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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Kermit Gosnell considers himself a ‘martyr’: Gosnell filmmakers

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By Ben Johnson

HUNGTINGDON, PA, May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Spending life in prison without parole for murdering several newborn babies, Kermit Gosnell spends his days listening to music and thinking of himself as a “martyr,” according to the makers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell film.

Producers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magdalena Segeida interviewed Gosnell for hours at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania – and they came away saying the doctor is remorseless, self-pitying, and enjoying far more liberty than they thought would be granted to a mass murderer.

The producers visited the central Pennsylvania penitentiary and spoke to the the late-term abortionist up-close – a little too close, they say. McElhinney said Gosnell sat uncomfortably close to her throughout the multihour session.

“We have just come back from Pennsylvania where we were the first journalists to sit down in prison to interview Gosnell,” the producers said in a mass email to their supporters. “The two hours we spent interviewing the former abortion doctor were two of the most disturbing hours of our journalistic careers.”

“The interview was one of the creepiest we have ever conducted,” the mass email continued.

Gosnell, they recounted, “is thought to have murdered hundreds if not thousands of babies in a 30 year killing spree.” Yet he has access to music, a subject he discussed at length. At one point, McElhinney said, Gosnell burst out into song.

Ann McElhinney told The Daily Signal, “I’m amazed at how pleasant his life is, the freedoms he has.”

Far from having repented of his crimes, Gosnell continues to justify his actions, they said.

“In his own version of the story, he’s a martyr – he’s part of a hounded class,” McElhinney said.

That assessment corroborates the views of others who interviewed the onetime proprietor of the “house of horrors,” where newborn babies had their spines severed, untrained staff administered fatal doses of drugs to poor women, and aborted fetal remains were found stuffed into every available crevice.

In September 2013, Steve Volk interviewed Gosnell for Philadelphia Magazine. Gosnell, he wrote, “sees himself as having performed a noble function in society.”

"It's not as if he feels guilty about what he did,” Volk said. "He believes he was a soldier at war with poverty.”

By plying his trade in poverty-stricken West Philadelphia, in a majority minority neighborhood, Gosnell believed he helped reduce the city's low income population.

“In this larger spiritual sense, he believes he was performing a service for people,” Volk said.

After his conviction, Gosnell sought to work with Hillary Clinton's embattled charity, the Clinton Global Initiative or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on issues of "prison and justice reform.”

"He believes that he gained insight into what it's like to be pushed into the system, without the capacity to explain himself," Volk said.

Gosnell's self-confidence has seldom been questioned, from the dismissive way he treated police who searched his home – playing Chopin on the piano as they searched his flea-ridden basement – to the way he carried himself in court. Defense attorney Jack McMahon had also told reporters after the guilty verdict that the mass murderer “truly believes in himself.”

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The filmmakers, who have produced several right-of-center documentaries, plan to make a big budget, big screen film about Gosnell's life. They continue to raise funds for their efforts at GosnellMovie.com.

But they may need a breather after encountering Gosnell himself.

“I’m still recovering, actually,” McElhinney told the Signal.

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Josh Duggar apologizes, admits ‘wrongdoing’ as young teen amid molestation accusations; resigns from FRC

By John-Henry Westen

Editor's Note: This is a developing story.

Update (May 22 9:54 a.m.): The Family Research Council's statement has been added below.

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In response to allegations in the media that he molested minor girls when he was in his early teens, Josh Duggar has admitted in a public statement that he acted "inexcusably" at the time, and has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

A 2006 police report leaked to the media states that Josh was investigated for sex offenses, including "forcible fondling" against five minors.

According to the report, the first allegations surfaced in March 2002, the same month he turned 14. At the time the family dealt with the allegations internally. A year later, however, when further allegations were made, the family sent Josh to work with a family friend for three months, after which his father took Josh to see a state trooper.

According to the report, the trooper gave Josh a "stern talk" about what would happen if he "continued such behavior," but no formal action was taken at the time.

The issue emerged again in 2006, after a family friend had written details about the allegations in letter and placed it in a book, which was subsequently loaned out. This resulted in a call being placed to a child abuse hotline, which in turn led to a formal investigation being opened. By this point, however, the statute of limitations had expired, and as there had been no new allegations or evidence that the abuse was ongoing, the case was dropped.

Although Josh was never charged, his now-wife, Anna, says that he confessed his actions to her and her parents two years before he asked her to marry him.

"I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," he said in a statement today. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."

Anna said she was "surprised" when Josh had voluntarily admitted what he had done to her and her parents two years before proposing to her. "I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it," she wrote today. "For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes."

"I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis," she added. "If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right."

LifeSiteNews is continuing to investigate this developing story. Following are the Duggar family’s statements responding to media reports about the incidents.

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday.

It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. 

We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life.

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him.

When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes.

At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him... I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.

I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

Family Research Council statement:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement regarding the resignation of Josh Duggar:

"Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.

"Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.  We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.  We will be praying for everyone involved," concluded Perkins.

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Albert Heringa's sense of duty ‘justly’ carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, the Dutch appeals court said. VARA video screenshot
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Dutch court acquits man who euthanized his mother after doctor refused

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A Dutch appeals court acquitted a 74-year-old man earlier this month of the murder of his mother in 2008, because he acted in an “emergency situation”: the woman wanted euthanasia and had not obtained it from her family doctor.

The decision is a surprising one, even in the Netherlands, and will probably be followed by an appeal from the public prosecutor, who has already published a communiqué reminding the public that euthanasia and assisted suicide “are and remain, in the eyes of the prosecutor, exclusively to be performed by a doctor.”

As it stands, the decision marks a new step down the slippery slope of euthanasia. The decision justifies an act of euthanasia contrary to the letter of the law on the grounds that the accused, Albert Heringa, was careful to act in compliance with the law’s provisions.

Albert Heringa acted in accordance with his conscience of his own duty and he was right to do so, ruled the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court, because his sense of duty “justly” carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, which in theory can only be decriminalized when performed by a medical doctor under strict conditions.

The accused said he was “very happy” about the decision. The Netherlands Right to Die Society (NVVE) hailed it as “a step in the direction we want to follow.” “Many people who consider their life complete wish to be helped by loved ones,” said its spokeswoman, Fiona Zonneveld.

The judges did not take into account the fact that Albert Heringa’s mother, “Moek,” was deemed ineligible for euthanasia by her doctor.

In 2008, Moek was 99. She had no grave illness; she was just old and blind and did not feel like living any longer, calling her suffering “unbearable” and “without hope of improvement.” When her doctor refused euthanasia on those grounds, she turned to her son who decided to help his mother die.

He was later to explain that his mother started hoarding her medication in order to kill herself through an overdose. The pills she was taking would not have been able to bring about her death, he argued, but would have made her health much worse. This was confirmed during the subsequent judicial enquiry.

Heringa decided to go to work “transparently,” filming his every gesture in view of the killing of his mother. He used an overdose of his own malaria pills together with sleeping pills and anti-emetics to poison her. The films were later used to illustrate a documentary on “Moek’s last wish,” which was aired in 2010 on Dutch TV. The appeals court judges took this “transparency” into account in their decision to acquit him.

The public prosecution was not so lax. Despite the “rectitude” of Heringa’s intention, it accused the man of not having acted in compliance with the law. In 2013, he was judged guilty but exempted from punishment. The prosecution appealed that decision, demanding a three months suspended prison sentence in order to underscore the illegality of his actions. But the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court went even further than the first judges in exonerating him completely.

They invoked the euthanasia law, which decriminalizes euthanasia when no other “reasonable solution” is available to alleviate a patient’s suffering and thus avoid euthanasia, but in this case they equated the potential “reasonable solution” with the ability to find a doctor who would be willing to perform the act, as if euthanasia were a patient right. Heringa could not find one, therefore he was justified in taking the law in his own hands, the judgment says in substance.

This marks a double revolution. Firstly, the court overlooked the legal requirement that a doctor should perform euthanasia, and no one else. Secondly, it justified euthanasia on a woman who was simply “tired of living,” a situation for which the euthanasia law definitely does not provide.

But this is just another element of the Pandora’s box that was opened when the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002. Increasingly, regional control commissions, which verify all declared acts of euthanasia retrospectively, have cleared “mercy-killings” of elderly people who had multiple complaints but no single life-threatening disease. “Intolerable suffering” is being interpreted more and more widely. In Heringa’s case, it is simply his mother’s plea for euthanasia that justified the act in the eyes of the court.

The court even went so far as to say that Heringa would have had to live with a “sense of guilt until the end of his life” had he not taken measures to end his mother’s life.

In 2011, the Dutch medical association KNMG changed its position on “intolerable suffering,” declaring that “unbearable and hopeless” suffering can result from other causes than physical illness. Also, the End of Life Clinic founded in 2012 caters to euthanasia requests that have been refused by patients’ family doctors on conscientious or medical grounds. Would Heringa have found a doctor willing to perform euthanasia on his mother in this new situation?

Whatever the answer to that question – and no one will ever know – the fact of his acquittal is a definite sign that euthanasia is being treated more and more as a right and an acceptable option in the Netherlands. It is also good news for unscrupulous family members who might find it expedient to push their relatives towards the grave.

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