All posts tagged: feminism

Humanae Vitae in Light of the War Against Female Fertility

It is startling for those living in a society that so relies on contraception to learn that, for nearly two millennia, every Christian denomination prohibited the use of contraception, even within marriage. This common front first cracked in 1930 when, at the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church made a limited exception for the use of contraceptives by husband and wife.[1] Within the half-century that followed, the pro-contraception view mutated from an anomalous exception into the dominant strain of conventional opinion. Accordingly, dissent from the Catholic Church’s prohibition of contraception is common coin, even (or perhaps especially) among Catholic theologians. Stephen Pope, a Boston College theologian, told a television reporter, “I would say the encyclical [Humanae vitae, affirming the Church’s teaching on contraception] was one of the worst things that happened to the Catholic Church in the twentieth century.”[2] In fact, it is easier to find a theologian who dissents from this teaching than to find one who agrees. Such birth-control boosterism is especially predominant among theologians who matured in the hothouse of dissent in the 1960’s, …

Sex and Symbol

I was reared in the cradle of Evangelical Protestantism. I passed from girlhood to womanhood in that world, and during the tumult of puberty an increasing awareness of my unruly female body introduced me to the contested terrain of “womanhood” itself. What is a woman? What is her place? What are her gifts and limits? In an Evangelical context, such discussions and demarcations focused primarily on the concept of roles. What is it that woman is supposed to do? Or, more to the point, what is she not supposed to do? I was something of a tomboy, with bushy eyebrows and generous facial hair. I was competitive, but also tenderhearted. I anthropomorphized everything, in accordance with the stereotypes of my sex, but I enjoyed doing boyish things. I loved sports. I wanted to be fast. I wanted to win. On the sports field, there seemed to be no limits. But lines were drawn starkly in church. A woman’s role, her task, was to be a helpmeet to her husband and care for her children. The …

The “Repeal the 8th” Campaign Negates an Irish History of Non-Violence

For many decades now, Ireland has been a shining beacon of non-violence—one which refuses to choose between the life and dignity of a mother and that of her prenatal child. Abortion had long been illegal in Ireland, but in 1983 the Irish (by a 67-33 referendum vote) adopted this 8th amendment to their constitution: The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right. And they have made good on their promise to protect and love both mother and child. Indeed, Ireland has significantly better health outcomes for pregnant women than abortion-friendly England and the United States. Significantly, this is also true of Chile, one of a handful other countries to offer something close to full legal protection of the prenatal child. Ostensibly in support of “health care” for women, however, pro-abortion rights forces around the world have been supporting a referendum to repeal the 8th …

Debunking Abortion Myths: Part 3

In just over a week, hundreds of thousands of Americans will gather on the National Mall to protest the their country’s abortion policy, which ranks among the most permissive in the world. As abortion rates reach their lowest levels since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and its lesser known sister case Doe v. Bolton, political acrimony and vitriol reach new levels. In fact, our political rhetoric often gives the impression that Americans are deeply divided on abortion, and it appears that political lobbies and large corporate bodies are willing to create, cultivate, and inflame these perceptions in the hope that these false and subversive narratives will, through the exertion of power, money, and influence, divide Americans into pre-fabricated consumer camps. It’s easier to get funding, to market ideas, to get elected, and to stay in power when the public see every neighbor not as a human being, but as an ally or enemy, as a friend or foe. Our political rhetoric creates the impression of polarization. The most recent example of …

Debunking Abortion Myths: Part 1

In just over two weeks several hundred thousand women, men, and children will converge at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life. The March for Life is the world’s largest annual civil rights and social justice protest. Founded by pro-life activist Nellie Grey, the March for Life has been taken place every year since 1974, to protest the Supreme Court’s 7–2 decision in Roe v. Wade, and the less well known sister case, Doe v. Bolton. Since the court’s 1973 decision, it is estimated that upwards of 59 million Americans have died as a result of abortion. Public discourse about abortion is polemic, vitriolic, and largely unproductive. It also fails to reflect the realities on the ground, as a December Salon article by Shawna Kay Rodenberg demonstrated. Her proposed guidelines on how to argue with one’s pro-life relatives about abortion betrayed many common assumptions people have about abortion and about what it means to be pro-life. Yet, Ms. Rodenberg is certainly not the first person—and will not be the …

Can Catholic women ‘lean in’?

Do the Church’s family policies adequately support family life? A few considerations. When I attended my five-year law school reunion, the first since we’d graduated, my classmates—many of them miserable in high-stress, unglamorous legal jobs—were astounded by what they perceived as my good fortune. “You get to travel, appear on television, speak at high schools and colleges?” they marveled. I was asked more than once, “How do I get a job like YOURS?” Yes, on the surface, my first fresh-out-of-law-school position was a pretty sweet one. The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin had asked me to direct the Respect Life Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago, meaning I was responsible for issues like abortion and assisted suicide. In the early 1990s, it also meant I was often called upon to defend the Church’s teaching at a time when the Supreme Court had recently handed down the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision and when state legislatures were subsequently considering varying degrees of proposals that would, in light of Casey, allow for some modest protections for women and …

Which equality?

Americans have always been marked in a particular way by the ideal of “equality,” as the famous French traveler to our young nation, Alexis de Tocqueville, noted in his extensive travel log, Democracy in America. And no matter how much the ideal has been put into practice, the pursuit of equality never ceases to abate. On the contrary, it is stoked to a point of missionary fervor in the face of territories apparently still untouched by the civilizing ideal. This is especially true now where the relation between men and women is in question. At first glance, there couldn’t be anything more obvious than men and women being thought of and treated as equals, in the sense of equally human, even if this has not always been evident to everyone, as for example in the famous medieval querelle des femmes or “woman question” debate—though we would need a sense of humor to understand some of this. And there couldn’t be anything more desirable, especially since the equality of the sexes would be the reason for …