Alma Acevedo

Of wars and women

Alma Acevedo
By Alma Acevedo

October 17, 2012 ( - The war metaphor, a staple of electoral rhetoric, is again at full blast on American soil. There are strategies and stratagems; retreats, regrouping, and capitulation. This rhetoric summons supporters, rallies troops, and props up the leaders’ boldness. The Democrats’ “Forward” battle cry, though indeterminate (forward to where?), is unabashedly combative. The Republicans’ “We Believe in America” is substantial and affirming, a reveille of defining values. Battleground states are relentlessly fought over. On November 6 there will be victors and vanquished.

War rhetoric, expressive of conflicting views, may become insidious. This is the case with the so-called “war on women” brandished against pro-life Republicans by pro-choice Democrats and their allies, such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). Obamacare’s HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate requires that every employer health plan provide free sterilization, abortifacient drugs, and contraceptives. Refusing on religious or conscience grounds triggers stifling fines. The Blunt Amendment, which would have offered some accommodation in these cases, was defeated at the Democrat-controlled Senate. So-called abortion and related reproductive rights are, pro-choicers contend, a stronghold at risk of usurpation.

Besides being a vilifying ploy, the “war on women” rhetoric is demeaning and inconsistent. It assumes that women’s votes are driven solely by sex-specific issues, overlooking those that affect everyone. Another questionable assumption is that contraceptives and sterilization are necessarily “preventive health care” and, therefore, health insurance must always cover them. Is the government waging war against its citizens because it does not exact coverage of their aerobic classes? Of their toothpaste and multivitamins? Aren’t these, too, preventive health care services and products?


How can illusory rights be confiscated? Basic human rights are inalienable and universal. Every human being is so entitled. Grounded in the reality of the human person, fundamental human rights protect core human goods and enable human flourishing. The rights to life and to freedom of conscience and religion are thus not reducible to choices or individual preferences. The right to freely exercise our religious faith is essentially different from a choice between chicken or beef. Just as our right to freedom does not imply that we may choose to kill our teenager or spouse, it does not imply that we may choose to kill our unborn baby.

The “war on women” battle cry conveniently overlooks practices that are quietly accepted, or even actively promoted, by pro-choicers’ positions. These practices, if not altogether war, certainly resemble it. With the White House’s blessing, a House of Representatives bill that would have made performing or coercing a sex-selective abortion a federal crime was recently defeated. Isn’t sex-selection abortion, whose victims are mainly baby girls, an assault on women? Isn’t abortion, no longer tolerated as “rare” but touted as “safe,” in spite of its negative physical and emotional effects, such as increased risk of breast cancer, infertility, hemorrhages, future miscarriages, depression, and even death? Aren’t on-demand sterilization, the morning-after pill, and other abortifacient contraceptives, even for minors? In all of these cases, women (and men) suffer serious physical, social, and psychological wounds.

Furthermore, the underlying socialistic oppressor vs. oppressed narrative clashes with democratic values. It approaches issues in terms of class or power struggles between social groups. The polarizing and reductionist “class warfare” tactic profits from the old divide and conquer rule. This pitting of human groups—men vs. women, rich vs. poor, bourgeoisie vs. proletariat, whites vs. nonwhites, public vs. private sector, secular vs. religious, humans vs. nonhumans—expects to gain from dwelling on class conflict, rivalry, and hostility, rather than from building upon the complementariness, cooperation, and commonalities of persons in a human society. It may too be devastating, as witnessed by that other infamous Great Leap Forward (1958-61)—the People’s Republic of China’s radical socioeconomic transformation that cost countless lives and unspeakable misery.

In spite of its early promises of enlightened bipartisanship, the war rhetoric seems to be a favorite of the Obama administration. The President’s “We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will” heads the White House’s website. In 2011 Obama decreed that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman) was “unconstitutional” and instructed the Department of Justice not to defend it. Vice President Joe Biden admonished a group of southern Virginia followers that “[Republicans and Wall Street] are going to put y’all back in chains.” At a NARAL Pro-Choice America fundraiser, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war,” referring to critics of federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the health reform law. This war rhetoric pits executive vs. legislative and judicial powers, government fiat vs. religious and conscience rights, capitalist vs. working class. Moreover, donning the mantle of justice, it disturbingly legitimizes illicit intrusion.

Just wars are prudently waged against oppressive, unfair systems, not against the human person. So too the war metaphor is best employed when there is just cause and moral means. Let us judiciously combat policies that undermine the respect for human life and dignity and the inalienable human rights that protect and affirm them. Let us also oppose those policies that subvert democratic and constitutional tenets. Let the just war be waged and won.

Alma Acevedo, PhD, teaches courses in applied ethics and conducts research in this field. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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