be for just a short amount of time, and then mom and dad can call it quits, high five, and head off to find new partners while their children scramble about to gather the shards of their shattered world. No wonder some jewellery stores in places like Los Angeles actually offer wedding rings for rent.

The same, too, with abortion. Nothing in my mind is more emblematic of a tragic failure on behalf of all involved—church, society, mother, father—resulting in a tiny dead human being. Abortion activists demanded legalization on the basis that abortion should be safe, legal, rare—that abortion was a tragic but necessary evil, and that in certain, horrifying circumstances, abortion should be permitted. Now, abortion is openly lauded as the key to social liberation, an objective good that should never be apologized for. Campaigns asking post-abortive women to “shout their abortion” and brag about their “abortion stories” are now the feminist talking points, while various religious death cults refer to abortion as “sacred.” In fact, when abortion activists see pictures of starving children in Africa, their first reaction is: “Abortions. These kids need abortions.” The path from “we need this for extreme circumstances” to “this is an amazing social good” is a very short one.

And of course, now it is euthanasia. First, it was trumpeted as a necessary medical practice to relieve those suffering the indignities and agonies incurable diseases often inflict on people during their final stages. “Death with dignity,” they called it, and insisted that they would only ever advocate using it in the very final months of life. Now, of course, it is “assisted suicide,” and has been used by those with mental illnesses, those suffering from blindness, and even elderly people who have just decided that the long life they have been blessed with has simply been too long. Belgium and the Netherlands have already begun to allow the judicial murder of newborns, disabled people, and elderly people. “Involuntary euthanasia” is the new meaningless phrase that allows us to continue killing people softly. The corpses pile up, but such is the nature of Progress.

Whether it be the casual and celebratory manner in which they celebrate home-wrecking or fetal skull-crushing or suicide, the Left has long moved past their strategies of legislating from the exception and attempting to disguise their ideology with any façade of introspection or nuance. Now, their triumphalism is being felt across every social boundary. It is always the weak and vulnerable—children, the elderly, the disabled—who suffer the most, but they are being ignored.

I like to ask my left-wing friends a simple question: Which society is a better, safer, and more compassionate society? One in which divorce is discouraged and rare, pre-born children are loved and appreciated by either biological or adoptive parents, and our focus and our passion is on advancing palliative care and better programs for the elderly and the disabled? Or one in which divorce, abortion, and suicide are all the rage? There is always some dithering, but after some thought, all of them know that of those two options, one of them is infinitely better, safer, and more loving. And then the final question: Then why don’t you fight for that society instead?

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Jonathon van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a writer and pro-life speaker who has given presentations across North America on abortion and pro-life strategy.

Jonathon first got involved in the pro-life movement after viewing a graphic abortion video in 2007, which convicted him to get active. He ran Simon Fraser University Students for Life as president from 2009-2010, while speaking in both the United States and Canada on pro-life issues.

Jonathon graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. He is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

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