Mary Rose Somarriba

Is nature sexist?: radical feminists’ fierce war against fertility

Mary Rose Somarriba
By Mary Rose Somarriba
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April 30, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - As the administration’s healthcare plan is weighed by the American public and the Supreme Court, the debate over the contraceptive mandate continues with high intensity. And for no small reason. Contraception is the only medicine we’ve heard so loudly proclaimed by the government to be completely free of charge. There are many other drugs for diabetes and cancer and heart conditions that are not free to patients and yet are much more necessary for survival and disease prevention. So, why is the administration pushing for contraceptives to be free and not graver health necessities?

For supporters of the recent HHS mandate that forces religious institutions to buy insurance that makes these items free to their employees and students, the cause served is “reproductive justice.” It was as past president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice that Sandra Fluke testified to Congress—as a victim of injustice who, along with her female peers at Georgetown, suffers from not having contraception paid for her in full.

But what is “reproductive justice”? To help answer that question, perhaps we should first ask: Who is guilty of the injustice? For Fluke, it’s her school that “creates untenable burdens that impede our academic success.” But of course it’s unfair to say that an institution, by not covering the cost of some product, implicitly creates burdens for its female students. My employer, by not covering my preferred allergy medicine, doesn’t create my burden of allergies. My allergy problems are internal to myself. They are, so to speak, natural problems I live with, ones I cannot label as someone else’s fault. Unless I were futilely to blame, say, God or nature.

But I would argue that underneath it all, advocates of “reproductive justice” do blame nature. Nature is the true obstacle to these women’s idea of justice.

Fluke might not put it this way, but radical feminists who cling to terms like “reproductive justice” and “reproductive freedom” are really trying to beat the cards that nature dealt them. They want sexual license outside the scope of what nature provides as the healthiest course—sex with one person for a lifetime. They object to the reality that sex can naturally lead to babies, creating burdens that research shows they’d be best suited to bear with the help of a husband. Underneath sexual liberationists’ wish to overthrow patriarchal traditions of marriage and religious institutions’ principles of sexual ethics, there seems to be a wish to overthrow the most stubborn foundation of all—nature herself.

This thinking was impossible to miss as I read the recent book by staunch activist for reproductive rights Merle Hoffman, Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom. A rambling memoir of her personal life that spares none of the inglorious parts—having an affair with her much-older boss, marrying him and then abandoning him in the last years of his life, hiring doctors with bad records to perform abortions at her clinic, being sued for Medicare fraud—the book reveals Hoffman to be less the mind behind the abortion movement and more an accidental money-maker from it in the New York metropolitan area.

Hoffman is not your average abortion supporter. For one thing, she recognizes abortion as ending the life of another human being. She also recognizes the unconstitutionality of “the right to choose”: “the U.S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy, so the foundational legal pillar of [abortion] is vulnerable.”

It’s refreshing to see someone on the pro-abortion side speak so candidly about the issue. But, if one recognizes abortion as the ending of a life, and concedes that its legality is not protected in the Constitution, then where lies the defense?

One shouldn’t strain too hard to find logic in Hoffman’s memoir. What the book doesn’t offer in a coherent thesis, it does reveal in an underlying theme that discloses the reasoning of those who champion reproductive freedom.

Hoffman started her career working as a receptionist in a medical office, began an affair with the doctor who ran it, and followed his career path to help him start an abortion clinic in New York. Soon, Hoffman was running an abortion clinic herself. With every abortion patient she welcomed, Hoffman grew more and more committed to helping women find reproductive freedom.

After decades of abortion activism in New York, at age 66 she writes that even if abortion ends a life, it is defensible in the pursuit of “true reproductive freedom” for women. As Hoffman puts it, “the anti-choice movement claimed that if women knew what abortion really was, if only the providers had told them the truth, they would never have killed their babies. . . . But women did know the truth, just as I knew it, deep down, when I allowed myself to recognize it. Mothers saw the sonogram pictures, knew that sound bites assuring them that abortion was no different from any other benign outpatient surgery were false—knew that, as the antis say, ‘abortion stops a beating heart.’” Even still, she continues, they were making a “decision so vital it was worth stopping that heart.”

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Having witnessed these hearts being stopped for years now, Hoffman admits, “I wasn’t immune to the physicality of abortion . . . but I quickly came to realize that those who deliver abortion services have not only the power to give women control over their bodies and lives but also the power—and the responsibility—of taking life in order to do that.” She continues, “acknowledgment of that truth is the foundation for all the political and personal work necessary to maintain women’s reproductive freedom.”

Unlike other freedoms, reproductive freedom has no basis in nature and no mention in the Constitution; it is not considered a God-given freedom, so to speak. Instead, terms like reproductive freedom are manufactured ideas—ideas that represent what some people want to strive for. Ideas that nevertheless, for women like Hoffman, are worth protecting in law.

Hoffman writes, “the comparative history of abortion is actually the history of power relations between states and their female populations. . . . The battlefields are different, but the war is always the same. . . . True reproductive freedom for women is never under consideration.”

So, getting back to our original question: What is “true reproductive freedom”? If it means absolute sexual license without consequences such as pregnancy and children, then it has the unfortunate attribute of never before existing in history. It’s not a freedom that women have ever fully exercised; it isn’t one that was possessed by women at some time but was taken from them and thus needs to be safeguarded from violators.

Nevertheless, terms like “reproductive freedom” and “reproductive justice” are the rallying cries of such advocates. For Hoffman and her comrades, unwanted pregnancy is an unjust imposition on women who are sexually active. Technology such as contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization have nearly evened the scales of reproductive justice—even if not completely; as long as women have had to pay for these things, they’re still being treated unjustly.

It’s this fringe-feminist thinking that can explain the reasoning behind HHS mandating free contraceptive and abortifacient coverage. But according to this logic, it would be equally unjust for women to pay $300-$500 out of pocket for an abortion. Men don’t have to go through the trouble of getting abortions or bear the financial, physical, and emotional burdens. In a sense, the millions of dollars Hoffman has made from women’s abortions are a testament to her cashing in on what her own logic would call a grave injustice to women.

In her defense, Hoffman would cling to her favorite prop to carry at abortion rallies—the wire hanger, which for her symbolized the purpose of the movement. Hoffman’s solace in her work came knowing that if doctors weren’t performing abortions or prescribing the morning-after pill, women would be taking health risks in pursuing illegal abortions. The “back-alley abortion” argument—another impressive instance of logic—relies on women implying that if they aren’t granted legal ability to end their child’s life in the womb, they’ll hold themselves hostage and threaten both lives if not appeased.

But it’s fair to say this self-destructive turn in logic hasn’t really helped today’s radical feminists. Pitting women against nature, it is running into the ground a movement that started rightly in the name of peaceful ideals. Once they justified mothers ending the lives of their children, they created an unsustainable pillar for the movement—as evidenced by abortion remaining an unsettled issue in America nearly forty years after its legality.

Hoffman describes her own abortion saying, “Now I was joined to the common experience of my sex.” But abortion has never been the common experience of women. For all of history and for most of the world, it’s childbirth—that essential part of womanhood that keeps humanity going. Hoffman never treated herself to the experience of motherhood, until at age 58 she decided to adopt a girl in Russia. But not all women have that luxury. Hers is not quite a picture of reproductive justice.

It’s tragic, really. The fight against nature is a hard and constant fight. In Intimate Wars, Hoffman’s decades-long odyssey fighting the battles for reproductive freedom brings to mind the words of the Greek tragic dramatist Aeschylus: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Mary Rose Somarriba is chief operating officer of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and managing editor of Altcatholicah. This article first appeared at thePublicDiscourse.com and is reprinted with permission.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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