Kathleen Gilbert

My conversation with a 1960s birth control and abortion hero

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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ARLINGTON, Virginia, July 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - I had heard of Bill Baird before, thanks to a Huffington Post article describing the legacy of the birth control crusader after he had issued a letter of sympathy to Georgetown Law’s Sarah Fluke in April. But, since I hadn’t encountered mention of him before or since, I no longer matched the name to the figure by the time I met a sandy-haired elderly man standing across the street from the National Right to Life Convention last week.

The 80-year-old Baird was standing defiantly in the sun, baking in 100-degree heat, holding a sign for his Pro-Choice League alongside a life-sized wooden “Cross of Oppression.” One other protester was there, presumably his wife, although she refused to give her name. I couldn’t resist crossing the asphalt to strike up a conversation.

“Do you know who I am, first of all?” Baird asked me, to which I responded in the negative. This elicited one of the major themes of the conversation: that I didn’t know anything. “See, now that tells me how your movement doesn’t educate you,” he said. “One of the things that your side fights is the right of a person to make their own decision.”

I’m not sure that not knowing the details of Eisenstadt v. Baird makes me a victim of repression. But it’s true I’m shamefully ignorant of the history of birth control in America. So Baird filled me in with the story of his work decades ago challenging bans on birth control to unmarried people in several states, suffering years of jailtime, all culminating in the 1972 Supreme Court ruling that established a universal right to the drugs.

Describing his five years in a squalid prison for deliberately breaking such a law, he paused. “I want that to sink in,” he said. “You’re facing five years in prison for showing a diaphragm. Does that impact on you at all? Do you see how stupid that could be?”

I asked if he was there to defend abortion, as well as other forms of birth control? “My crusade has been for you,” he replied. “Even though you may disagree with me…if you elect to have an abortion, you should be able to make that decision.” I found myself irresistibly drawn to debate that point.

“If I elect to commit suicide, do you support that right?” I asked. “If I could prevent you in the sense of talking to you,” said Baird. I interrupted, “So you don’t support that choice?”

“What you gotta do, is—you asked a question. You have to be professional enough to let the person answer. If you want to debate, that’s different,” Baird said, at which point his female companion intervened to end the discussion.

“I think respectfulness right off the bat is important in an interview,” she said, noting my facial expression gave off a disrespectful “vibe” (in my defense, I was wearing sunglasses). “Right off the bat [you’re] like oh, you’re evil, you’re the enemy, and I can just see by your questions,” she said.

I apologized, and took off the glasses. I actually didn’t consider either of them to be evil. I did think they would have expected a less-than-softball conversation with a pro-life journalist; however, I was willing to err on the side of decorum. Things went better after that, and Baird, with a paternal if still somewhat offended air, explained the level of respect I should be paying my elder in the culture wars.

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“Be respectful of somebody who at the age of 80 has done something you’ve never done in your life, which was appear five times before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Baird, whose piercing light-blue eyes never once wavered in our conversation. “When somebody fights their whole life, lays down their life ...”

One day, he said, I may find myself in a situation where I discover, “you know what, Bill Baird was right. I should be the one to make that choice.”

“Or you may not. My own clinic, we helped three nuns get abortions,” he said offhandedly, “so we help lots of people.”

But that help is little appreciated: my clinic has been firebombed, he said. He’d been shot at twice. “No one on your side have been shot to death” (I thought of Jim Pouillon) “eight of us have been. None of your offices have been firebombed ... remember Dr. George Tiller? ... You call yourself Christian!”

Meanwhile, he says, he’s worried his own side will start making up for all the apparent imbalance of violence by attacking us. He said he expressed that concern to Fr. Frank Pavone, a “close friend.”

Baird indulged me when I asked him to tell me about the large cross he bore, which he said showed how Christians use the cross to oppress women into carrying unwanted pregnancies, causing them to seek coathanger abortions, to drink bleach, to throw themselves down the stairs.

“You are young, you have no idea. I’ve seen it,” he said. “Your side says that never happened.”

“I don’t know what it takes to reach younger people like you ... who have such a strong conviction,” he lamented. “You think you’re so right, and you don’t even have any life experience. All you’re really doing is giving what you have been taught by somebody else. You’re going to tell me a fertilized egg is a person, that’s what you’re going to tell me?”

I didn’t resist mentioning how pregnant women have the curious habit of referring to their children in the womb as babies. “Some pregnant women,” he interrupted. Eventually the fact was mentioned that, by the time most abortions happen between 7-12 weeks, the baby has legs, arms, a heartbeat. He responded by challenging my ignorance about hydatidiform moles, a growth that can occur when an egg without genetic material is fertilized, which he said proved the foolishness of believing human life begins at conception.

The conversation then returned to Baird’s legacy. “All the friends you have - you have many - who use birth control, could not use it except for the man you’re talking to. Think of the power of that statement,” he said. It was more difficult to do so than he thought, since none of my friends use birth control.

Again he asked: how many people have I ever met in my life who would go to jail for a cause as he did? I said I knew of those who have spent years in prison for defending the unborn. Why do they do that, he asked? Because they want to save lives, I answered. I think the reaction that followed taught me the most about Bill Baird.

“No, ma’am!” he said. “Be honest with yourself. ‘Bill, I’m going to Heaven! You’re going to Hell. I’m going to be rewarded by Jesus Christ.’”

“Do you know how arrogant you sound to me,” he told a former interlocutor, “that only you could be right, that only your religion could be right? That’s what holy wars are made of.”

As we parted, he offered me one last bit of advice: “All I ask is that you think on your own.”

I learned a lot in this conversation. Listening to the recording just now, I learned at least one more thing: I’m not as good a debater as I thought I was. Speaking to such a dedicated pro-choice crusader did, in fact, unsettle me at first. Sorry, Bill.

In conclusion, I expect that Bill is reading this. At least, I hope so. I want to make sure you know that, at the end of our conversation, when I said I would pray for you, it really was because I love you.

It seemed like you recoiled when I said that - and maybe I gave you reason to, if I really did come off as “snarky” - I can only hope not, sadly. But believe it or not, many people pray for others, not out of some crazy savior-complex that relishes the thought of their targets heading for Hell, but because they like them and want them to be happy. I, at least, pray for my friends constantly, so if I only did it because I thought someone was evil, that would be a bit strange. Obviously we met from two sides of the aisle, so saying I’d pray for you was my attempt to show my esteem despite the disagreement.

I’m sorry that you think all pro-life zeal is a Pharisaical sham, or else the product of Biblical spoon-feeding. I don’t expect that I could convince you otherwise; I will probably have to leave that to Fr. Pavone. But I wish you well.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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