AN NRO SYMPOSIUM July 30, 2015 4:00 AM
We asked some distinguished experts what would become of women’s health in a post-Planned Parenthood era.
I became pro-life while working on welfare reform as a college intern at a small think tank during the Clinton years. Like so many of my “socialist feminist” compatriots in the Women’s Studies program at Middlebury College in the ’90s, I had unreflectively assumed abortion to be an essential piece of the puzzle in helping women escape poverty. I did not realize at the time just how elitist and antithetical to women’s well-being this justification for abortion really was. Justice Blackmun expressed the creeping eugenic reasoning best in his 1977 dissent in Beal v. Doe: [The cost of elective abortion] “is far less than the cost of maternity care and delivery, and holds no comparison whatsoever with the welfare costs that will burden the state for the new indigents and their support in the long, long years ahead.” Opposite this prevalent view sat Mary Ann Glendon’s 1991 book Rights Talk. It had been assigned in one of my classes, and it was the first time I’d heard articulated the pro-life alternative. Rather than offer mere legal autonomy to the pregnant woman in crisis — an autonomy that abandons both mother and child – Glendon suggested that, as a community, we might instead seek to meet the needs of mother and child, offering them the support they needed to mutually flourish. This way, I could then see, was far more difficult, more time-intensive and messy, but I also knew, then and there, that it was more authentically human, and thoroughly pro-woman. Obria Medical Clinics and those others working heroically to replace Planned Parenthood, and to provide a safe harbor for mothers and children in need, are not only powerfully transformative in the lives of the vulnerable they serve; in my own personal experience, these clinics and maternity homes have enormous power of persuasion in the abortion debate — simply because they exist.
— Erika Bachiochi, Esq., is the author of “Embodied Equality: Debunking Equal Protection Arguments for Abortion Rights” (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 2011).
FRANCIS J. BECKWITH
Assuming that the absence of Planned Parenthood were precipitated by the growing awareness on the public’s part that it is an organization with goals inimical to our deepest intuitions about human life’s profound sanctity, its departure from the scene would mark a fundamental shift in how society thinks of the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the poor. For any culture that abandons the cold, calculating, and contractual premises of modern eugenics — that we are to measure our happiness by how unencumbered we are from the burden of our natural limitations and the dependence of those for whom we did not explicitly choose to care — means that it is a culture moving in the direction of faith, hope, and charity. So, it would not at all surprise me to see, soon after the disappearance of Planned Parenthood, growing platoons of pro-life citizens building on the work of the many crisis-pregnancy centers throughout America that have labored for decades under the suspicion, harassment, and condescension of the abortion-choice industrial complex. Because that supercilious contempt of bygone days would quickly become unfashionable, the pro-life movement would be unleashed to develop in its fullness what it has in the past 40 years nobly performed in conditions under which other movements would have folded.
— Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and the author of Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (2007) and the forthcoming Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (2015), both from Cambridge University Press.
The first thing to get clear is that Planned Parenthood actually doesn’t provide all that much for poor, vulnerable women — particularly if they don’t live in cities. Indeed, you may remember that, in wake of the Susan J. Komen defunding ridiculousness from a few years ago, lots of charges were thrown around about women losing out on mammograms. But it turns out that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even provide them. As Democrats for Life has pointed out numerous times in recent days, the number of local community health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics ten to one. Rather than the one-size-fits-all franchise approach of Planned Parenthood, these community health centers nicely embody the principle of subsidiarity in responding to the diverse local needs of women — whether in the Bronx, rural Kansas, or southern California. Indeed, these community health centers provide everything Planned Parenthood does, and more, but without doing abortions. Instead of offering a simply negative message of defunding Planned Parenthood, we ought to focus on redirecting the half-billion dollars per year to these nonviolent community health centers. This may be difficult if we are in bed with a Republican party, already somewhat embarrassed by its association with the pro-life movement, which would prefer to keep the government out of this kind of funding. But especially if we care about poor women in cities, where Planned Parenthood primarily serves, we should funnel that money toward community health centers in those areas, and resist the temptation to roll over for small-government conservatives. A consistent concern for the vulnerable — including mothers and their prenatal children — requires nothing less.
— Charles C. Camosy (@nohiddenmagenta) is an associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University and the author of Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation.
We have heard much regarding Planned Parenthood and all the services it provides. Yet the question remains: Exactly what does it do? Remember the much-ballyhooed mammograms? They turned into nothing more than pass-through funding that could be more efficiently directed by a less limited clinic. In Nevada, PP advertises abortion services, birth control, HIV testing, LGBT services, morning-after pills, pregnancy testing and services, STD testing, treatment, and vaccines, women’s health care, and men’s health care. Nevada has three Planned Parenthood Clinics — one in Reno and two in Clark County (Las Vegas). In comparison, there are 52 community health clinics spread throughout the state, and they exist even in some of the smallest rural towns. These health centers provide women’s medical care regardless of age or medical issue, and are not just for “lady parts.” In addition to women’s health, services provided at many of these free community health clinics include dental care, immunizations (from babies to adults), STD testing and treatment, pre- and post-partum pregnancy care, behavioral-health care, pediatric care, and general care — regardless of age or gender. These clinics, often owned by community-based nonprofits, operate through federal and state grants. A note on the men’s health services Planned Parenthood claims to offer: The services provided for males are limited to only those areas that could be covered by a swimsuit, as long as it’s a Speedo. If you have jock itch or premature ejaculation, PP, as noted on its website, might be a good choice. Otherwise, a community health center is the best option, again regardless of age or service needed. For a woman facing any medical problem — whether her own or a loved one’s — health centers that provide a full suite of services are always preferable. The website freeclinics.com provides ample information on free and reduced-rate clinics throughout my state and others. Money that is currently going to Planned Parenthood should support these community-based centers offering health care for all.
— Melissa Clement is the president of Nevada Right to Life.
MAUREEN L. CONDIC
According to a recent study, 89 percent of U.S. counties did not have an abortion provider in 2011 (down approximately 1 percent since 2008). These counties were home to almost 40 percent of American women in their reproductive years (ages 14 to 44). The study concludes that while the abortion rate continues to decline (as it has been doing since the early 1980s), “no evidence was found that the overall drop in abortion incidence was related to the decrease in providers or to restrictions implemented between 2008 and 2011.” Despite hysterical claims that defunding Planned Parenthood will set loose an apocalypse for women who rely on PP for cancer and STD screening, this simply hasn’t happened. There has been a 20 percent decline in the number of PP clinics since 1995, and over this same period, there has also been a steady decline in both STD and cancer incidence for women. No apocalypse here. Even if all PP clinics close, the sky is not going to fall, even when it comes to the availability of abortion. According to the study cited above, the 1,058,490 abortions performed in 2011 were provided by 329 abortion clinics, 510 “other” clinics, 595 hospitals, and 286 physician’s offices. Options are available. What should not be available is public funding for killing what science inarguably shows is not a “potential” human being, but rather a full and complete human being at an early developmental stage. Opinion polls consistently demonstrate that 60 percent to 70 percent of Americans oppose the use of any federal funds to pay for abortion. Yet, according to Planned Parenthood’s 2012-13 financial report, $540.6 million, or approximately 45 percent of its total revenue, came from taxpayer-funded government grants. In the face of declining demand for abortion and increasing opposition to it, it is time to cut the federal-funding umbilical cord and see if PP is viable on its own.
— Maureen L. Condic is an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
In short, women will go to federally qualified health centers, which provide all the services Planned Parenthood does and more, except abortions. FQHCs also treat you regardless of your ability to pay (PP does not provide any services for free). Like many millennials, I have received care at FQHCs, and they are great.
— David Daleiden is project leader at the Center for Medical Progress.
Pregnancy centers and maternity homes are vital resources for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies. The Northwest Center, a pregnancy center and maternity home in Washington, D.C., provides 18-month transitional housing for pregnant women experiencing homelessness. The pregnancy center offers pregnancy testing and options counseling, along with a material-assistance and goals-planning program. With social workers and trained counselors on staff, we are able to address both the emotional and the material needs of pregnant and parenting women, while allocating resources that will enable them to support themselves and their families. Raising a family is expensive, and the Northwest Center’s mission is to provide adequate support so that women and families can raise healthy and happy children. We receive numerous calls each day from families looking for material support and medical assistance. If there is an area we are not able to assist with, we connect the woman to an appropriate organization that can provide adequate prenatal or medical care.
— Susan Gallucci, LICSW, is the executive director of the Northwest Center.
ARINA O. GROSSU
Defunding Planned Parenthood would free up over half a billion dollars a year that could go to a myriad of health-care service providers — community health centers, primary-care physicians, hospitals, and others – that provide a broader range of health services than Planned Parenthood ever has. Poor and vulnerable women will be able to use Medicaid funds for health care at these centers. In addition, more than 2,000 pregnancy care centers nationally (CareNet, Heartbeat, NIFLA) are available to help women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies. Defunding Planned Parenthood would free up over half a billion dollars a year that could go to a myriad of health-care service providers that provide a broader range of health services than Planned Parenthood ever has. Even though Planned Parenthood has a total revenue of $1.3 billion — in 2013-14, PPFA reported an excess of revenue over expenses of $127.1 million, a revenue increase of $40 million from 2012) — it has consistently dropped the very services it likes to tout. The Family Research Council’s PP Fact Sheet, based on Planned Parenthood’s own annual reports, reveals the following: From 2009 to 2013, cancer-screening and -prevention programs dropped by about half. From 2009 to 2013, prenatal services dropped by more than half. From 2009 to 2013, breast exams dropped by 41 percent. (PP does not do mammograms.) In 2013, if a pregnant woman walked into a Planned Parenthood facility, she was 174 times more likely to receive an abortion than an adoption referral. In that year, PPFA performed 327,653 abortions while providing only 1,880 adoption referrals. From 2011 to 2013, adoption referrals have decreased by 18 percent. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 report, out of total services for pregnant women (adoption referrals, prenatal services, abortion), abortion made up over 94 percent. Prenatal care made up only about 5 percent of pregnancy services. Meanwhile, PP’s abortion numbers have consistently increased every year, from 289,000 in 2006 to 327,000 in 2013.
– Arina O. Grossu is the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.
This is a question we must answer, because it acknowledges the reality of many women’s lives — Planned Parenthood’s clients too often are young women from nearby colleges, or low-income women who need a medical facility within walking distance or on a bus line. Women turn to Planned Parenthood for free STD tests and easy contraception, and then come back for abortions. Or it happens in the reverse. If we can envision a world without Planned Parenthood, we need to envision a world in which women’s health needs are met in better ways — ways that really put them on the road to good health, recovered dignity, and better decisions. Fortunately, some visionaries have been working for a while to provide better alternatives. One of the most promising – FEMM Health (Fertility Education & Medical Management) — has opened its first U.S. health clinic in Columbus, Ohio, providing a model for what could be the future of pro-life women’s health care. Like Planned Parenthood, FEMM offers a “place” for women to go for gynecological health care, with easy access and a convenient location. But the similarities stop there. Where Planned Parenthood treats “symptoms” (acne, irregular cycles, heavy periods, or the prospect of pregnancy) with one “solution” — contraception – FEMM is a knowledge-based health program for women. It offers testing, diagnosis, and treatment for women’s health issues — all based on cutting-edge reproductive endocrinology. FEMM Health empowers women, respects life, and leads to better health. (And yes, there’s an app.) Donors? Invest in FEMM – it’s what women need. In fact, they needed it yesterday. NaPro Technology is another great resource for women’s fertility needs — and it too deserves our support. NaPro Fertility Care specialists, working as consultants or in hospital-based practices, help women achieve or postpone pregnancy and identify and solve problems of infertility. As great as these solutions are, they are still too few — and that’s the challenge ahead for the pro-life movement. We need to invest in people, places, and technology that will deliver real solutions to women in need — and we shouldn’t rest until there’s a pro-life women’s health center in every neighborhood.
– Mary Hasson is a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Among the little-known facts that increasingly are becoming known about Planned Parenthood and its role in health-care services for women is that the number of abortion clinics continues to dwindle, as more of them close, but that crisis-pregnancy centers (pregnancy-help centers) are proliferating. One of these resourceful clinics can usually be found in close proximity to an abortion clinic, so a woman can have a real and fully informed choice. Poor, vulnerable women who need true health care can find the best resources and help at places like Aid for Women, Women’s Choice Services, and Waterleaf, among others, in the Chicago area; the John Paul II Life Center, among others, in Austin; Good Counsel Homes, among others, in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area; and the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. (in the heart of the most pro-active state when it comes to securing fully-informed-consent laws to protect women). And so many others. If we are truly concerned about women’s health and freedom of choice, let’s promote both.
– Sheila Liaugminas is the host of A Closer Look on Relevant Radio and the author of Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture.
Many cities, including New York, have a municipal hospital system that serves as a safety net to ensure that women can get medical care regardless of their ability to pay. New York Health and Hospitals Corporation is a great resource. Aside from this, many women’s health-care services are provided by ob/gyns, family-medicine and internal-medicine practitioners, nurse practitioners, and midwives in both urban and rural areas.
– George Mussalli, M.D., a former chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the legendary St. Vincent’s Hospital, now runs Village Obstetrics.
LEONARD J. NELSON
In Birmingham, Ala., there are many resources available to pregnant women in crisis pregnancies. There are such organizations as Her Choice Birmingham Women’s Center and Sav-A-Life Pregnancy Test Center. Both organizations provide pregnancy tests and ultrasounds without charge. They provide support for women who decide not to abort their children, including referrals to a network of pro-life physicians who provide prenatal care without charge to the pregnant women. They provide childbirth classes and assistance in obtaining health insurance. In addition, these organizations have warehouses full of baby supplies that are provided free to women in need. The pro-life movement in Birmingham is multi-cultural: There is a large Latino pro-life support network, which provided support to pregnant women when Planned Parenthood in Birmingham stopped performing abortions for a few months last year. Both Her Choice and Sav-a-Life also provide post-abortion counseling to women who are suffering because of their abortions.
– Leonard J. Nelson III is a professor emeritus at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and the author of Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare.
Congress is debating the idea of redirecting the taxpayer money that the scandal-ridden abortion conglomerate Planned Parenthood receives to health-care providers that serve women without tearing apart their babies’ bodies. Abortion-advocacy groups are wrong to claim that this would be an apocalypse for all family-planning and health-care services to low-income women. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 90 percent of the 8,409 “safety-net health centers” at which taxpayer-funded family-planning services were provided in 2010 were places other than Planned Parenthood. The vast majority of low-income women obtained subsidized family-planning services at: • 3,165 federally qualified health centers • 2,439 health-department clinics • 1,324 other non-Planned Parenthood clinics • 664 hospitals The credibility of the number of “services” Planned Parenthood has billed to government programs is also seriously questioned by whistleblower lawsuits brought by former employees across the nation. For example, a complaint brought by Karen Reynolds, a health-center assistant for nearly ten years at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Lufkin, Texas, alleged that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast employees were trained to — and did — bill the government for medical services never actually provided, as well as for services that were not medically necessary. In August 2013, Planned Parenthood agreed to pay a $4.3 million settlement in the case. In another ongoing lawsuit, Sue Thayer, a former manager for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, alleges that, to enhance revenues, the Planned Parenthood affiliate implemented a “C-Mail” program that effectively mailed thousands of unrequested birth-control pills to women, and then billed the government for these pills. Even taking Planned Parenthood’s reported services figures as truthful, a review of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s annual reports shows that the organization has had a dramatically shrinking influence in nearly every sphere except abortion and STI testing since PPFA president Cecile Richards began her tenure in 2006. The number of Planned Parenthood’s reported overall patients has declined by over 10 percent, from 3.1 million in 2006 to 2.7 million in its latest annual report. As Americans United for Life has documented, non-controversial services at Planned Parenthood, such as cancer screenings and prenatal services, have sharply declined. If Planned Parenthood becomes ineligible for federal-government programs, the women who currently use subsidies at Planned Parenthood will be faced with a choice. These women could still choose to frequent the abortion provider — just without using taxpayer dollars. If they choose to continue having these services subsidized, other options exist.
– Anna Paprocki is staff counsel at Americans United for Life.
C. C. PECKNOLD
In the wake of Obamacare and its forced contraceptive regime, Planned Parenthood already faces a certain redundancy when it comes to birth control. Cancer screenings are down by 50 percent. But abortions are up, and PP wants to expand the number of its clinics in certain “markets” (including a new mega abortion center in one of the poorest – and predominantly black — neighborhoods in the nation’s capital). If Planned Parenthood lost your tax dollars, the agency would still give out contraceptives, perform pap smears, and check for HIV. These things are relatively cheap. What defunding Planned Parenthood would really mean is a reduction in the costliest side of the house — the abortion side. Consider a young woman, let’s call her Maria, and let’s say she’s black since most “clinics” are intentionally placed in minority neighborhoods, which is why half of all babies killed in Planned Parenthood centers are actually black babies. The young woman arrives scared and uncertain about what to do. The forms are filled out and she is given several options, including adoption referral. Last year, 327,000 babies were killed in Planned Parenthood clinics, while only 1,800 women took up the agency’s offer of adoption referral. What does that mean? It most likely means that Maria, and women like her, experience a certain “nudge” in a Planned Parenthood clinic. No one ever tells Maria to get an abortion. But there is a “choice architecture” in the Planned Parenthood culture that consistently inclines women to seek only one gruesome solution — a solution at which the agency truly excels. Defunding Planned Parenthood will not mean that women will no longer be able to get access to reproductive health care. What it will mean is that the “choice architecture” will change. Planned Parenthood’s federally funded monopoly on “reproductive health” will shift to the thousands of crisis-pregnancy clinics (CPCs) whose “choice architectures” are not so ruthlessly inclined to death. CPCs have one thing in common that Planned Parenthood lacks: a choice architecture that really gives women options, good choices, and doesn’t use our tax dollars to ensure that 94 percent of pregnancy-related contact results in an abortion, as it currently does under the direction of Cecile Richards.
– C. C. Pecknold is an associate professor of theology at the Catholic University of America.
Women do not need Planned Parenthood. But where would women go instead? Community health centers and free, and charity clinics are an important part of the health-care safety net, offering alternatives in which the focus is on delivering health care, not the destruction of life. President George W. Bush doubled funding for community health centers during his eight years in office, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics, primarily located in medically underserved areas, such as poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas. The Affordable Care Act added $11 billion in funding for the centers. This year, a total of 9,200 clinics are projected to serve 28 million patients. Community health centers care for patients regardless of their ability to pay. “They’re an integral part of a health-care system because they provide care for the low-income, for the newly arrived, and they take the pressure off of our hospital emergency rooms,” Bush said while touring a clinic in Omaha, Neb., during his last year in office. The clinics provide basic services such as prenatal care, childhood immunizations, asthma treatments, and cancer screenings. Many have expanded to providing dental and mental-health services and on-site pharmacies, and have extended their hours to nights and weekends. They provide an alternative to hospital emergency rooms, often serving as a “medical home” for patients — tracking their health care with medical records and providing continuity of care. The philanthropic community provides another option. In virtually every city in the country, physicians and other medical professionals volunteer their time to provide free or very low-cost health care to patients through charity clinics. There are more than a thousand of these charity clinics in operation, silently providing care to the neediest patients, everything from primary care to access to specialists who donate their time to care for vulnerable patients. They also are an important part of the safety net. Charity clinics generally operate on a shoestring and take no federal funding. Many states are looking at ways to assist the clinics by relaxing regulatory and licensing barriers and providing boosts of local funds to help them keep their doors open. The charity clinics are a vital element of the fabric of a civil society — but are being crowded out by massive government spending and government-funded organizations like Planned Parenthood. This is an opportunity to rebalance our priorities.
– Grace-Marie Turner is the president of the Galen Institute.
MICHAEL J. NEW
If Planned Parenthood disappeared, low-income women would still be eligible to receive health care from one of hundreds of federally funded community health centers. Pregnancy help centers would also pick up some of the slack. There are over 2,000 centers across the country that assist more than 2.3 million women annually. These pregnancy help centers often provide women assistance with shelter, nutrition, and employment. Those centers with a religious orientation can minister to their spiritual needs. Many also educate women about the health risks involved with a promiscuous lifestyle. In the past 40 years, pregnancy help centers have succeeded where the abortion industry has failed. They offer real alternatives to literally millions of women facing crisis pregnancies. Countless women regret their abortions. But the surveys and testimonials in separate reports issued by the Family Research Council and the Charlotte Lozier Institute are evidence of the positive impact of the life-affirming options offered by many pregnancy help centers. In fact, Lozier’s recent report shows that similar percentages of pro-life and pro-choice women reported a positive experience with a pregnancy help center. Sadly, many of Planned Parenthood’s programs offer at best a quick fix for women in need. But they come with negative long-term consequences. The organization’s sex-education curricula, contraceptive programs, and abortion services have only exacerbated a promiscuous sexual culture. This culture has resulted in broken families, abortions, and high rates of unintended pregnancies. Were Planned Parenthood to disappear, the result would likely be more women seeking health care and pregnancy support from places that actually offer life-affirming alternatives.
— Michael J. New is a visiting professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been updated since its initial posting.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/42178/planned-parenthood-womens-health?utm_content=bufferb4604&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
By: Caffeinated Thoughts
(Washington, DC) Following an investigation into the practice of fetal tissue transfers and the federal laws governing the practice, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is referring several Planned Parenthood affiliates and companies involved in fetal tissue transfers, as well as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to the FBI and the Department of Justice for investigation and possible prosecution.
“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral. But, the seeming disregard for the law by these entities has been fueled by decades of utter failure by the Justice Department to enforce it,” Grassley said. “And, unless there is a renewed commitment by everyone involved against commercializing the trade in aborted fetal body parts for profit, then the problem is likely to continue.”
Grassley’s referral follows the completion of a Senate Judiciary Committee majority staff analysis of more than 20,000 pages of documents provided voluntarily by the organizations and companies involved. While the impetus for the investigation was the release of a series of videos regarding transfers of fetal tissue by the Center for Medical Progress, the committee’s analysis and findings are based strictly on the documents obtained independently from tissue procurement companies and Planned Parenthood.
The Majority Staff Report concludes:
- Despite the clear legislative history of the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act, the executive branch across multiple administrations has failed to enforce the law’s safeguards.
- Since 2010, three companies – Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.; StemExpress, LLC; and Novogenix Laboratories, LLC (Novogenix has since gone out of business) – have paid affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of America to acquire aborted fetuses, and then sold the fetal tissue to their respective customers at substantially higher prices than their documented costs.
- The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) initially had a policy in place to ensure its affiliates were complying with the law, but the affiliates failed to follow its fetal tissue reimbursement policy. When PPFA learned in 2011 of this situation, PPFA cancelled the policy rather than exercise oversight to bring the affiliates back into compliance. Thus, PPFA not only turned a blind eye to the affiliates’ violations of its fetal tissue policy, but also altered its own oversight procedures enabling those affiliates’ practices to continue unimpeded.
- The cost analyses provided by affiliates of Planned Parenthood for America lack sufficient documentation and rely on unreasonably broad and vague claims of costs for “the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of” fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood attorneys acknowledge that the affiliates had failed to follow procedures put in place to ensure compliance with the law. In addition, the cost analyses were only performed long after the fact and at the insistence of the committee.
The full report details the long history of the controversy surrounding human fetal tissue research and the bipartisan legislative approach taken to resolve the issue at the time, as well as the subsequent lack of enforcement. As the report explains, “Support for the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act was premised on the idea that the ban on buying or selling fetal tissue would be a safeguard against the development for a market for human fetuses. Tragically, the executive branch has either failed or simply refused to enforce that safeguard. As a result, contrary to the intent of the law, companies have charged thousands of dollars for specimens removed from a single aborted fetus; they have claimed the fees they charged only recovered acceptable costs when they had not, in fact, conducted any analysis of their costs when setting the fees; and their post hoc accounting rationalizations invoked indirect and tenuously-related costs in an attempt to justify their fees.”
By Julie Roys
To Planned Parenthood, Melissa Ohden’s existence would be considered a failure. Born after soaking five days in a toxic saline solution, Ohden miraculously survived her mother’s abortion. But, as Ohden testified Wednesday before a Congressional hearing investigating Planned Parenthood, “(I)f my birthmother’s abortion would have taken place at a Planned Parenthood, I would not be here today. Completing over 300,000 abortions a year provides them with the experience to make sure that ‘failures’ like me don’t happen.” Below are transcript and video of Melissa’s gripping testimony. I thank God that not only Melissa exists, but more than 200 other survivors, which she references. Yet, I am horrified that more than a million unborn babies are killed every year in this country — legally. Do they not have rights too?
Melissa Ohden’s Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee
Thank you so much for your time today, Representatives, as we expose the horrors of Planned Parenthood.
This is the number of abortions that Planned Parenthood’s 2014 fiscal report lists as being completed that year. Based on these numbers, 897 children will lose their lives to an abortion completed by Planned Parenthood each and every day.
Why do I find this horrific? Because I have a lot in common with these children. I was meant to be one of them. I should have been just another statistic. But by the grace of God, I am more than a statistic. I come here today as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a Master’s level prepared social worker, and yes, as an abortion survivor.
birth-recordFrom “botched abortion” to “the dreaded complication of abortion” (a child who lives), I’ve been called just about everything you can imagine. But as you can see here in my medical records from 1977 (show record), I am the survivor of a failed saline infusion abortion (the exact wording in my records reads–“a saline infusion for an abortion was done but was unsuccessful.” Other parts of my records identify “saline infusion” as a complication of my biological mother’s pregnancy. You could certainly say that saline infusion abortion complicated things).
It has taken years to unravel the secrets surrounding my survival, to have contact with my biological family and medical professionals that cared for me, and although there are still unanswered questions, what I do know is that my life was intended to be ended by an abortion, and even after I survived, my life was in jeopardy.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me today, but in August of 1977, I survived a failed saline infusion abortion. A saline infusion abortion involves injecting a toxic salt solution into the amniotic fluid surrounding the preborn child. The intent of that salt solution is to scald the child to death, from the outside in.
For days, I soaked in that toxic salt solution, and on the fifth day of the procedure, my biological mother, a 19-year-old college student, delivered me, after her labor was induced . I should have been delivered dead, as a successful abortion.
In 2013, I learned through contact with my biological mother’s family that not only was this abortion forced upon her against her will, but also that it was my maternal grandmother, a nurse, who delivered me in this final step of the abortion procedure at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.
Unfortunately, I also learned that when my grandmother realized that the abortion had not succeeded in ending my life, she demanded that I be left to die.
I may never know how, exactly, two nurses who were on staff that day (one of whom has had part of her story passed down to my adoptive family) found out about me, but what I do know is that their willingness to fight for medical care to be provided to me saved my life.
I know where children like me were left to die at St. Luke’s Hospital—a utility closet. In 2014, I met a nurse who assisted in a saline infusion abortion there in 1976, and delivered a living baby boy. After he was delivered alive, she followed her superior’s orders and placed him in the utility closet in a bucket of formaldehyde to be picked up later as medical waste after he died there, alone.
A bucket of formaldehyde in a utility closet was meant to be my fate after I wasn’t scalded to death through the abortion. Yet here I am today.
I weighed a little less than 3 pounds (2 pounds, 14 ounces), I suffered from jaundice, severe respiratory problems and seizures (show picture). One of the first notations in my medical records states that I looked like I was about 31 weeks gestational age when I survived.
Despite the miracle of my survival, the doctor’s prognosis for my life was initially very poor. My adoptive parents were told that I would suffer from multiple disabilities throughout my life. However, here I am today, perfectly healthy.
Yet it isn’t just how abortion ends the life of children like me that isn’t talked about in today’s world. It’s also not discussed what happens to children like me who live.
RELATED: Gianna Jessen Asks Congress “If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine?”
We are your friend, your co-worker, your neighbor, and you would likely never guess just by looking at us that we survived what we did. In my work as the Founder of The Abortion Survivor’s Network, I have had contact with 203 other abortion survivors. Letters from some of these survivors have been submitted to this committee.
I’m here today to share my story to not only highlight the horror of abortion taking place at Planned Parenthood, but to give a voice to other survivors like me, and most importantly, to give a name, a face, and a voice to the hundreds of thousands of children who will have their lives ended by Planned Parenthood this year alone.
As you consider the horrors of what happens at Planned Parenthood each day, I would urge you to remember my story, and Gianna’s, too. We may not have survived abortions at Planned Parenthood, but the expectation for our lives to be ended by abortion are the very same as those who do lose their lives there.
And I have long believed that if my birthmother’s abortion would have taken place at a Planned Parenthood, I would not be here today. Completing over 300,000 abortions a year provides them with the experience to make sure that “failures” like me don’t happen.
As a fellow American, as a fellow human being, I deserved the same right to life, the same equal protection under the law as each and every one of you. Yet we live in a time where not only do such protections not exist, but my own tax dollars and yours go to fund an organization that has perfected the very thing that was meant to end my life.
This must end.
WASHINGTON, DC – Democrats For Life of America (DFLA) urges Congress to reallocate federal funding for women’s health services from Planned Parenthood to Community Health Centers (CHCs), which are more accessible anddo more extensive preventive care, including mammograms. Planned Parenthood, a profitable $1.2 billion-per-year corporation, is under investigation for selling body parts, including hearts, lungs and livers, of aborted children.
“Whether or not Planned Parenthood is engaging in an illegal selling of body parts, the videos highlight what Americans have too long been asked to ignore – the humanity of the unborn and the reality that abortion ends a life,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America. “The videos suggest that the Continue Reading
By: Abby Johnson
Ever since the third and final presidential debate last week, many questions have been circulating online about the truth behind late-term abortions (performed in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy). As a former abortion clinic director, I can help answer some of these questions.
Yes, late-term abortions are legal in the U.S. and do take place through the entire 3rd trimester, including through the 9th month of pregnancy. According to the latest Guttmacher data, about 18,000 3rd trimester abortions are performed every year.
These abortions can be performed for the “life or health” of the mother. What this means is that a late-term abortion can be provided for any reason, as long as the abortionist checks a box on her chart stating it was affecting her “life or health.” No documentation of proof is required.
According to several former late term abortion clinic workers who have come through my organization And Then There Were None, approximately 50% of 3rd trimester abortions are performed on healthy babies. In my own personal experience, we often referred women to late-term abortion providers who were pregnant with healthy babies, but they wanted the abortion because they had either just broken up with the baby’s father, lost their job, or something similar.
Since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, abortion doctors have devised an alternative method – and believe it or not, it’s more dangerous for the woman.
When a woman comes in for a late-term abortion, her cervix is dilated through the administration of one of two medications called misoprostol (cytotec) and pitocin and/or laminaria/lamicel insertion. Laminaria are made of sterilized seaweed and look like tiny tampons. Lamicel are similar, but made of a synthetic material. The misoprostol is taken orally prior to surgery and may take several hours to work. Misoprostol is a medication administered to relax t
the cervix muscle so that the surgeon can dilate it easily. Pitocin is also used sometimes to help with this process and is administered through an I.V.
If laminaria or lamicel is necessary to complete dilation, they must be inserted into the patient’s cervix by the physician prior to the abortion procedure. The laminaria/lamicel act like sponges by absorbing the moisture in the patient’s vagina and expanding to gently open the cervix.
Laminaria/lamicel and misoprostol will be administered on day one. Also, on day one, the physician will also administer a medication called digoxin. This medication is generally injected into the amniotic fluid. The fetus will then drink in the digoxin and will overdose in the womb. It can take up to 48 hours for death to occur. During this time, the mother may feel her child struggling to die in her womb.
On day two or three, the physician will perform the surgical abortion after dilation of the cervix is complete – this may take several hours or overnight. The doctor will remove the laminaria (if applicable), insert a speculum into the vagina, and then remove the unborn child using vacuum aspiration (suction), forceps, curettes and sometimes physical pressure to the abdomen. The surgical procedure takes approximately 10 – 25 minutes. After surgery, the mother is taken into the recovery room, where nurses will monitor her for approximately 45 minutes.
As many obstetricians have noted, a late term abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. At times, a medical induction may be necessary, but never an abortion. During a medical induction, the baby is delivered early and given life saving care after delivery, instead of being aborted and killed before delivery.
Do elective abortions take place through the 9th month of pregnancy? The unfortunate and horrifying answer is yes. We must work to end these barbaric practices and truly care for mothers and their children.
Recovering the pro-life roots of the women’s movement
Not all feminists support abortion. Properly defined, feminism is a philosophy that embraces basic rights for all human beings without exception—without regard to race, religion, sex, size, age, location, disability or parentage. Feminism rejects the use of force to dominate, control or destroy anyone.
The organization Feminists for Life continues a 200-year-old tradition begun by Mary Wollstonecraft in England in 1792. Decrying the sexual exploitation of women in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft also condemned those who would “either destroy the embryo in the womb or cast it off when born,” saying: “Nature in everything deserves respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.”
Mary Wollstonecraft died from complications following the birth of her second baby girl, who was named Mary in her honor. Like her mother, the younger Mary would become a great writer, producing one of the greatest novels ever to address the dangers of violating nature—Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.
Fifty years after Mary Wollstonecraft’s book was published, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled to England to fight for the abolition of slavery. Barred from speaking at the 1842 World Anti-Slavery Convention simply because they were women, Mott and Stanton determined to hold a convention advancing the rights of women.
At that time, American women could not vote or hold property. They could not control their own money, sit on a jury or even testify on their own behalf. Women’s rights to assemble, speak freely, attend college and maintain child custody after divorce or spousal death were severely limited. Marital rape went unacknowledged. The early American feminists—facing conditions similar to those in developing countries today—were strongly opposed to abortion; despite their own struggles, they believed in the worth of all human lives.
Abortion was common in the 1800s. Sarah Norton, who with Susan B. Anthony successfully argued for women’s admission to Cornell University, wrote in 1870:
Child murderers practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries unquestioned…. Perhaps there will come a day when…an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood…and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with.
In 1868 Eleanor Kirk, a novelist turned activist, linked the need for women’s rights with the need to protect the unborn. When a woman told her that suffrage was unnecessary because she and her husband were “one,” Kirk asked what would become of her babies if her husband ceased to provide for them:
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What will become of the babies—did you ask—and you? Can you not see that the idea is to educate women that they may be self-reliant, self-sustaining, self-respected? The wheel is a big one, and needs a strong push, and a push all together, giving to it an impulse that will keep it constantly revolving, and the first revolution must be Female Suffrage.
Without known exception, the early feminists condemned abortion in no uncertain terms. In the radical feminist newspaper The Revolution, the founder, Susan B. Anthony, and the co-editor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refused to publish advertisements for “Foeticides and Infanticides.” Stanton, who in 1848 organized the first women’s convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., classified abortion as a form of “infanticide” and, referring to the “murder of children, either before or after birth,” said, “We believe the cause of all these abuses lies in the degradation of women.”
Early feminists argued that women who had abortions were responsible for their actions but that they resorted to abortion primarily because, within families and throughout society, they lacked autonomy, financial resources and emotional support. A passage in Susan B. Anthony’s newspaper states:
Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!
Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president (in 1872), concurred. In her own newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, Woodhull wrote: “The rights of children, then, as individuals, begin while they yet remain the foetus.” Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, declared, “Pregnancy is not a disease, but a beautiful office of nature.”
Clearly, we have a wealth of evidence contradicting the lie that feminists must support abortion. Some who begrudgingly admit the early American feminists were anti-abortion have suggested that their stance arose from Victorian attitudes about sex. That is not true either. Elizabeth Cady Stanton shocked Victorian society by parading around in public visibly pregnant. She raised a flag to celebrate the birth of her son. Stanton celebrated womanhood. She was in-your-face about her ability to have children.
But like today’s pro-life feminists, our feminist foremothers also recognized that women need not bear children to share in the celebration of womanhood. Susan B. Anthony was once complimented by a man who said that she “ought to have been a wife and mother.” Anthony replied:
Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.
In her later years, Anthony passed on the responsibility for women’s rights to a new generation, just as we must prepare to do. At the turn of the century, one young woman, Alice Paul, assumed leadership. Paul fought tirelessly for passage of the 19th Amendment, which in 1920 finally guaranteed to American women the right to vote.
The Betrayal of Modern Women
Much later in life, Alice Paul was asked by a friend what she thought of linking abortion to women’s rights. The author of the original Equal Rights Amendment called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.” Yet what earlier feminists called a “disgusting and degrading crime” was, in the 1970s, lauded as the most fundamental right, without which all other rights are meaningless. So how did the second wave feminist movement come to embrace abortion?
Two of the male founders of the National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws were among the first to portray abortion as a “right” rather than an act of violence. Larry Lader promoted abortion as population control. His NARAL cofounder, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, saw a botched abortion in Chicago and reasoned that “legal” would mean “safer.” Nathanson later became pro-life. But in the early 1970s, the men traveled the country advocating the repeal of what they believed to be antiquated abortion laws. After failing to convince legislators that anti-abortion laws were “archaic,” Lader saw an opportunity. According to Nathanson, Lader approached leaders of the women’s movement. He reasoned that if a woman wanted to be educated like a man, hired like a man and promoted like a man, women should not expect their employers to accommodate pregnancy.
Forty-two years after the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, many within the pro-life movement focus on the undeniable humanity of each unborn child, clearly visible through the millions of sonograms obtained by proud parents each year. But it is also a good time to evaluate the impact that Roe v. Wade attorney Sarah Weddington’s pro-abortion arguments have had on women.
In 1973, Weddington exposed the discrimination and other injustices faced by pregnant women who are poor or in the workplace or school. But she did not demand that these injustices be remedied. Instead, she demanded for women the “right” to submit to these injustices by destroying their pregnancies. Weddington repeatedly said that women need “relief” from pregnancy, instead of arguing that women need relief from these injustices.
What if Weddington had used her legal acumen to challenge the system and address women’s needs? Women are not suddenly stupid when they become pregnant. They can still read, write and think. But by accepting pregnancy discrimination in school and in the workplace, by accepting the widespread lack of support for pregnant women and parents—especially among the poor—Weddington and the Supreme Court betrayed women and undermined the support women need and deserve.
The Failing Report Card
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. According to the Guttmacher Institute, their former research arm:
• Three out of four women who have abortions say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for a dependent.
• 69 percent are economically disadvantaged.
• 61 percent are already mothers.
• Women of color are disproportionately at risk of abortion.
• Half of all abortions are performed on women who have already had an abortion.
• 44 percent of all abortions are performed on college-age women.
All too often, the root causes underlying these statistics are shame and fear generated about pregnancy by the attitudes of parents, friends and the fathers of children. Fatherhood has been diminished. Children are disconnected from their fathers, who have rights as well as responsibilities. And millions of women have paid the price. Women, many impoverished because of the billions owed to mothers for child support, are struggling in school and the workplace without societal support. After all, when “it’s her body, it’s her choice,” it’s her problem.
For all these reasons and more, more than a million times a year in the United States, a woman lays her body down or swallows a bitter pill called “choice”—driven to abortion because of a lack of resources and support.
Abortion solves nothing. Almost four decades after Roe, we mourn the loss of 57 million American children that we will never meet. We will never know what they might have contributed to this world. But we must also remember the hundreds of women and teens who have lost their lives to legal but lethal abortion because they did not want to inconvenience us with their pregnancies.
We mourn with the parents of Holly Patterson, who died from sepsis after she took RU-486, and with the parents of Dawn Ravenell, the 13-year-old girl who never came home after she had an abortion without her parent’s knowledge. We mourn with the husband of Karnamaya Mongar, a poor immigrant who died as a result of her abortion at the hands of the convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Where is the outrage from women’s advocates?
Hard Cases, Exceptional Choices
Talking about abortion brings out raw emotions. Nothing is more divisive than talk about pregnancy and rape, and nothing challenges pro-life beliefs more than this heated issue. Just as we have challenged thinking about special-needs babies and their parents, we must help women who have conceived during rape and welcome children conceived in violence.
We must help people have the courage to look into the face of a child conceived during rape and say, “You didn’t deserve the death penalty.” The circumstances of one’s conception do not determine a person’s worth. These children should not be regarded as “exceptions.” But their mothers should be recognized as “exceptional.” And as advocates of life, peace and justice, we will never trade one form of violence for another.
Today we stand in solidarity with women coerced into abortion because they felt they had no choice. We stand with women who were vulnerable because they were young, or poor, or in schools or workplaces that would not accommodate their needs as mothers.
We stand in solidarity with women who have been betrayed by those they count on the most, with women who have underestimated their own strength, with women who have experienced abortion and are silent no more, with young men and women who mourn their missing siblings. We mourn with men who weren’t given a choice or who contributed to an abortion that they now regret.
In all its forms, abortion has masked—rather than solved—the problems women face. Abortion is a failed experiment on women. Why celebrate failure?
Addressing Root Causes
For decades, abortion advocates have asked, “What about the woman?” And pro-lifers have answered, “What about the baby?” This does nothing to address the needs of women who are pregnant. We should start by addressing the needs of women—for family housing, child care, maternity coverage, for the ability to telecommute to school or work, to job-share, to make a living wage and to find practical resources.
As pro-life employers and educators, we must examine our own policies and practices in our own communities, workplaces, colleges and universities. With woman-centered problem solving, we can set the example for the nation and the world. We must ramp up efforts to systemically address the unmet needs of struggling parents, birthparents and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Because 61 percent of abortions are performed on mothers who already have dependents, Feminists for Life is determined to help those facing tough economic times; FFL has published “Raising Kids on a Shoestring,” a national directory filled with creative, frugal and free solutions for pregnant women, parents and advisors.
And Feminists for Life advocates unconditional support for women who lovingly place their babies into the arms of adoptive couples. We applaud birthmothers like the former FFL board chair Jessica O’Connor-Petts, who tells us that “adoption can be an empowering option for women.”
We must focus our efforts on collegians who have never known a day without legal abortion. Forty-three percent of all abortions are performed on college-age women, women who will become our future leaders and educators in every field. For these reasons, Feminists for Life’s flagship effort is our college outreach program.
In addition to teaching the rich, pro-life feminist history that we have uncovered, we have been moderating FFL Pregnancy Resource Forums at campuses across the country. The first such panel discussion was at Georgetown University in 1997. Administrators, community leaders and students came together in a nonconfrontational setting to identify available resources on and off campus and to set priorities for new policies, resources and ways to communicate nonviolent options.
Within two years, Georgetown University’s board of trustees set aside endowed housing for parenting students. The Hoya Kids Learning Center was established. Pregnant and parenting students had access to health services and user-friendly information on the school’s website. Students created volunteer babysitting services. A “safety net” team of university administrators organized to ensure that no pregnant women—including birthmothers and international students—fall through the cracks. And every year, Georgetown hosts a Pregnancy Resource Forum to take another look at ways they can improve.
The first Georgetown forum started with the story of a woman who had an abortion because she did not know where to go for help. At the 14th annual forum, babies played on the floor. Beaming mothers told us they have “everything [they] need.” This past fall I moderated the 19th annual forum at Georgetown University. Because of our early efforts at Georgetown, Villanova and Notre Dame, this is the first year that babies born with the support of administrators are now likely entering college themselves.
Other colleges have also expanded their support for student parents. Pepperdine University created a task force to support pregnant women, adjusting policies to better suit student parents’ needs and building family housing. A donor recently stepped forward to fund a housing scholarship. Abbot Placid Solari and the monks of Belmont Abbey donated land adjacent to Belmont Abbey for “A Room at the Inn,” now called Mira-Via, so that women will not feel pressured to terminate either their pregnancies or their educations. Pregnant women and new mothers can now have their babies and continue with school.
Pro-life and pro-choice students came together at Wellesley College to hold a rummage sale benefitting a pregnant student who lost her financial aid for housing. The young woman had her baby and graduated. A University of Virginia student started a babysitting club. Berkeley Students for Life held bake sales to pay for diaper decks. Students for Life at St. Louis University started a scholarship fund for child care. There are many other examples like this as the ideas of Feminists for Life members and supporters go viral.
In 2010, FFL Pregnancy Resource Forums findings became the inspiration for federal grants to states through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Pregnancy Assistance Fund. After the first 10 years of FFL’s College Outreach Program, Planned Parenthood reported a 30 percent drop in abortions among college-educated women.
Women Deserve Better
Abortion betrays the basic feminist principles of nonviolence, nondiscrimination and justice for all. Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women—and that women have settled for less. Women deserve better.
Forty years after Sarah Weddington capitulated to inherently unfair practices against pregnant and parenting women, we say no to the status quo. We refuse to choose between women and children.
More than a century ago, the same women who fought for women’s rights and for the rights of slaves to be free also fought to protect women and children from abortion. We continue their fight in the spirit of Mattie Brinkerhoff, who wrote in 1869 in The Revolution:
When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we can safely assume that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.
Feminism was born of abolition. All people are equal. Not all choices are equal. We envision a better day, a day when womanhood is celebrated, mothers are supported, fatherhood is honored and every child is cherished.
If you refuse to choose between women and children, if you work to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion, then you already follow in the footsteps of Susan B. Anthony and our other feminist foremothers, whether you call yourself a feminist or not.
Serrin M. Foster is president of Feminists for Life of America, the creator of the Women Deserve Better campaign and editor in chief of The American Feminist. Since 1994 the author has focused her efforts on serving women at high risk of abortion, including the poor, victims of violence and college-age women. This essay, adapted from the landmark speech“The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” is part of America’s coverage of issues related to the Synod of Bishops on the Family.
Written by Mark McCurdy
I sat across the table from a face that was familiar; one I have been observing for over 50 years of my life. But as he spoke, I listened that Sunday afternoon and studied the lines and creases more closely than I had in years. He appeared thinner and a bit pale since I last saw him. It wasn’t a good kind of thin. It was the kind that comes from the loss of muscle tone, not fat. The lines were deeper on his brow and neck than I remembered. His eyes were a bit sunken and watery as his memories meandered back and forth between times of joy and times of sorrow. It was as if each moment he breathed was carrying him farther from the things he had grown to love and closer to the things he was just learning to love; things previously shrouded in physical and mental suffering.
Conversations with my aging father frequently recycle common threads and as hard as I try, I sometimes find my patience waning as we cover ground that has been covered so frequently that nothing grows there any longer. There are no new reflections or lessons to cultivate. It’s like trying to put away a ghost in a wooden box but forgetting each time that a wooden box can’t contain a ghost. For a moment the ghost is gone from his mind, but then it appears in some new corner and the whole process begins anew.
I thought that was where the conversation was headed when Dad brought up Mom. Mom passed away over nine years ago. Dad began a new thread of discussion by reflecting back on those weeks and months that followed. I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go!’ and I began my own trip down memory lane to a place I really don’t like to visit; the most painful period of my life. As we kids grew older we saw that Dad had an emotional dependency on Mom. Mom, however, did not have the same dependency. I’m not saying Mom didn’t love Dad, or that she did not care for him- she put her heart and soul into caring for Dad. But she had a kind of self-possession that allows one to endure. Growing up, Mom endured great trials, pain, and loss. She was the living embodiment of the saying, ‘what does not kill us, only makes us stronger’. This did not make her unfeeling but a steward of her emotions. She kept her emotional house in order when it came to pain and suffering aimed directly at her. We all knew that if Dad passed first, Mom would be sad, but she had the inner emotional strength and toughness to carry on- Dad’s emotional tether to Mom was much like an umbilical cord. Severing it would be traumatic.
So Dad’s state of devastation after Mom died was not unexpected but it was shocking to actually live through. This was the first moment I ever saw my Dad struck down in agonizing grief and pain; frail and vulnerable. For most of my life, I experienced him as this strong man in command of his faculties in tough situations. In those first days after Mom died Dad was consumed by grief and inconsolable. He seemed very much like a child suffering the loss of a parent. The mental anguish was nearly unbearable for him and it put me and my siblings in a strange place. We had to assume the role of parent and try to console Dad- the man who had helped raise us. It was uncomfortable and strange.
It was at that moment, while I was anticipating another of sad account from Dad, that he took the conversation in a new direction. He said he found out years after Mom’s death that several neighbors had shared amongst themselves that they didn’t think he would survive long without Mom. They were certain he would die of a broken heart or end his life. Their fears weren’t totally unfounded. I saw Dad, first hand, express how he couldn’t handle the pain and that he just wanted it to end. He didn’t want to live without Mom. Everything in the home reminded him of her; and remembering brought him back to the harsh reality of her permanent absence. When those waves of pain came over him it was as though an invisible knife was piercing his heart. There were rifles and shotguns in the house- just as you will find in most farm houses. When Dad started to speak that way the guns were removed. While none of us thought Dad was intending suicide, he was in so much pain that we took no chances.
As I listened and watched, Dad continued. His eyes were a little tearier but there was the hint of a smile- this was something new. He had something inside and it was important to him that I hear it. Yes, he recounted, in those first few years after Mom passed, he could not envision life ever being joyful again. He could not imagine ever wanting to live again, let alone being happy without Mom in his life. But the loss of Mom wasn’t all that weighed him down.
Dad suffered severe ankle injuries and has lost most of his mobility beginning a few years before Mom died. And it has gotten much worse over time. Dad eventually could not get outside and do the work around the farm he enjoyed, or simply get outside and enjoy the outdoors. He remains confined largely inside the house- a seeming prisoner in his own home. With all his serious ailments, a widower for nine years and unable to do the things that brought him joy and a sense of accomplishment, I have worried that he might be suffering most of the time in deep depression. But Dad continued sharing and I was amazed what was coming from those teary eyes and soft smile.
He said he was happy, even though he never dreamed he would be again. He has all he needs and he is pleased with how his children and their families have turned out. Each day he derives simple pleasure from small things. He can still do laundry, with some help, and he likes to keep the house clean. In nice weather he’ll manage his way onto an old lawn mower and take a short drive from the house to look over part of the farm. He likes to cook, again with a little help. He enjoys the challenge of tweaking his favorite recipes in search of something even tastier. On top of the chronic ankle pain, the inability to walk or stand but for a moment, Dad also has celiac disease and has to watch very carefully what he eats. He’s landed in the doctor’s office several times after eating something with just a minute amount of gluten.
There was no magic to Dad’s turn around; no get well quick recipe. He started with grief counseling and developing friendships. It helped that, for a while, he was able to be physically active, though he’s lost most of that. Good healthcare has definitely been important in helping him control depression, high blood pressure, and severe chronic pain. And receiving frequent visits from family and a retired nurse give him human contact and time for conversation. All these things have contributed to a positive turn in Dad’s outlook.
I was feeling a sense of relief as Dad brought the moment to a close. He said, “You know, back then (when Mom died) I couldn’t imagine being happy again or looking forward to each new day, but if I had given up when your mother passed away I would have missed out on so much. I guess God had a lot more for me to work out.” Then his smile grew very wide and I could see a new thought entering his mind as he added, “I guess He still does!” Then Dad broke out into a laugh and his teary eyes twinkled. I’m sure mine did as well.
Written by Mark McCurdy
Physician-Assisted Suicide legislation was introduced last session in the state of Iowa. We were fortunate that it never passed out of sub-committee. They have, however, vowed to bring this up again next session and also push the issue via the court system. In the story above, had physician-assisted suicide been legal in Iowa, Mr. McCurdy’s father might have considered this option given his depression and own physical suffering. Wanting to die because of depression is treatable. Millions of people are living proof of that fact.
Suicide bills are never the answer for anyone and add to the culture of death in our society. It is a recipe for disaster with no safeguards that will ever work. IFL is committed to educate on end of life issues and combatting the idea that suicide is health care- it is not. We must fight to protect the vulnerable people who are older, disabled or terminally ill from this threat.
Iowans for LIFE
By: Claire Chretien
LOS ANGELES, June 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop José Gomez tore apart the “seamless garment” argument that intrinsic evils and social ills are morally equivalent in the Los Angeles archdiocesan newspaper June 3.
Advocates of the “seamless garment” approach to moral issues and social justice, promoted by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, often use it to suggest a moral equivalency between issues like abortion, poverty, and immigration.
“The hard truth is that not all injustices in the world are ‘equal,’” wrote Gomez. “We can understand this perhaps better about issues in the past than we can with issues in the present. For instance, we would never want to describe slavery as just one of several problems in 18th-century and 19th-century American life.”
“There are indeed ‘lesser’ evils,” Gomez continued. “But that means there are also ‘greater’ evils — evils that are more serious than others and even some evils that are so grave that Christians are called to address them as a primary duty.”
“Any approach that essentially tolerates abortion and euthanasia or puts these issues on a par with others, not only betrays the beautiful vision of the Church’s social teaching, but also weakens the credibility of the Church’s witness in our society.”
Abortion and euthanasia “stand alone” “among the evils and injustices in American life in 2016,” Gomez wrote, because each is a “direct, personal attack on innocent and vulnerable human life.”
Conflating abortion and euthanasia with social problems and broader justice issues “can lead to a kind of moral relativism that renders serious social issues as more or less equivalent,” Gomez warned.
In recent years, several U.S. bishops have sought to downplay the moral weight of issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage” compared to issues the Catholic Church teaches are social problems rather than intrinsically evil.
At the 2015 fall meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops, Bishop Robert McElroy said that the bishops’ election guide Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship did not accurately reflect the priorities of Pope Francis because of the document’s emphasis on abortion and euthanasia rather than poverty and the environment.
Archbishop Blase Cupich, who Pope Francis appointed as the Archbishop of Chicago, wrote in August 2015 that unemployment and hunger are just as appalling as the destruction of innocent children in the womb.
Gomez wrote that the Church must confront the “culture of death” mentality of which Pope Francis and previous popes have spoken.
Quoting Pope Francis, Gomez argued that the issues of abortion, assisted suicide, research on embryonic humans, government-mandated contraception, and the death penalty are the “great challenge for the Church’s social witness in our society.”
“Any approach that essentially tolerates abortion and euthanasia or puts these issues on a par with others, not only betrays the beautiful vision of the Church’s social teaching, but also weakens the credibility of the Church’s witness in our society,” Gomez wrote.
There is “no solid foundation to defend anyone’s rights” if the unborn, sick, and elderly have no right to live, Gomez continued.
“How can we claim to speak for the marginalized and disenfranchised, if we are allowing millions of innocent children to be killed each year in the womb?” asked Gomez. “If we cannot justify caring for the weakest and most innocent of God’s creatures, how can we call our society to resist the excesses of nationalism and militarism or confront global poverty or protect our common home in creation?”
By: Emily Derois (LifeSiteNews.com)
Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King is spreading the pro-life message to students across North America. Last week, the pro-life activist spoke to Canadian students at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School on human rights, including rights of the unborn child.
Alveda King was staying in Guelph, Ontario as a guest of Guelph Area Right to Life, according to Guelph Today. She spent an hour with the 200 high school students, describing her family legacy and her position on human rights.
“Civil rights. Human rights. It all goes together,” King said.
“Women absolutely have a right to choose what we do with our bodies, I’ll argue anybody down who says we don’t. But then the baby needs a lawyer. Where’s the baby’s lawyer?”
King described her personal experience with abortion, saying that she had two forced abortions.
“I did have some secret abortions myself, which I repented from when I was born again in 1983,” she said. “I drank the abortion Kool-Aid temporarily because I thought it was the answer.”
It was after this that she became involved in the pro-life movement. She is committed to protecting unborn and their mothers. She explained to the students: “We need to figure out how we can protect women, keep women healthy, have a good community, without killing anybody. And it can be done.”
One student asked King about the ethics of abortion in the extreme cases of rape and incest. She responded that abortion only contributes to the damage.
“Rape, abuse and incest are serious problems … But tests show that when a woman has been terribly abused, then you ask her to take more abuse on her own back because getting an abortion, regardless of the reason, can be connected to breast cancer, cervical cancer, strokes, heart attacks …”
“There should be a way to help every person in the world without pain or death, that’s all I’ll say,” King said.
Alveda King has long been a courageous activist for the pro-life movement. She said her famous uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., would have been pro-life.
“He once said, ‘The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety,’” she said previously. “I know in my heart that if Uncle Martin were alive today, he would join with me in the greatest civil rights struggle of this generation – the recognition of the unborn child’s basic right to life,”
Today, King is a proud mother of six and grandmother of six. As a Christian pro-life leader, she works with Priests for Life and Silent No More to stop abortion. Following in her uncle’s footsteps, she is fighting for the rights of the voiceless and inspiring students to do the same.
“Once upon a time…”, so go fairy tales. What I wish to share with you is not a fairy tale but I believe it has the best of all possible endings. So I hope you will indulge me for just a few minutes as I unfold the story of a life in poverty.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.
I knew a young girl who grew up in a large family of 13 in southern Iowa. Her parents were farmers and she was born during the Great Depression. Born into poverty, this little girl had one dress. Not one for church and one for school …just one dress. She did her farm chores and helped keep watch over her younger siblings while her parents worked in the fields. Like her brothers and sisters she went to a country school for a time. Her family moved often as they lost one farm, then another. Eventually the children were enrolled in public school at a nearby town. They found themselves thrown into a mix of children entirely different from the one they had grown accustomed to.
In the country schools they were more or less among equals. Their farm neighbors, like so many everywhere, struggled to reach subsistence. In town things weren’t easy either but there was a little more opportunity and the depth of poverty didn’t run quite so deep. As a consequence this little girl found herself one day the poorest of the poor; no longer the poorest among the poorest. A fine distinction maybe, but a significant one it turned out.
There was little consolation or relief from the harshness of her family’s poverty. School offered no solace because her classmates were unsympathetic toward her poverty and treated her harshly. By all measures these children were not well off, but their parents could afford a few school clothes and managed simple things that her family lacked; like regular baths. How hard is it to approach someone who hasn’t bathed in a while, let alone draw near them in friendship.
The change wasn’t all bad- in the beginning. At first the little girl was able to enjoy the company of two other girls- twin sisters. They belonged to the bottom rung also and the three girls developed the bonds of friendship and found some consolation in not occupying this lowly place alone. Old sayings are sometimes mocked but so often true at their core. Misery does love company. To be in misery alone is to be on Calvary without the Christ.
Unfortunately the safe harbor of their friendship did not last long. The mother of the twin sisters met and married a man who was financially secure. Virtually overnight the twin sisters found themselves well off and were attending school in new dresses and shoes. With this new-found wealth came a new-found poverty of spirit among the twin girls. Who knows what was in their hearts- only God. Whether they truly lost sight of the little girl’s personhood or they simply wanted to win the approval of their new peer group, they had no friendship or warmth left to
share with her. It was a double cruelty to lose their friendship; she found herself alone and isolated.
Eventually this little girl grew up into a young lady, never experiencing the love and kindness of friendship the rest of her school days. And the in-between years brought other sorrows and hardships. She was present when her baby sister died of tetanus. When her alcoholic father left her mother and their 10 living children, her greatest consolation was that the physical and mental abuses would leave with him. But greater financial hardships followed in the wake of his departure.
By the time this little girl was in eighth grade her heart had born as much pain as it could and she dropped out of school and entered the adult world as a laborer. It was hard work but she was finally free of a culture that was blind to her inviolable worth and dignity. The work world may have been sterile, but at least she was being judged objectively on the merit of her work and not on meager state of her person. Perhaps she never lingered in pain and anger because she was so self-aware that dignity isn’t something we give to, or take away from, another. We are our own merchant of dignity and hers was never for sale.
CCC 2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. the goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”: When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.
This little girl never asked to be born into poverty. No one ever does. If her impoverished family had come into being in the 1970’s her parents would have been ridiculed for being selfish and burdensome on society. Most likely she and eight of her siblings would never had been born. Some people today sincerely believe it’s better that way. But not this little girl. The only fruit of the poverty and hardship she bore was a greater appreciation for life and the lives of everyone around her. She expressed that appreciation to God in prayer and in the way she lived each moment. In her later years, her husband would ask her why she prayed so fervently every night for her family and friends who were struggling. Her husband would say to her, “Why do you pray for this person or that one? God’s not going to answer your prayers.” Undeterred and without malice she would simply reply in faith, “He might!”; a gentle work-warn finger pointing upward to both emphasize her point and to acknowledge the Father.
That little girl of poverty is my mother. Her name is June. She passed away on March 9, 2007. During her life she poured herself out like a libation for her family. She never turned away a soul who crossed her doorway. She didn’t expect charity when times were lean for our family, but she never turned away a kindness when it was offered in sincerity. Mom donated to schools and children’s hospitals. She donated clothing and food, time and resources to help others who were poor in money and who were spiritually poor. By our standards she lived an austere life but she found nothing lacking in her life except maybe a little more time. I know my mom never read the paragraphs above from the Catechism but she lived them. She never gave from a
position that she was doing anyone a favor. She gave because she had and they did not. She gave because she recognized their humanity and longed that they should experience someone affirming their dignity and self-worth. Something that was denied to her in her childhood. She gave because she loved. St. John Chrysostom’s words may be very challenging, but in living up to that ideal we more closely conform our lives to God. That is the witness my mom gave to me.