Catholic Church Abortion


Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.37.13 AMReligious freedom in the United States allows those who love a particular tradition to share it with others. In fact, particular traditions obligate their followers to proselytize. It’s a tradition no different than acts of charity. But sharing your faith can be like an overly enthusiastic used car salesman. It’s like sharing that pushes too far, fails to listen and, sadly, too often lacks civility. In fact, claiming that one’s faith tradition is the only way to salvation to an unwilling audience is unethical. These are practices that anti abortionists engage in, not out of love, as they claim, but out of their own proclaimed rights to free speech and rights to practice their religion, otherwise known as pure propagandizing and harassment. Just ask those who are experiencing the anti abortionists’ proselytizing if they experience their actions as loving. If they do not, then the antis will have found the limits of what they ought to be doing. Anything more and they are no longer educating or witnessing, but propagandizing and harassing. It’s what anti abortionists do every day they lurk outside clinics.

Several years ago, a woman decided to take the protesters’ offer of a free ultrasound and traveled with them to the hospital. She said the women were very nice but that they just didn’t listen to her and didn’t respect where she was in her life. They refused to hear how she simply could not carry on with the pregnancy. They refused to help her on her terms. So she returned to the clinic and had the abortion.

Another story from a few years back centers around a young woman who arrived in a cab with her young daughter. Because the appointment would have been difficult for the daughter, all the escorts in the parking lot entertained the young child while her mother went inside. After the appointment, the woman retrieved her daughter. She and the little girl in the little umbrella stroller left the parking lot followed by doggedly determined protesters chewing in her ear all the way to the Mc Donald’s across the street. On and on, babbling, offering to buy her stuff, help her. But not listening to what she was saying. Never listening. It was a week later, when the young woman showed up again for an appointment. One protester called J-Dog recognized the young woman. Her first words to this young woman were heated, curt. She barked at her, “I TOLD YOU we would help you.”  No words of love or kindness. Just pure nastiness.  What’s comically pathetic is that after words of nastiness come recitations of prayers—all out of the same mouth, in the same breath.Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.39.49 AM

This combination of nastiness and prayers is particularly evident in another protester called Linebacker. Ever busy toting her rosary and praying about spiritually adopting babies about to be murdered, this anti is also very quick to anger. She’s also quick to point out that her anger is righteous anger. (Oh, give me a freakin’ break!) One day about four years ago, Linebacker showed up at the clinic entrance with a framed image of our lady of Guadalupe. As an aside, it is noteworthy that some Catholics worship graven images of all sorts of folks. They use these images to ward off evil spirits, to talk to, and to threaten people at abortion clinics. So, back to the story. Linebacker used her show-and-tell piece to yell at a woman entering the clinic, shoving the image in the air saying, “the blessed mother is angry at abortion.” Now, here’s where the connection between religious proselytizing and anti abortion protesting goes terribly wrong. Linebacker pivots on her heels and really yells directly at me. Keep in mind, I’m videotaping all this for a documentary. She grasped her graven image firmly, raises it upward and toward me and yells, “The blessed mother is very, very angry at you Kate, you and all those who will watch your stupid documentary.” It had to be one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed for its nonsensical religious rage.

One last story comes from the likes of a Pappa Smurf look alike, white beard and all, named Gerry. He is a man who believes in himself. He once said to escorts who were rightly laughing at him, “Laugh at me and you laugh at God.” But the crowning psycho-religious comment happened when a mother and daughter arrived at the clinic. The mother revealed that her daughter had been brutally raped. Gerry’s response, in typical My-proselytizing-is-more-important-than-your-situation, was “If your daughter is pregnant because of being raped, it’s the way God wanted it.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.41.19 AMThe common denominator amongst the anti abortionists is a belief in a position of superiority with their faith as the only true faith. The see anyone outside their belief system as inferior, filled with errors, Satan-inspired, bound to an eternity in Hell, in need of prayers and on and on, ad nauseum. So it is little wonder that when these lovelies assume such a position in their religiously informed antiabortion proselytizing, that they are met with objections, disdain and reciprocal disrespect. Show no respect, get no respect. It’s the basics of Ethics 101.

 

 

“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Every Thanksgiving I’m reminded of the fairy tales taught in school about pilgrims and Native Americans. All the little hands who make quaint pilgrim hats and “Indian” headbands made of construction paper in November celebrations belie the tragedies foisted upon Native Americans. It’s our shameful heritage that never makes the elementary history books. Contemporary celebrations have long forgotten the Native American genocide in favor of a gluttonous affair that’s packed into one day. It’s the consumerist approach to all things American.  And speaking of consumerism, despite the underhanded attempts to buy the 2012 election, the GOP, drunk on a weird brew of American virtue and Christian Armageddon, refuse to understand the American majority. So, they got a whopping spanking. And I’m thankful for that.
To those in the GOP who blamed the decline of America on homosexuals, abortion, gay marriage, non-believers, separation of church and state, evolution, science, you should know that you are what is wrong with this country. I’m thankful that your draconian ideology didn’t work. I’m very thankful that President Obama won a second term, despite his many foibles.

On a more regional note, I’m thankful to all those who have donated time and money to those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Especially, to all the thousands of utility workers from across the nation who left the comfort of their homes, thanks for working such long hours and laboring so diligently to restore power to those without.

And for all things reproductive, to those clinics that endured difficulties to ensure access to women seeking abortions during and following the hurricane, you are heroes to those of us who respect and trust women. Similarly, I’m thankful to technology that can diagnose pregnancy and fetal anomalies earlier than ever. It’s making the battle against later abortions a shrinking target for protesters. I’m also thankful for the contraceptive revolution causing a steep drop in abortion rates through better prevention. And along those lines, I’m thankful for the open conversations about contraception costs and economic justice. All too often economic and class issues are smothered to death by the onslaught of GOP debris.

And speaking of debris, let’s talk about the rubbish over abortion laws. Let us pause for a moment to remember 31 year old Savita Halappanavar, a 17 week pregnant woman/dentist/daughter/neighbor/wife/citizen/friend, who tragically lost her life because she had the unfortunate circumstance to land in an Irish Catholic hospital. The University Hospital Galway demonstrated utter disregard for this young woman’s life by refusing to provide an abortion, a refusal of treatment that is typical of the global culture war on women. Despite the shameful and horrendous circumstances of her death, women and men from around the world have spoken out and stood up against institutions that allow a woman to die because of their bad faith. It’s ironic that for all their propaganda about prolife, the sanctity of life, it’s the Catholic Church that essentially killed Savita. For their solidarity on behalf of Savita and other women here in America and beyond, I am thankful.

I’m thankful, as well, for the women who are using social media to tell their abortion stories. They poignantly reveal the emotional and physical as well as the pragmatic elements of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. Their stories reject other people’s limited perceptions of them and, thus, counter ignorance as a point of view.

And, last, on a local level, I’m thankful to Harrisburg PA city council for recognizing how the seams of respect have been ripped loose by antiabortion activists and for creating a buffer zone for women entering and leaving abortion clinics. While it is well documented that escorts provide a buffer against the protesters’ shameful departure from civilized norms of society, it’s often not enough to facilitate women’s perceptions of a safe passage.  I can only hope that the rest of the state will follow.

And to all those progressive, philanthropic individuals contributing to abortion funds, reproductive health care associations such as the Abortion Care Network and to the building of a new abortion clinic in the Lehigh Valley, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Abortion. It’s not a dirty word. If a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, she should not, under any circumstances, be unduly burdened to carry the pregnancy to term. And unruly strangers should never victimize women with their antediluvian meanness, pathological prudishness, and morality mongering.

Antediluvian Meanness

In 2012, it is beyond comprehension how a radical fringe is allowed to promote an agenda based on primeval, misogynist ideology. In locales around the nation, women are treated to heartless invectives just because they choose to enter a clinic. A woman with an appointment shouldn’t be treated with the unmitigated nastiness that is so common outside abortion clinics. So-called sidewalk counselors claim they offer help but what they really specialize in is unbridled callousness toward women and their companions. More commonly called protesters, these mean-spirited folks claim they know what is best for a woman. The use lines like “you know you’re killing yourself and your child” or “do the right thing and don’t be so selfish” or, my favorite (thanks to a particularly nasty woman nicknamed the Walrus), “they’re gonna turn your baby into road-kill” or screaming across a large parking lot to a woman entereing the clinic door, “You’re baby is gonna haunt you at night.”

Like I said, abortion is not a dirty word. Some cruel folks just like to make it seem like it is.

Pathological Prudishness

Sex is natural. It’s fun. Not to be overly religious, but sexuality is a God-given gift to be used as we humans feel is right. But there are those among the unruly strangers (and now amongst some of the nation’s legislators) who would likely be happy if they could put chastity belts on every female who has become of age. Arguing against contraception, against sex before marriage (because of their heteronormativity), and against sex unless it is for procreation. But sex for the majority is part of everyday living. It’s not some filthy necessity to get over, not some lascivious activity of perverts and certainly not wrong/abnormal/disgusting. Of course, any discussion of sex by yourself, called masturbation, would curl their toes because that’s a sin.

Morality

And speaking of sin, these protesters know all about morality. They quote from their litany of spiritual mumbo jumbo and kiss their rosary beads, saying “In the name of the Father” then launch a verbal grenade at a women with the same breath. They claim abortion is murder. They tell women God is offended by abortion. A particularly vitriolic man named Gerry told a woman whose daughter was raped and pregnant, “If she got pregnant, it was God’s will.” Another protester lied to a woman entering the clinic when she said, “Don’t go in there. My best friend died there last week.” No one had died, ever. What happened to the stuff about not lying? Another protester, mocked for her  undulations nicknamed the pee pee dance, loved to get into women’s face and ask all manner of personal questions about her physical body or talk about rolling around in the sheets–in front of everyone standing outside. While I’m aware that these protesters think they are morally upright citizens, I argue that their behavior is immoral. Their mere presence terrifies women. Their signs disgust them. And their words immeasurably and negatively impact how women feel about them. And, yet, the protesters are blinded by either their faith or delusions or both.

As evidenced by the number of abortions in the United States, abortion is the right option for women who face an unplanned pregnancy. However, recognizing that abortion is not for everyone, that adoption is the right choice for some women while parenting is the right choice for others, the bigger point is this: It’s a woman’s choice. Period.

Abortion

Abortion

Angelita and Ricardo took their place in one of the last pews in the back of the church.   As always, the predominantly Spanish parishioners at the Good Sheppard Catholic Church have filled the building to the rafters.    Ever since the arrival of a new, dynamic priest named Father Guerrero, attendance has skyrocketed.

Today’s sermon was entitled “The Horrors of Abortion.”  For the next 20 minutes, Father Guerrero told the rapt audience how thousands of babies each day were being torn “limb by limb” from the mother’s womb, how the mothers would ultimately come to regret their heinous act and how God would be watching them commit this serious sin.  This particular church had always been on the cusp of anti- abortion activity, organizing buses to protest at the local “abortion mill.”  Two years ago, they erected a “Memorial to the Unborn” at the church’s entrance, a reminder to everyone entering God’s house that millions of babies had been aborted under his very eye.  Father Guerrero was asked to come to this church because of his zealous anti-abortion activism over the years.  He fit right in.

Abortion

Abortion

Meanwhile, as the good father went on, Angelita kept rubbing her stomach.  She was nine weeks pregnant and in two days she was going to have an abortion.

When the young couple had learned that Angelita was pregnant, at first they rejoiced.  Ricardo, perhaps playing that “machismo” card, could barely contain himself.  He couldn’t wait to tell his compadres at the construction site that he was going to be a father – preferably the father of a young, strapping boy.  Angelita, who was 19 at the time, was also excited at first but then quickly turned anxious.  After she finished high school, she had taken a year off to work at a local fast food restaurant to save money to attend the local community college where she hoped to study nursing.   Suddenly, she saw how her life was about to change.

Catholics and Abortion

Catholics and Abortion

A week or two later, after thinking a lot more about her and Ricardo’s future, she began to think about abortion.  She could not imagine raising a child at her age, giving up her dreams of being a nurse and the possibility of Ricardo having to get a second job to cover their new expenses.  But when she prayed to her God, she could only feel discomfort.  As a lifelong Catholic, she had been trained that just the slightest thought of abortion was abhorrent, that if she ever had one she would clearly spend eternity in hell.  Of course, she could not even think about going to her former priest, the one who had given her communion, had presided over her father’s funeral and had advised her on some many other personal issues.   And the new one was out of the question.  Meanwhile, she couldn’t talk to her friends or her family, as they were Catholic as well.  It was just she and Ricardo.

Within a few weeks, Ricardo’s enthusiasm about being a Dad had worn off as well as he started to anticipate his new responsibilities.  So, when Angelita – in tears – raised the possibility of abortion with him, he was more amenable than she thought he would be.   After a few agonizing days, they agreed to schedule an abortion.

Catholic Compassion

Catholic Compassion

And now, sitting in her house of worship that had been a source of comfort for so many years, she could only feel like an outcast.  When she walked by the statute in the front of the church, she became nauseous.  As she listened to her priest talk to HER about HER abortion, she could not make eye contact and it took all of her resolve to not burst out crying.

She and Ricardo needed help, not condemnation.  But in her desperate time of need, her church offered her no refuge.