All posts filed under: Pro-Life

The Newest War on Women

Let me tell you a story—three stories, actually. Two myths and a difficult truth. The first myth is a sixth-century Sanskrit jataka, a story recounting a previous life of the Buddha. In this story, a bodhisattva named Rūpyāvatī cuts off her own breasts to feed a starving mother who is about to eat her newborn child out of desperation. Rūpyāvatī is praised for this radical act of self-sacrifice, and in recompense her breasts are divinely restored. Thus far, this story is viscerally beautiful and sharply affirming of the feminine: a woman saving another woman from death through the gift of her own life-giving flesh. Life and death edge close together here, almost blurring into one another—the new mother is on the brink of killing that to which she just gave life—until Rūpyāvatī intervenes, and the specter of death is driven away by a gesture of self-sacrificial love. But the story does not end there. After Rūpyāvatī’s female body is restored to wholeness, she makes a request to “the lord of the gods” to be freed …

Neo-Colonialism and Reproductive Health

A little over a century ago the continent of Africa was carved up and shared among the European powers. Every African nation—with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia—was colonized for upwards of 70 years by these European powers. My country, Nigeria, was one of those countries. However, I have no intention of rummaging aimlessly through the ash-heap of history today. I know that colonialism is a thing of the past and my country, alongside other African countries, have been independent, sovereign, and self-governing since the 1960’s. I am truly grateful for this independence. However, in recent years, we are noticing the return of Western footprints all across the continent of Africa. I am not speaking of the mostly welcome footprints of those seeking business investments, trade deals, or scientific advancements. No, I am speaking about the footprints of cultural imperialists, social engineers, and ideological neo-colonial masters who have presented themselves as enthusiastic donors, friends, and partners in the much desired development in the different African countries. Wealthy Western nations, powerful institutions, NGO’s, and private foundations …

Ross Douthat’s Expanding Seamless Garment

Whatever one thinks of his views, it is clear Ross Douthat has an irreplaceable voice in American public discourse. As a New York Times columnist who is read disproportionately by those who would otherwise dismiss conservative ideas, he has the gift of somehow inviting this audience to take such ideas seriously. Sidebar: If you are not a regular listener to the Times’ podcast “The Argument”—in which Douthat spars and jokes with co-hosts Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt—you are missing out on a good weekly example of this kind of influence in action. He is also an acclaimed thought-leader when it comes to the religion he converted to as a teenager: Roman Catholicism. His recent book, To Change the Church, was widely debated in Catholic circles and sparked numerous important conversations. Though the book largely either angered or was cheered on by Catholic partisans, for moderates like CUA’s David Cloutier it offered a “fair assessment” of the Francis papacy, despite its flaws. In my experience of reading and listening to Douthat, he is at his best when …

Can Justice Demand Prison Abolition?

Ihave been thinking, writing, and teaching about punishment and prisons for a while now. That is because I have spent time, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, with incarcerated men and women for the better part of the last 20 years. Sometimes I am there as an educator, but more often I am ministering as a lay Catholic volunteer. For several years in graduate school, I served as the Catholic chaplain in a facility in Boston. Honestly, I am not sure when I became a prison abolitionist. I did not start that way, but I arrived there. People of faith, especially Christians, have a special responsibility to respond to the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States. Yet, reform is not enough. I came to believe that an authentic Christian account of mercy and justice demands nothing short of abolition. There is much about the modern prison that opposes dignity and hope, but the special responsibility of Christians to address the prison also arises from the extensive Christian heritage of the institution itself. The …

The Eclipse of Sex by the Rise of Gender

A  colleague once expressed to me her dismay that a student in my gender theory class seemed unable to articulate the difference between sex and gender. I found this oddly affirming: this student had rightly picked up on the fact that those two terms do not have fixed meanings in gender theory, and certainly not in the culture at large. Why? Because, in a nutshell, we are deeply confused what it means to be a body, particularly a body who is sexed. This widespread confusion is reflected in the slippery usage of the terms “sex” and “gender.” Are these interchangeable synonyms? Or, do they reflect a dualistic split between a sexed body and gendered soul? Do they signify the interplay between biology and society in human identity? Depending upon the context, the words sex and gender can evoke any and all of those meanings. We no longer know who we are as sexed beings, and this is mirrored in our language. Perhaps more importantly, the meanings we hitch to those two words reflect (whether intended …

Prisons Are a Biblical Abomination

A few weeks ago my five-year-old daughter encountered poetry for the first time. I read to her a collection that had been one of my favorites, by Shel Silverstein. She was curious, sometimes perplexed, and generally enchanted by the revelation of the musicality of words and ideas. Then, we reached one poem that grabbed her like no other. She was in equal parts attracted and repulsed. She wanted me to read it over and over again. “People Zoo.” “I’m here in a cage that is small as can be / (You can’t let wild people run around free).” The narrator was “grabbed” by animals and “locked” in a cage. Other animals walk by and stare, laugh, or harass. “Do a trick,” the animals scream, but the narrator refuses. The poem closes by extending the reader an invitation to visit this zoo—but disguised as an animal, lest the reader end up in “Cage Two.” People kept in cages represent a world turned upside down. It was plain as day to my daughter: this is an abomination. …

Gestational Surrogacy Is Big Business

The recent spate of abortion laws pushed through state legislatures across the country has been much in the news. New York now permits even full-term babies to be aborted, and the new law has rightly sparked controversy. Forty-six years after Roe v. Wade, the abortion mindset has influenced the culture in insidious ways. I have been interested in the issue of surrogacy (and wrote about it in greater length here), and I found myself thinking of the parallels between the abortion mindset and that of surrogacy. Gestational Surrogacy Gestational surrogacy involves an agreement between commissioning parents and the woman who carries the baby in pregnancy, the birth or gestational mother (sometimes called the surrogate mother). The baby is conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using the genetic material of the commissioning parents, a donor, or a combination thereof, and subsequently implanted in the birth mother’s womb. She then carries the baby to term, gives birth to the baby, and, under the surrogacy contract, hands over the baby to the commissioning parents, having no right or …

The Devastating Fallout from Prenatal Testing

As we get older, we often tend to situate our lives in and around historical events, which serve as place markers and give us some frame of reference, especially when the events are personally salient. Because of my field and my personal experience, I see my life as demarcated in part by events in the history of disability in this country. For example, my son Tommy (who has Down syndrome) was born in 2007, the watershed year in which prenatal testing for chromosomal disabilities was recommended for all pregnant women by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and which also heralded unprecedented technological advances in prenatal screening and diagnosis. I was born 42 years earlier, in July of 1965. In December of that same year, a professor of education named Burton Blatt, well respected in the field of disability, asked his friend Fred Kaplan to accompany him on a tour inside four institutions for persons with cognitive disabilities in four eastern states. Kaplan agreed and went along with a camera hidden in his clothes. …

After Failing the Covington Catholic Test

Like many others, I failed the Covington Catholic test. I let myself be manipulated (apparently at the hands of anonymous internet bots operating with precise coordination to unleash maximum mayhem) by the original video and castigated these boys without pausing to think about whether there might be more to the story. I was all ready to pitch an op-ed calling out the March for Life’s cozying up the “Make America Great Again” crowd—when, much to my surprise, more videos were released that caused me to revisit what I thought I had just seen. These boys, though not 100% innocent, were far from the villains in the affair. The rush to publicly ruin their lives, and even threaten their school with violence, was absolutely sickening. But even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary, many simply could not let go of the original narrative and went looking for more evidence in support of it. They were partially successful. In response to a Native American’s claim that whites stole their land, a boy who attended the March …