Jennifer Fulwiler

Why I lost faith in the pro-choice movement

Jennifer Fulwiler
By Jennifer Fulwiler
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November 1, 2012 (NCRegister.com) - I was sitting on a bean bag in my dorm room when I got the call. It was a friend of mine—let’s call her “Sara”—and she was sobbing so hard it took me a moment to know who it was.

Finally, she pulled herself together enough to speak. With a voice that sounded as weary as if she had aged 100 years since the last time we talked, she said, “I’m pregnant.”

My heart sunk on her behalf. I was completely pro-choice and didn’t find the idea of abortion to be troubling, but I knew that she was not comfortable with it. She had always said that she respected other women’s rights to choose, but that she could never do that. Yet I also knew that she was not entirely thrilled with this guy she was dating, a young man named Rob. He was handsome and charismatic, but he had a serious drinking problem, and didn’t treat her with the respect she deserved.

I listened while she explained through tears that it would ruin her life to have a child, especially with Rob. She had recently decided that she would break up with him soon, and even looked forward to doing so; the thought of having an inextricable, lifelong connection to him made her physically ill. Then there were the facts that parenting a child would derail her college career, and that she didn’t even want to be a mother—not to mention the fact that she was pretty sure her parents would disown her if she came home from school pregnant. “I knew this would be my worst nightmare. That’s why I’m always so serious about contraception!” she said. But, despite her best efforts, something had gone wrong. Her contraception had failed.

I tried to turn the conversation in a constructive direction, employing the word that was supposedly so empowering to women of our generation. “Let’s talk about your choices,” I suggested.

“Choices?” She let out a hard, bitter laugh as she spat the word back at me. “I don’t have any.”

Sara went to an abortion facility and had the pregnancy “taken care of.” We never spoke of it again. She became distant from me and many of her other friends in the months that followed, and we eventually lost touch.

I still think of Sara now and then, especially when I come across pieces like this one at Patheos that’s making the rounds, in which Libby Anne writes of why she lost faith in the pro-life movement. Her story felt oddly familiar, as it reminds me a lot of my own. Though my conversion went the opposite direction, mine, like hers, hinged on the issues of contraception and personhood, and the question of what really liberates women. I’ve been thinking about it all ever since I read her post, and thought I would share my own story.

Who’s afraid of information?

My first tipoff that something was wrong in the pro-choice movement was when I realized that there was a great fear of information. A year or two after Sara’s situation, another friend found herself in a crisis pregnancy (also due to failed contraception), and was wrestling with the issue of abortion. She had asked me to find out how far her baby would have developed at this point, so I did some research online.

I found some images and descriptions of fetal development, and was amazed by how much I hadn’t known. For all the time I’d spent talking about abortion rights, I’d never bothered to learn the details about what, exactly, happens within a woman’s womb when she’s pregnant, and no one had encouraged me to do so. I had never heard that fetuses have arms and legs and tastebuds at eight weeks gestation, or that they began practicing breathing at 11 weeks. I paused and thought about that for a long time. It didn’t make me question my pro-choice stance, but for the first time I could understand how someone could be uncomfortable with abortion.

The biggest thing I noticed, however, was that pro-life sites had this information in abundance. The pro-lifers encouraged women to educate themselves about the details of pregnancy, suggested that they view ultrasounds to know what was happening within their bodies, and offered resources to educate women about all aspects of the female reproductive system.

On the pro-choice side, it was a totally different story.

I had started my research on websites for abortion providers and various feminist organizations, which I had assumed would equip women to make informed choices by providing them with full information. To my concern and surprise, I could not find one shred of information about fetal development on any websites associated with the pro-choice movement. When I read their literature about the details of abortion procedures, they were full of insulting euphemisms. Even when describing second trimester abortions, they would use eerily vague terms talking about “emptying the uterus” of its “contents.” I felt like I had been transported back to Victorian England, where women weren’t supposed to be told hard facts, even about their own bodies, because they might get all flustered.

Personhood: The other elephant in the room

Nowhere was the fear of information more obvious than on the issue of personhood. We had always gotten a good laugh out of anti-choicers and their love of zygotes, and would feel triumphant when we would point out the elephant in the room that they must not really value these lives as fully human since they didn’t hold full funerals for, say, early miscarriages. But as my questions about the pro-choice worldview festered, I began to notice that we were tripping all over our own elephants.

We may have snickered at the idea of a three-day-old conceptus being completely human, but I began to notice a startling lack of interest in nailing down the question of when unborn life did become human. Folks within the pro-choice movement would scoff at the idea of a seven-week-old fetus being a person, and would nod in unquestioning agreement that a baby is fully human the day before her due date. So that must mean that there is some point at which we’re no longer talking about a sub-human “fetus” and we’re now talking about a fully human baby. Yet I could not get a single answer about when that might happen, not from individuals, not from official organizational statements. There was absolutely zero interest in the question of when we should start protecting unborn human life.

I’ll never forgot the first time I read the documents to the Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart. Intelligent, educated people—some of them leaders of our country—coolly debated the most effective way to kill babies who were close to or beyond the age of viability. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote an amici brief in which they advocated for D&X, a procedure in which babies are delivered and then killed outside of the womb. Their reasoning?

D&X presents a variety of potential safety advantages over other abortion procedures used during the same gestational period. Compared to D&E’s involving dismemberment, D&X involves less risk of uterine perforation or cervical laceration because it requires the physician to make fewer passes into the uterus with sharp instruments and reduces the presence of sharp fetal bone fragments that can injure the uterus and cervix. There is also considerable evidence that D&X reduces the risk of retained fetal tissue, a serious abortion complication that can cause maternal death, and that D&X reduces the incidence of a ‘free floating’ fetal head that can be difficult for a physician to grasp and remove and can thus cause maternal injury. [emphasis mine]

The ACOG had recently made statements condemning homebirth, in part because they were concerned about the health of babies. And yet here they were, coolly saying that it’s better to kill babies outside of the womb because their decapitated heads can injure their mothers.
I was left speechless by the level of disconnect I was seeing—not just among fringe extremists, but by the average pro-choice person. I had recently visited a friend’s baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital, and I recalled that the baby in the incubator next to us was born the week before at 24 weeks gestation, and so was now 25 weeks old. This baby was the same age as the babies whose method of extermination was debated in Stenberg v. Carhart. If he were to be murdered in his incubator it would be a headline-generating tragedy. But if the same thing were to happen to him—at the exact same age—in which he was murdered as part of an induced delivery, it would be an ACOG-approved medical procedure.

I saw an almost pathological level of avoidance, in myself as well as in the larger pro-choice community, on this most critical issue of when a fetus becomes a person, and when abortion becomes infanticide. When pressed on this topic we would always dodge the issue, usually by responding with the utterly irrelevant answer that these procedures are rare compared to first trimester abortions. Even though many of us were personally horrified by the idea of such occurrences, some great pressure kept us from taking a clear look at this life-and-death issue, and calling a horror a horror when we beheld it.

What really takes away women’s reproductive freedom?

What I was encountering was a level of internal inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty that bordered on insanity. I noticed it in myself, too: No matter how many red flags popped up in front of me, no matter how much data pointed in the direction of the humanity of unborn life, I couldn’t bring myself to think of myself as anything other than pro-choice. Even though I was increasingly uncomfortable with the entire concept, something within me screamed that to not support abortion would be to support women being slaves to their biology.

This pressure built and built over months, and eventually years. And then, one day it clicked.

I was looking through a Time magazine article whose infograph cited data from the Guttmacher Institute about the most common reasons women have abortions. It immediately struck me that none of the factors on the list were conditions that we tell women to consider before engaging in sexual activity. Don’t have the money to raise a child? Don’t think your boyfriend would be a good father? Don’t feel ready to be a mother? Women were never encouraged to consider these factors before they had sex; only before they had a baby.

The fundamental truth of the pro-choice movement, from which all of its tenets flow, is that sex does not have to have life-altering consequences. I suddenly saw that it was the struggle to uphold this “truth” that led to all the shady dealings, all the fear of information, all the mental gymnastics that I’d observed. For example:

—> If it is true that sex does not have to have life-altering consequences, then life within the womb cannot be human. Otherwise, when your contraception fails or you otherwise end up with an unplanned pregnancy, you just became a parent, and that truth was proven false.

—> If it is true that sex does not have to have life-altering consequences, then people should be able to engage in sexual activity as they see fit, without giving a second thought to parenthood. And if it’s true that it is morally acceptable for people to engage in sexual activity without giving a second thought to parenthood, then abortion must be okay. Contraception has abysmal actual use effectiveness rates, especially when taken over the long term. Combine that with the fact that the contraceptive mentality tells women to go ahead and engage in the act that creates babies, even if they feel certain that they’re in no position to have a baby, and you see how women would feel trapped, and think that their only way out is through the doors of their local abortion mill.

Over the years I’d heard many pro-lifers say things along the lines of, “If you’re engaging in the act that creates babies, you might create a baby; if you are absolutely certain that you’re not ready to have a baby, avoid the act that creates babies.” The pro-choice movement dismissed such statements, often sneeringly, as being overly simplistic and even oppressive. Yet is it not true? Now that I had taken a look under the hood of the pro-choice worldview, I came to see this as yet another example of pro-lifers respecting women enough to tell them hard truths that they may not want to hear, but need to hear. And far from blowing women off with pat answers, as I had always imagined pro-lifers did, when I took a closer look at that movement I found it to be quite realistic about the complexities of life, and surprisingly understanding that things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. I was interested to learn that there are more pregnancy assistance centers in the U.S. than there are abortion facilities, and that the Catholic Church, which is the largest pro-life organization in the world, is also the largest charitable organization in the world.

Once all of this set in, I thought of all my friends who had ended up sitting in the waiting rooms of abortion facilities, and mourned for them anew. In each case there was an unspoken but palpable question of, How could this have happened? These young women played by the rules. They tried to do the right thing. None of them slept around, none lived careless lives. They had dutifully used contraception, just like they were supposed to. They were told that this was the path to a life of freedom, and were dazed and traumatized when they found themselves without real choices, backed into a corner by their circumstances.

I believe that most people who are pro-choice hold that viewpoint because they want to help women. I was pro-choice out of loving concern for my sisters all over the world, and, on the surface, it seemed that this view was the most compassionate. But when I took a hard look behind the closed doors of the pro-choice movement, and demanded full information, and acknowledged the dignity of women of all ages (even those not yet born), and asked hard questions about what women’s reproductive freedom really means, that is when I became pro-life.

This article first appeared on the National Catholic Register and is reprinted with permission.

 

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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.

Click "like" to support Catholics Restoring the Culture!

"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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