Follow by Email

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Talking with Pro-Abortion Street Canvassers: Part II

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the experience of talking with pro-abortion street canvassers. I referenced a specific conversation in which the canvasser refused to accept written materials that refuted the points she was making.

That was not a productive conversation. In fact, I was furious upon ending it, and the canvasser seemed to be as well. I was so depressed that I was almost ready to throw in the towel on any sort of future effort to reach out to people who have been deceived by the pro-abortion point of view.

Well, this past summer, that changed. One hot Thursday afternoon at the end of July, I was afforded the amazing opportunity to talk to this same canvasser again. The way it happened was really fortuitous. When I talked to her last year, it was downtown while on a break from work, and this time I ran into her right by my house, while headed to the gym on a rare weekday off from work. I was walking at my usual brisk pace, listening to my iPod, when suddenly, right in my path, there she was, waving and beckoning me to come over and talk to her. I immediately recognized her, and the whole horrible experience of the previous year came rushing back to me. It was clear that she didn't recognize me (if anything, I look a lot different in gym clothes than I do in work clothes!) and I had about a millisecond to decide whether I was going to stop and talk or just ignore her and walk on by.

I think that in that millisecond, something in my subconscious told me that if I ran into this young woman again, against all odds of such a coincidence, I should take it as a sign that I was meant to have a second conversation with her. So I stopped.

What followed was probably the most interesting half hour in recent memory. It would be impossible to recount all of the twists and turns that the conversation took. It started with the reason the canvassers were out, which, unsurprisingly, was to get support for Planned Parenthood's preferred ways to implement the Obama health care law (i.e., get as much funding for abortions as possible). We discussed several public policy topics of which I have some knowledge, ranging from taxpayer funding of abortion and whether public funding actually encourages abortion as a choice, to whether it's scientifically provable that the unborn are human beings and whether the law should reflect that. By listening carefully and showing that I understood her point for point, I was actually able to present the logic of the pro-life position in a way that never would have been possible in our previous conversation. This time we were calm and thoughtful, and I truly tried to give her the benefit of the doubt on each point and forget that I'd heard every one of them a billion times before.

But the point when things got really interesting was when I asked her why this issue was so important and personal for her that she was willing to spend all day, every day flagging down strangers on street corners to talk to them about it. At that point, we started to talk about both of our past experiences with men and the experiences of our female friends and acquaintances. I found out that this young woman was very wounded by her past experiences. She had seen so many men abuse and take advantage of women sexually and leave them "holding the bag" (i.e., a baby or an STD) that she had concluded that women simply didn't have enough rights. In her mind, these types of situations would be best rectified by using the law to artificially make women more like men are naturally (i.e., immune to a lot of the natural physical consequences of sex). Yes, in her mind, what women really needed was the ability to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant as a result of sex, and/or to destroy a pregnancy that happened by "accident." After all, men never need to worry about these things, so we just need to equalize what nature made unequal.

I told her that I could see where she was coming from. I actually know personally of several situations where a woman was sleeping with a man, became pregnant, had the baby without his support, and was left in poverty to raise the child alone. Terrible, of course. It is obvious to me that such a situation is much worse for the woman because the man does not have to worry about the physical consequences of sex. If he does not want to face the consequences of his actions, no one can truly make him do so, short of throwing him in jail (and even that threat does not always work). Few people would argue that this is a desirable state of affairs.

Where I disagree is on the point that trying to artificially make women more physically like men (i.e., not pregnant or unable to get that way) would really fix this problem. At best it is a "bandaid" solution that doesn't truly get at the underlying issue, which is men disrespecting women and using sex as an instrument of power, control and self-gratification rather than love. If anything, I think the availability of contraception and abortion actually encourages men to engage in such behavior, since it gives sex at least the appearance of being consequence-free for the man. It is unclear to me how this would encourage more loving behavior on the man's part.

I pointed out to this young woman that situations like the ones she mentioned would rarely even happen to begin with if society taught men to truly love and respect women, and taught women that they deserve nothing less than this from men. I pointed out that a truly loving man would never put his beloved in a situation where she could get a disease or be left alone in poverty to raise a child. In other words, a man who truly loves a woman would ONLY use his sexuality as an instrument of love. And within that truth lies the solution.

This was the point where the conversation sort of ground to a halt. She didn't exactly disagree with me. No, more than anything, she was just skeptical that men could ever be convinced to live like that. In her mind, men are inherently selfish scoundrels who just want what they can get from women, and women should just forget about trying to change that. The best we can hope for is to be able to "protect" ourselves (with birth control and abortion) so we don't get hurt too badly.

And this is when I concluded that the most basic difference between the pro-life and pro-legalized-abortion camps is hope. Hope in the future, hope in the beautiful and naturally-present differences between men and women, hope in the inherent goodness of people, hope in our ability to inspire change in society, hope in the lasting power of true love.

We have it, they don't. That's pretty much the essence of it.

I told this young woman that based on the incredible examples of love between a man and a woman that I have witnessed in my life, I have incredible hope that I too will find that kind of love someday, and hope that all women, including her, will hold out for the same - because we are too precious to accept anything less. And I wished her the best. She thanked me for the conversation and we went our separate ways.

It certainly makes sense that someone who has never seen an example of faithful, selfless, committed love between a man and a woman is so cynical about the power of that kind of love to change the world. I pray that every pro-lifer finds some way to impart a bit of hope in the power of love to the many wounded people out there who have no rational reason to believe in it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Monty Python and the Holy Truth: A Lesson in Natural Law

Author James Penrice has a marvelous post up at Catholic Online on the concept of natural law. His material comes from a surprising source: a scene from the 1979 film Monty Python's Life of Brian.

I have to wonder if the creators of the film knew what a profound statement they were making when they wrote this scene. The point, of course, is that people and things are the way they are; they comprise a reality that we didn't create and cannot deny. Therefore, pointing out that someone cannot act contrary to reality is not actually an act of oppression, no matter how much certain activist groups want to portray it that way.

Go read the whole thing. It's excellent.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Statutory Rape: A Key Issue Left Out of the Debate on Parental Notice for Abortions

In all of the press surrounding the recent release of Illinois' Parental Notice of Abortion law from its permanent court injunction, many voices have been given platforms to pontificate about why it's a really bad thing for the law to require that parents be notified before their minor daughters undergo abortions. Even though these voices do not even come close to representing the beliefs of a majority of citizens, the Chicago newspapers have given them extremely disproportionate coverage. Even when one considers the published opinions that do represent the views of the majority, it is clear that a key issue (if not the key issue) has been left out of the debate. I've written the Chicago Tribune twice now to expose this issue, and they have not published my letters. Below is my latest attempt, responding in particular to Dr. Emily Godfrey's letter which was published on May 14th.

Dr. Emily Godfrey's letter, "Parental Notice of Abortion Act is harmful to girls," reiterated the typical argument from those who oppose a legal requirement that parents be notified of a minor daughter's intention to have an abortion. It goes something like this: Pregnant minors can make all medical decisions about their pregnancies (e.g., prenatal care, C-sections) without involving their parents. Why should abortion be any different?

Dr. Godfrey actually admits the difference when she says: "My patients...should not be forced by a 'one-size-fits-all' state law to notify parents that they are pregnant." The concern, therefore, is not really about the girl's freedom to make the "medical decision" to have an abortion (the law, after all, does not require parental consent), but about concealing the girl's pregnancy and the sexual activity that caused it. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that a girl's decision to have a C-section has no bearing on whether others are aware of her pregnancy.

According to the American Bar Association, the majority of teen pregnancies are fathered by adult men. Furthermore, undercover research by organizations such as Live Action Films and Life Dynamics Incorporated has revealed abortion clinic employees offering to help young clients to conceal the age of their partners, despite being mandatory reporters of sexual abuse. Given these facts, it is unconscionable that the issue of statutory rape continues to be left out of the public debate on Illinois' parental notice law. To say that this law is reasonable would be an understatement. It is the absolute minimum that abortion clinics should be doing to protect the vulnerable teens of our state.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How To Hold On To Your Man: Advice Columnist Almost Gets It Right

I sometimes enjoy perusing online advice columns and shows, particularly those related to love and relationships. It's interesting to see what issues people are having, whether I identify with them, and whether I agree with the advice given.

Often I think that advice given on sexual matters actually hits close to the truth, yet still falls short. There really do seem to be certain truths written into nature, knowable by anyone regardless of religious faith tradition, that most people seem to acknowledge at least implicitly.

Like the fact that it's not the best idea to have sex with someone who doesn't care about you.

This was the crux of the advice given in this YouTube video from YourTango to a woman wondering why men tend to leave her after she sleeps with them.

The woman asks YourTango:

How can I prevent a man from leaving after sex? After dating a man for two months we finally had sex. It was really great but right after he became distant and soon after disappeared entirely. I was devastated. Why do men do this? What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

The advice from YourTango's Evan Marc Katz was as follows:

I've got a really simple policy for you if you want to prevent men from leaving after sex. Don't sleep with them until they are your boyfriend. So, how you execute this plan is, if you're getting hot and heavy with a guy, and he wants to sleep with you, and offers to sleep with you, all you have to do, in a very simple matter-of-fact tone, is say, "I would love to sleep with you right now. I would love to ravish you right now. The thing is, I don't sleep with any man until I know that he's my boyfriend and we're committed to each other." You tell him that, you're pretty much letting him know that you are interested in him. So you're not rejecting him, you're just rejecting the idea of sex right now, and so this puts him in a very simple predicament. Either: "Wow, I respect this woman, and I think I do want to see this relationship forward, to be her boyfriend," or: "Aw, man, I just wanted to have sex with her, and she's making it difficult for me, so I think I'm gonna leave." And if he leaves, and never calls you after this date, then guess what? You just spared yourself the trouble of sleeping with a guy and finding out that he's gonna break your heart. Pretty foolproof, huh?

I think the advice-giver is definitely on the right track. He at least acknowledges that there's really no point in sleeping with a man whom you know doesn't care about you. (This is something that certain avowed feminists evidently don't agree with, as I noted in one of my other recent posts.) However, I don't agree that his suggested "policy" is "pretty foolproof." As one of the commenters to the video opined:

Not that foolproof. It is not like guys are signing contracts. If a guy is a big enough creep to sleep with you and run away, he is a big enough creep to say he wants to be your boyfriend, sleep with you and then run away.

True. After all, "boyfriend" is kind fuzzily defined; it means different things to different people. And it's certainly no guarantee that you won't be left and heartbroken just the same as you might be if you hadn't declared yourself boyfriend-and-girlfriend. As the commenter said, that's not a contract.

But you know what is? Marriage. Marriage happens when a man is willing to say (not just to you, but to the whole world, including the government and - if you're religious - God), that he will love you and stand by your side as long as you both shall live. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, with his whole being, fully, completely, and selflessly. Can that promise be broken too? Sure it can. But I think that it is the best guarantee that we have (in this life, anyway) that a man truly loves a woman, and is not just in the relationship for his own sexual pleasure. I would go so far as to say that if a man says he loves a woman, but isn't willing to make that promise to her for life, it isn't really love. As Michael Voris said in a recent episode of The Vortex (and as I also quoted in another recent post):

When you love anything, you by definition love it radically. If you don't, it's not really love. It's warmth, or fondness, or affection, or nostalgia, or duty, or obligation - call it whatever you want, but it ain't love.

Here's my message to women like the advice-seeker in this video. Ask yourself whether the man in your life loves you radically. (It should be an easy question if you're completely honest with yourself.) If the answer is no, move along. You deserve to experience true love: love that lasts forever, that accepts you exactly as you are, that gives selflessly, is unconditional and unchanging. Accept nothing less.

Now that's empowering.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Love is By Definition Radical"

Michael Voris, a Catholic and fellow ND alum, produces and hosts a show known as The Vortex. For the past couple of months I've been watching it regularly. In it, he covers many topics of interest to Catholics, particularly information about people and movements that try to distort or discredit the Catholic Church's moral teachings. A couple of weeks ago he put out an episode called Radical, Man. Radical. It was about Catholics who don't want to speak out about the truths of the faith in order to save others because it would be too "radical" to do so.

There were many good points made in the episode, but one quote in particular jumped out at me as being relevant to all people (not just Catholics) from a natural-law perspective, especially in light of some of the responses to my post yesterday about contraception.

The quote was as follows:

When you love anything, you by definition love it radically. If you don't, it's not really love. It's warmth, or fondness, or affection, or nostalgia, or duty, or obligation - call it whatever you want, but it ain't love. What parent doesn't love their child radically? What spouse doesn't love their spouse radically? Love is radical. It's why you get out of bed in the morning. It's why you labor throughout the day. It's what directs your thoughts and your heart.

Would our culture agree with the statement that "when you love anything, you by definition love it radically?" It would seem not. I mean, I so often hear from people that they need/want to have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend because they "love" them, yet they're not sure whether they want to be together forever, so they're not going to get married and are going to use all manner of hormones and devices to "protect" themselves from the possible effects of sex with one another. So, it's clear that they don't view love as a free, total, faithful, radical, selfless gift of one person to another. If they did, they'd be committing to that person for life, and they certainly wouldn't feel that there is anything in the other person that they need to be "protected" from.

So the question becomes: When such a person says that they "love" their boyfriend or girlfriend, what do they really mean?

Is it really possible to understand love in any way other than how Michael Voris describes it?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Pill: Empowering Women Who Have Sex with Men They Don't Even Like

Anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention to the "lame"-stream media over the past couple of weeks has no doubt heard that this month marks the 50th anniversary of "The Pill." Pro-abortion groups and others claiming to represent women's interests are seizing the opportunity to make proclamations about how empowered and liberated women have become due to the increasing availability of hormonal contraceptives.

In fact, last week Planned Parenthood sent out an e-mail message to supporters asking them to go to PP's website and share personal stories about how the Pill has changed their lives, with the hope that these testimonies would convince federal policymakers to further increase access and subsidies for the Pill. On their website, they've even created a timeline that groups all of these submissions according to the year in which each story occurred.

I started idly clicking through them, and was very underwhelmed by the proliferation of the usual buzzwords: "control," "empowerment," "family planning," "choice," "feminism," "gender equality," and "having children when I'm ready." But then when I got to 1983, the following caught my eye:

I worked for Planned Parenthood for several years in the 80's. I saw hundreds of scared young women come into our clinic and leave feeling more in control of their lives. I was stunned to learn how many young women are sexually involved with men they don't even like -- at least this way they wouldn't have an unplanned pregnancy on top of other problems. --Judy W., 1983

What? Are you kidding me? Now I've heard it all. For years I've read and listened to PP and their ilk weaving stories of loving couples carefully discerning when to bring a child into the world so as to love it most fully. Situations like that, they claim, are the main reason why we need things like the Pill available. But the admission above blows that fairytale out of the water. And it ought to have any self-respecting woman scratching her head.

For starters, what on earth is the point of being sexually involved with a man you don't like? And if you sterilize yourself with something like the Pill, actively guaranteeing that he'll never have any reason to be with you other than his own erotic desire - no babies, no love, no life together - who does that benefit? Him or you?

This is female empowerment?

It is so sad that Planned Parenthood would offer contraception as a solution for a woman in this situation. Why not question why she's involved in such intimate activity with someone she doesn't like? Why not tell her that she deserves a man who will love and care for her fully, in good times and in bad; and accept all aspects of her? Why not remind her that she is not an object to be used for a man's pleasure?

But no. The so-called feminists clearly don't think women are strong enough to take this kind of talk to heart, buck up, and go out in search of something better. The most they can do is slap a band-aid on the problem. It's hopeless to actually get you into a healthy relationship, so at least we'll try to make sure you don't get pregnant.

If women stopped enabling immature and selfish men by contracepting, and actually held out for men who would truly love and respect them exactly as they are, I can only imagine the changes that would take place in our society. I pray that all women realize what kind of man they deserve and accept nothing less.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is It Enough to Talk About Abortion With "Fair-Minded Words"?

This afternoon I happened upon this YouTube video showing a snippet of President Barack Obama's 2009 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. I was actually present in person for this speech, and I remember this segment as one of the most disingenuous parts. In fact, I myself was almost - almost - taken in by the apparent reasonableness of it.

Here's what he said:

A few days after I won the Democratic nomination, I received an e-mail from a doctor who told me that while he voted for me in the Illinois primary, he had a serious concern that might prevent him from voting for me in the general election. He described himself as a Christian who was strongly pro-life -- but that was not what was preventing him potentially from voting for me.

What bothered the doctor was an entry that my campaign staff had posted on my website -- an entry that said I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose."

The doctor said he had assumed I was a reasonable person, he supported my policy initiatives to help the poor and to lift up our educational system, but that if I truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable. He wrote, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words." Fair-minded words.

After I read the doctor's letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn't change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my website.

And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

Many commentators later cheered him as sounding so "reasonable." But if you translate this into plain English, what does it come down to? Barack Obama supports the legal right to kill a baby in the womb. And he understandably wants to "fight" those who disagree with him on that. Well, his encounter with this doctor taught him that both of those things are just fine - he doesn't have to "change his underlying position," as long as he talks nice about pro-lifers.

Too often, both sides of the abortion debate treat it as something that's merely academic. Is this killing a baby or isn't it? Who knows? Your opinion is just as good as mine. And as long as we chill out and "presume good faith" on the part of our opponents, we can continue forever, deadlocked in our diametrically opposed positions, and everything will be just hunky-dory. Meanwhile, the killing of babies continues, and no one is paying attention to this, the heart of the matter.

Enough with the rhetorical games. Science clearly proves that abortion kills a living human being. There is no question about that. Either we will (individually and collectively) take a stand and end this injustice or we won't. All President Obama did at the University of Notre Dame was to confuse people into thinking that they can opt-out of this decision. After all, the most that can be asked of us is that we speak about the fundamental civil rights issue of our time in "fair-minded words."

And ironically, a baby cries in the background during this part of his speech, reminding us that this topic encompasses more than just the words we use to talk about it.