Helen Alvare

Planned Parenthood’s war on women’s well-being

Helen Alvare
By Helen Alvare
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December 12, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Following President Obama’s re-election, the HHS mandate requiring most religious institutions to provide health insurance that covers “free” contraception, sterilization, and morning- and week-after pills is still on the books. Despite the strong outcry against the mandate, the Obama presidential campaign continued to ratchet up the pressure on religious conscientious objectors during the summer and fall of 2012.

HHS Secretary Sebelius’s “war on women” motif was carried seamlessly into campaign advertisements for Obama’s re-election. Female voters in targeted states were treated to ads exhorting them to “Vote like your lady parts depend on it. Because they kinda do.”

Most revealing was a TV ad featuring actress Lena Dunham, who stars in a show about the sex lives of unmarried women. Comparing voting for Obama to losing one’s virginity, she closes with the suggestion that it’s “super uncool to be out and about and someone says, ‘Did you…’ and you say ‘No I wasn’t ready.’” She adds, “Before I was a girl, now I was a woman.” Voting for Obama, apparently, is akin to great sex.

The result is an administration—led by men, but fronted by women—blatantly in favor of the view that to be “for women” (and to be super cool), you should support casual sex and the free contraception that facilitates it. The Obama campaign’s real message about the HHS mandate translates as follows: If you object to coercing religious institutions into sponsoring free contraception, you are no friend to women.

An Alliance Against Religious Freedom

This is an unprecedented type of campaign against religious liberty in the United States. It is characterized by a formidable alliance, bolstered by money, power, and market branding, between the White House and so-called “women’s advocates,” in particular Planned Parenthood. Despite emerging legal questions about Medicaid fraud, and its unapologetic cheerleading for legal abortion, Planned Parenthood remains a powerful brand as a “women’s advocate.” Obama frequently associates himself with it by name.

Little surprise that Planned Parenthood receives hundreds of millions of dollars from federal and state governments; in 2009-2010, such grants and reimbursements totaled nearly $475 million.

The Obama administration has also deployed its Department of Justice (or withheld Medicaid payments) to states whose legislatures have re-directed their family planning funds away from local Planned Parenthoods in favor of providers without an abortion connection. Returning the favor, Planned Parenthood spent $15 million pushing for Obama’s re-election.

Any American citizen or institution that visibly opposes this powerful alliance might realistically worry about its future. This is new for Christians in America. In decades past, only the most extremist abortion interest groups—e.g., Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League—visibly denounced the beliefs and practices of Christian churches regarding human sexuality, marriage, and family. But today, these groups command the prime-time podium at the Democratic National Convention, and count the president of the United States as their closest political ally.

Christianity’s Challenge to the Alliance

Faced with this alignment, religious citizens and institutions cannot win protection of their freedom merely by petitioning the government for wider “exemptions” from laws the government has headlined as “progress toward women’s equality.” This is definitely not a good place for Christians to be. In this situation, it is not even enough to win lawsuits (as I suspect the plaintiffs ultimately will) that require the government, under either or both the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to grant larger exemptions. This is necessary but not sufficient.

Instead, for the good of women and the good of society, Christians must engage in a hard conversation: what does women’s freedom truly include? Christian citizens, Catholics in particular, must explain why their witness on contraception contributes to, and doesn’t derogate, women’s long-term flourishing. These conversations must certainly deal with the world as it is—culturally, politically—but can never forget to speak of the world as it ought to be, the world parents hope to leave to their daughters and sons.

Christian churches need to be frank about what they are proposing concerning sex, parenting, and marriage. They shouldn’t hide the ball; that rightly infuriates people. And they should especially remember those people who often slip through the cracks, who are forgotten or ignored by the alliance of Planned Parenthood and the federal government: our poorest and least educated fellow citizens who suffer the most from the loss of a healthy marriage culture.

In this spirit, I propose that we consider the positions of the government and of the Catholic Church (which has the most developed literature) on contraception, with a practical eye for how to persuade our political leaders and fellow citizens that, even as the government keeps providing contraception through its own programs, it should allow religious witness on contraception to live, lighting a different path that some may wish to follow.

While the Catholic position on contraception is primarily considered from this point forward, it should be noted that many Evangelical Protestants have come to respect, admire, and embrace Catholic concerns and even convictions respecting a contraceptive mentality.

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The Planned Parenthood-Government Case for Contraception

Planned Parenthood and the government argue for larger and more aggressive birth control programs, even at the expense of religious freedom, along the following lines: Contraception can prevent pregnancy, and women need and want to avoid pregnancy for many years of their lives. Having a child “changes everything.” Your life (your heart, your schedule, your bank account, etc.) is now in someone else’s hands. Pregnancy itself, in fact, can in some instances risk a woman’s health, or interfere with her long-term personal, professional, and financial goals.

Children impact women’s life course uniquely. One can argue endlessly about whether this is due to women’s biochemical makeup, or whether it is socially constructed, but the bottom line is that unmarried mothers take custody of the children in over 81 percent of cases. And mothers are far more likely than fathers to adjust (or want to adjust) their work schedules to allow for more time with their children. Even if a woman chooses abortion over birth, it is she who will bear the lion’s share of abortion’s physical, emotional, and spiritual costs, not the father.

Add to this the fact that today’s women become sexually active in their late teens or early twenties, but do not marry until their late twenties. Even after they marry, American women do not generally want more than two children. Consequently, women are sexually active for many years, but hoping to avoid pregnancy.

In sum, when it comes to contraception’s cost and availability, considering how crucial is the difference between being pregnant and not being pregnant, between mothering and not mothering—whether because abortion is hard, or because raising a child is a lifelong project—easy access to low-cost contraception seems a basic necessity.

Reasonably Refuting the Case for Contraception

Confronted by this chain of thought, how does any person or entity, religious or not, begin to suggest that it’s reasonable to oppose contraception, and instead promote sexual restraint; stable, lasting marriages; and a more generous disposition toward having children? This three-part series will attempt to outline a response.

A preliminary note: As regards “contraceptive” drugs and devices that really act to destroy an already-formed embryo (morning- and week-after pills, depending upon the woman’s cycle), religious institutions are not likely, relatively speaking, to have trouble gaining public support for their conscientious objection. This could change in the future, but at the present time, people still generally draw a moral line between preventing conception and destroying an already-conceived life. There is even an easy feminist case for doing so. Consider the oft-repeated admonition of feminist author Germaine Greer in her book The Whole Woman: “Whether you feel that the creation and wastage of so many embryos is an important issue or not, you must see that the cynical deception of millions of women by selling abortifacients as if they were contraceptives is incompatible with the respect due to women as human beings.”

Educating about the potential post-conception abortion-effects of morning and week-after drugs is vital. The harder task, however, is objecting to the provision of contraception itself, and proposing in its place another disposition toward sex and children. How to make the case before an audience who would not begin to engage the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of the issue revealed even in brilliantly executed (not to mention prescient) documents such as Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body? Both sources have enough intellectual firepower to reach beyond the faithful to the skeptical, but most citizens are unlikely, ever, to read them.

How to make the case in a context where objections to widespread contraception have no serious purchase on either political party? (I refer to past political support for government-promoted, large-scale contraception programs, not legal access to contraception. No church seeks a legal ban upon contraception, which has been declared a constitutional right since Griswold v. Connecticut.) It should be remembered that Republican president George H.W. Bush was crowned “rubbers Bush” by his colleagues in Congress for his untiring interest in reducing poverty through government-sponsored birth-control programs, and that Richard Nixon’s administration famously produced the National Security Study Memorandum 200, which recommended similar programs as part of US national security strategy.

Democrats’ support for massive contraceptive programs today, both at home and abroad, and even at the cost of religious freedom, is different for the most part only in its insistence that its goal is first, and only, a “woman’s rights” agenda, not a population or national security agenda.

Still, even in the face of such obstacles, there are good reasons to hope that the public isn’t totally deaf to a new way of thinking about women’s freedom as regards human sexuality and contraception.

First, the churches are no longer in the position of making a “theoretical/what might happen” argument. The nation now has both lived experience, and data amassed, over the last fifty years of the so-called sexual revolution. Dissatisfaction has surfaced. It is a stunning (and comforting) reality that so long after its origins, this revolution still attracts so much criticism.

Second, women on both sides of the argument agree that women’s equality and flourishing are necessary, even while they disagree on how to achieve these goals. We have known this to be true in principle, but today it has become increasingly obvious in fact. Many of the most ardent opponents of the HHS mandate and of the sexual revolution’s effects are women.

Consider, for example, the eminent historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s Feminism is Not the Story of My Life and Mary Eberstadt’s Adam and Eve After the Pill. Think of the nine female scholars, lawyers, and doctors who have written in my new volume Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves and the more than 36,000 women who have signed the open letter “Women Speak for Themselves,” openly challenging the administration’s choice to burden religious freedom for the sake of a false conception of female freedom. (I started the petition with a friend, Kim Daniels; it spread wildly beyond the three dozen women we initially contacted.)

In light of these signs of hope, as well as the previously described obstacles, how does one make a plausible case against axiomatically linking contraception with women’s freedom? That will be the topic of my next two essays.

Helen Alvaré is associate professor at George Mason University School of Law and a senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com

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Lisa Bourne

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Archbishop Chaput: Obama’s White House ‘may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

PHILADELPHIA, PA, April 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Philadelphia’s archbishop told a group of young men preparing for the Catholic priesthood that under the Obama administration hostility toward religion has reached an unprecedented level.

“The current White House may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history,” Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap, stated in an address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

With religious liberty at the top of news headlines, the archbishop spoke to the seminarians March 17 in observance of the 50th anniversary of the close of Vatican II and its Declaration on Religious Liberty – Dignitatis Humanae. He talked about the decline of religious practice in the U.S. and the various ways religious liberties are being eroded in the country, forewarning of what’s to come with the nation on its current path.

“We’ll see more of the same in the future,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Pressure in favor of things like gay rights, contraception and abortion services, and against public religious witness.”

“We’ll see it in the courts and in so-called ‘anti-discrimination’ laws,” he continued. “We’ll see it in ‘anti-bullying’ policies that turn public schools into indoctrination centers on matters of human sexuality; centers that teach that there’s no permanent truth involved in words like ‘male’ and ‘female.’”

Archbishop Chaput detailed religious persecution across the globe currently and in the past, before delving into the present climate in America.

“We’ll see it in restrictions on public funding, revocation of tax exemptions and expanding government regulations,” the archbishop stated. “We too easily forget that every good service the government provides comes with a growth in its regulatory power. And that power can be used in ways nobody imagined in the past.”

Archbishop Chaput expressed how certain terms so prevalent in American culture today - justice, rights, freedom, and dignity - are used with conflicting meanings, rendering public discourse futile in addressing truth.

“Our most important debates come down to who can use the best words in the best way to get power,” he said. “Words like ‘justice’ have emotional throw-weight, so people use them as weapons.”

Reports of Archbishop Chaput’s remarks come as the state of Indiana and its governor face tremendous hostility for its recently adopted religious freedom law.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence has spent the last few days retreating after a national barrage of attacks on the law, which mirrors that of 19 other states and was shaped from 1993 federal legislation passed by a Democrat Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

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Opponents claim the law amounts to state-sponsored discrimination, despite the fact its purpose is to protect religious liberty against government overreach.

In speaking to the seminarians from his archdiocese, Archbishop Chaput said we are lying to ourselves if we think we can keep our freedoms without revering the biblical vision--the uniquely Jewish and Christian vision--of who and what man is.

“Human dignity has only one source. And only one guarantee,” he said. “We’re made in the image and likeness of God. And if there is no God, then human dignity is just elegant words.”

The archbishop stressed for the young men that the faithful must live out religious liberty by practicing faith in their lives and by defending it.

“We need to remember two simple facts,” Archbishop Chaput said. “In practice, no law and no constitution can protect religious freedom unless people actually believe and live their faith – not just at home or in church, but in their public lives.” 

“But it’s also true that no one can finally take our freedom unless we give it away,” he said.

The archbishop closed by cautioning against becoming a cynic, saying there’s too much beauty in the world to lose hope.

“In the end,” he said, “there’s too much evidence that God loves us, with a passion that is totally unreasonable and completely redemptive, to ever stop trusting in God’s purpose for the world, and for our lives.”

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Rachel Lu

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Dissent trumps Faith in new ‘Catholic’ LGBT film

Rachel Lu
By Rachel Lu

April 1, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- “Human beings procreate male-female, but human sexuality isn’t just about that. It’s about so much more, which is self-evident.”

So says Fr. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, at the outset of a recently released short film promoting the normalization of LGBT lifestyles within the Catholic Church.

The film is entitled “Owning Our Faith,” which is richly ironic in ways that the director, Michael Tomae, surely did not intend. Except for Catholic writer Eve Tushnet (a complicated case, whose work has been discussed on Crisis in the past), all the featured participants clearly and openly dissent from Catholic teachings on sexuality. They are indeed interested in “owning” their faith. But the ownership they seek is of a distinctly proprietary nature.

There’s little point in trying to refute the film’s arguments as such, because there really are none. If the word “Catholic” were omitted from the audio track, almost nothing would suggest to a listener that the content of the film had anything to do with the Catholic tradition. There is no serious discussion of theology or doctrine. The quote from Fr. Conroy above is the closest it ever comes to “engaging” the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics. It’s clear throughout that the individuals featured are not interested in learning what their faith might have to teach them. As they see it, they are the teachers, appointed to remake the Church in their own image.

Thus we see Fr. Conroy lamenting that gay and lesbian Catholics cannot be “fully participating in the sacramental life of our Church.” In case anyone is unclear as to what he means (because of course, experiences of same-sex attraction do not exclude anyone from full participation in the Church’s sacramental life), this is juxtaposed against “married couple” Matt and Rick Vidal discussing why they choose to remain “faithful Catholics,” despite criticism from their LGBT friends. “We are the Church,” declares Rick, “and if we leave it, if we abandon the Church, then it’s never going to change, so we have to continue living here, being an example, and encouraging other people to be that example, because that’s what’s going to change the Church.”

Is there anything these men like about Catholicism as it is? Any reason not to seek out one of the (numerous) other communities and churches that would be happy to affirm them in whatever sexual lifestyle they might choose? They don’t say, and neither do any of the other featured speakers. Here and elsewhere, we are left with the distinct impression that most of them remain in Catholic communities primarily as a favor to the rest of us, so that we can benefit from their gifts and unique insight. A review of the film at National Catholic Reporter stated that, “Not every viewer will agree with every opinion expressed in ‘Owning Our Faith,’ but only the most rigid of believers would question the love these Catholics have for their church.” At the risk of joining the ranks of the rigid, I do indeed feel moved to ask: what do these Catholics love about their church? They don’t tell us. We only hear about what needs to change.

It’s difficult to argue with a film that isn’t working on the level of rational argument. Nevertheless, it’s worth responding to the general thrust and ethos of the film with three important points.

The first relates to the claim, made on the film’s website and in other promotional materials, that productions of this sort are created as part of an effort to “promote open dialogue” about same-sex attraction and related issues. This is exactly the opposite of their intent, and it’s important to be clear on this point. Propagandistic videos of this sort are intended to bypass, or even to shut down, any real or serious discussion of the moral dimensions of same-sex attraction.

In a dialogue, morally relevant issues are stated clearly so that they can be analyzed and considered. What we have here is a long string of emotional appeals. “My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me,” says Mateo Williamson, who self-identifies as a transgendered man. “Sexuality is how we express our inner soul, our inner energy,” enthuses Mike Roper who self-identifies as gay. In a particularly shameful piece of emotional blackmail, grandmother Nana Fotsch urges parents of same-sex attracted Catholics to accept their children’s declared sexual identity and related lifestyle choices or “you’re going to lose them.” (Don’t all of Christianity’s hard teachings have the potential to alienate us from loved ones? Shall we just jettison the whole Catechism right now? Our Lord has some rather stern words about those who prioritize family relationships above the truths of the Gospel.)

Though there’s nothing Catholic about its message, Owning Our Faith pursues a strategy that is entirely consonant with a larger (and thus far, remarkably successful) progressive project. Don’t try to win the argument about sexuality and marriage. Play for sympathy. Appeal to emotion. People today are so thoroughly confused about sex and marriage that they have few defenses against an onslaught of politically loaded sentimentalism. And you can’t lose an argument that you never have.

This leads us to the second important point. Uncomfortable as it may sometimes be, loving people just doesn’t entail approving everything they do. Neither should we accept anyone “exactly as he is,” because of course all of us are sinful, fallen and in need of transformation by grace.

This is not a message that these “owners of faith” want to hear. Katie Chiarantona, one of the film’s representative “straight” contributors, sums up the film’s prevailing view even more neatly by declaring that she cares enormously about the place of homosexuals in the Church because she has many LGBT friends and, “it is unconscionable and unthinkable for me to support an institution that doesn’t celebrate them and encourage them to live fully as who they are.”

Who among us can really say with any confidence that we know who our friends (or we ourselves) really are? This is a dangerous conceit. None of us here below have yet realized our perfected state. Most of us, I expect, still have a significant way to go. But progression towards supernatural fulfillment is not possible if we begin by issuing ultimatums to God about the conditions under which we will accept divine grace.

Such an effort brings to mind the parable of the wedding banquet, in which a king invites all and sundry (including the poor and commoners) to his son’s wedding, but ends up evicting one guest owing to a lack of appropriate wedding attire. Quite obviously, the king in the story is not a philistine when it comes to standing on ceremony; he’s just ushered the local riff-raff into the most formal of state affairs. Nevertheless, the guest who refuses to dress properly is forcibly removed. Clearly there is a lesson about the importance of accepting grace on God’s terms, and not our own. All of us are welcome at the Lord’s table, but we may not simply come as we are. Being Christian means looking for faith to change us, not the other way around.

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This leads to the final point. While there is some space for discussing the appropriate pastoral response to deep-seated same-sex attraction, the Church’s broader position on same-sex attraction is perfectly clear. It is intrinsically disordered, and homoerotic relationships are immoral. There is no reason to think that this teaching can, should, or ever will change. Quite the contrary, once one understands the Catholic position on sexuality, it becomes clear that it cannot possibly be tweaked in such a way as to allow disgruntled LGBT activists the affirmation they seek.

Fr. Conroy’s position, as stated in the opening quote, is a straw man. Of course no reasonable person supposes that sexuality is “only about” procreation, if by that we mean that sex should be viewed in a coldly clinical light as a utilitarian means to achieving pregnancy. Clearly, erotic love involves far more than that, and how could it not, given the magnitude of what procreation really is? To even begin to do justice to that tremendous good (the begetting of immortal souls and perpetuation of the human race) erotic love must be a noteworthy thing indeed.

However, the Church has consistently maintained that erotic love, at least among mere humans, must be ordered towards procreation. Every effort to slice and dice the relevant pieces of the conjugal package into more-palatable portions (by sanctioning sex without marriage or marriage without permanence or erotic relationships of multiple sorts that are intrinsically closed to life) has been rejected by the Church, and for good reason. Embracing the life-giving nature of sex is the key that enables Catholics to articulate a noble, elevated and meaningful portrait of erotic love, which makes sex into something more than a tangled mash-up of bodies and emotions.

The conversation that dissenting LGBT Catholics (and their “straight allies”) want to have is already over. On some level they know this, which is why they seek sympathy instead of engagement. But there is some good news. For those who really do love their Church, full participation in its sacramental life is always available. They need do only what all Catholics are expected to do: stop trying to fix our faith, and pray instead for it to fix us.

Reprinted with permission from CrisisMagazine.

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During his political days, Andy and his wife Angela with George and Laura Bush
Andy Parrish

On the fast track to political stardom, recent LSN hire gets more than he bargained for…

Andy Parrish
By Andy Parrish
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Andy Parrish

I’ve been a Chief of Staff to Rep. Michele Bachmann, I’ve managed multiple Congressional, Senatorial and Ballot Initiatives, some would say I’ve even ‘made’ members of Congress.

I’ve been a Senior Political Advisor to a Presidential candidate and I’ve sat across from President George W. Bush and advised him on political matters.  

I did most of that by the time I was thirty-three. I was on the fast track and no one was going to stop me.

Well, Jesus had other plans for me.

Even though I was on the fast track to the top it came at a significant price. I was putting me first and my family second.  

That’s not what Angela had signed up for when we got married and it’s certainly not right for my children. Nor is it the way God designed marriage.

After suffering a few defeats, I made the decision I didn’t want to be in politics anymore. But it was all I knew how to do so I started my own business and Angela kept encouraging me to seek out contracts in areas that I was most passionate about.

I was looking for contracts and stumbled upon an opportunity at LifeSiteNews.com that I never would have expected. I’ve been passionate about the life issue since I was three years old. My first memory in life was outside of a Planned Parenthood abortuary.

Providentially, a few weeks later I was on board. I thought it would be a simple job, you know one of those that you didn’t have to invest much into.  

I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  

It only took a few days for me to realize that this isn’t a job at all: this is a mission.

What amazed me most is these people just don’t talk the talk. Every one of them walks the walk, and they all put their faith and families above anything else.

Since starting work at LifeSite, I have followed the example of my co-workers and I’ve learned to show my family how much I love them by putting them first again.  

At LSN we start everyday and most every meeting with either a devotion or prayer (of course it’s voluntary).  We pray for you the readers of LSN, we pray for our supporters, we pray for each other and we pray for the success of LSN.

I’ve also found that LSN isn’t about any one person, it’s about a mission and it is larger then anyone who works here. We all trust that Jesus will continue to make LSN successful and will continue to be a blessing to our families and to you.  

LSN has given me so much.  They’ve given me my priorities back, they’ve given me more than I can ever give them and I am just one story.

I ask that you continue to pray and support the mission of LSN. We are changing hearts and minds with the truth and we are changing lives. As we end our Spring campaign, I hope you will consider clicking one of the donate buttons on our site to help us reach our goal.

 

Andy Parrish, Public Relations and Media Specialist for LifeSiteNews

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