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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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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