Every Picture Worth 1,000 Words
New trucks are being converted by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform into rolling billboards to target 34 California State and University campuses. To educate the public & college students, the themes will invoke the dangers of abortion pills that are now being dispensed in student health centers. Some of the signs will address the “trans” mania also sweeping American college campuses. “Nor do we believe that biological men should be permitted to menace real women in women’s prisons or shelters. We also oppose policies which permit biological men to consistently defeat and often injure real women by invading in women’s sports and posing as real women.” [CBR newsletter, June 2023, firstname.lastname@example.org]
Assisting an abortion for the first time
Abby Jonson dropped the ultrasound probe and ran, crying, from the procedure room. Despite two of her own abortions, she was shocked by the images on the screen: the first-trimester fetal human had limbs, movement, and a heartbeat: “What was in this woman’s womb just a moment ago was alive. It wasn’t just tissue, just cells. That was a human baby, fighting for life! What I told people for years, what I believed and taught and defended, is a lie!” Johnson came to view abortion as morally impermissible. She quit her job at the clinic and ultimately became a pro-life activist. [Heidi M. Giebel, The “Unplanned” Effect: Impact of Fetal Ultrasound Images, Life and Learning XXXII, June 2022.]
Contraception and Abortion
Modern medicine continues to promote the use of contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies. People have come to believe that only through contraception can women have control of their lives. Health professionals provide unmarried sexually active adolescents, especially African Americans and the poor with the pill, the condom, and more recently the use of the IUD and implants. These approaches are not solving the problem of unwanted pregnancy & abortion, and they promote the likelihood of catching an STD.
Reducing abortion will only happen when a true understanding of human sexuality, marriage, and the conjugal act can be effectively communicated and lived. The only way to decrease abortion is through chastity-based human sexuality programs for teens and their parents, marriage preparation that includes Natural Family Planning, and the understanding that women’s roles and careers are not contingent on eliminating their human fertility. Not seeing the link between contraception and abortion eliminates strategies for effective change in our culture to become a culture of accepting life. [Richard J. Fehring, The Influence of Religiosity and Contraception on the Odds of Abortion, Life and Learning XXXII, June 2022.]
Genetic Editing: Respect for Human Life
13-year-old Alyssa with aggressive leukemia is now in remission thanks to the experimental gene editing CRISPR technology. After exhausting all known treatments, she received a dose of donor immune cells genetically modified to attack the cancer. Though it will be years before doctors know if she will remain cancer free, the treatment took effect in only 28 days.
Genetic manipulation is laudable morally when its goal is healing and its methods are aimed at the good of the individual. It becomes problematic when it simply uses the person or, in some cases, causes the demise of the individual for the sake of research. Using individuals as simply means to a greater end demeans that human life.
Catholic bioethics seeks to apply the Church’s moral wisdom to both new and existing questions of medical practice, research, and technology. For example, to harvest DNA from a woman’s egg or embryo, risky egg extraction is needed. Using cells from the embryo results in its destruction. Thus, on embryo is destroyed for the sake of another. “Medicine” that treats some human life as expendable is morally unacceptable by failing to respect the dignity of every human life. Yes, a world where genetic selection occurs (“designer” babies) is appealing. As philosopher Chris Kaczor says: “This brace new world, even if populated with only beautiful people, is an ugly creation in which the gift of a child becomes a consumer product.” Couldn’t those monies be better spent on research to cure diseases?
The Catholic storytelling podcast “Brave New Us” explores the many facets of genetic editing. Samantha Stephenson, author of Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad, dives into topics such as the role of disability in God’s kingdom and also asks big questions: “What makes a life valuable” and “What does it mean to be human.” Find it wherever you listen to podcasts. [Stephenson, Our Sunday Visitor, 7/16/23]
- “I can just say that even though I love being a pediatrician, I love, love teaching Natural Family Planning to couples. NFP gives them tools for lifelong intimacy, intimacy that is in addition to the conjugal sexual union.” (Maria Meyers, MD)
- “It is a beautiful experience in teaching women/couples the very foundation of how our bodies and fertility work. For medical problems, the ability to help women work with their body and work toward finding and treating the root cause is not only a better long-term solution for their health but is truly respectful of their body & God’s creation.” (Brittany Kudrna, DNP, FNP-c)
- “It was wonderful to see women (and their partners) come to understand their cycles and persevere with NFP despite all society’s pressures to contracept. And it was a great joy to help engaged couples return to chastity before their marriage if they had become sexually active.” (Kathleen M. Raviele, MD, Ob/Gyn) [R. J. Fehring, Building a Culture of Life Through a University Institute for NFP, Life and Learning XXXII, June 2022.]
Blockbuster Film Thriller
In its first two weeks, sleeper smash hit Sound of Freedom crossed the $100 million mark. The film made headlines opening on the Fourth of July by beating Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny for the day with $14.2 million. The movie, billed as a political thriller, stars The Passion of the Christ‘s Jim Caviezel as the real-life Tim Ballard, who worked as an agent for the Department of Homeland Security before embarking on his own quest to bring child traffickers to justice (Ballard founded his own anti-trafficking organization, dubbed Operation Underground Railroad). The picture placed third over the July 7-9 weekend with an impressive $19.7 million from 2,634 theaters, then coming in second in the July 14-16 weekend with $27.3 million from 2,852 locations, a rare 39% weekly jump. Cinema owners rushed to carry the movie as other summer offerings struggle to find a foothold. Over the July 21-23 weekend it played in 3,287 theaters. [Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter, 7/20/23]
Do They Serve Women or Babies?
Pro-life pregnancy centers began sprouting in the U.S. as repeal of criminal abortion prohibitions arose on state legislative agendas in the late 1960s. Although most pregnancy help leaders identify with the pro-life movement, the typical center identifies itself as a ministry or service provider rather than an activist organization. If pregnancy centers have a hidden agenda behind the claims to provide practical and emotional support through unplanned childbearing, it is to transform the lives of women clients through sharing faith-based messages rather than to stop all the abortions that they can. [Laura S. Hussey, The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement: Serving Women or Saving Babies?, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2020.]
Abortion’s Impact on Society
“As we stand here on this day, quite literally thousands of unborn children will be sacrificed before the sun sets in the name of the new ethic. Such a situation cannot continue indefinitely without doing irreparable damage to the most cherished principles of humanity and to the moral sensibilities of our people. The issue at stake is not only what we do to unborn children, but what we do to ourselves by permitting them to be killed. With every day
that passes, we run the risk of stumbling down the path that leads to the devaluation of all stages of human life, born or unborn.
What kind of society is it that will abide this sort of senseless destruction? What kind of people are we that can tolerate this mass extermination? Abortion, which was once universally condemned in the Western World as a heinous moral and legal offense, is now presented to us as not only a necessary, sometime evil, but as a morally and socially beneficial act. The Christian counsel of perfection which teaches that the greatest love consists in laying down one’s life for one’s friend, has now become an injunction to take another’s life for the security and
comfort of one’s own. The world of abortion is one in which black becomes white, and right wrong, in which the powerful are authorized to destroy the weak & defenseless, a world in which the child’s natural protector, his own mother, becomes the very agent of his destruction.” [Senator James Buckley, from his address introducing his Human Life Amendment on the U.S.; Senate floor, 5/31/1973. Reprinted in the Human Life Review, Spring 2023.]
Last fall, answers to a Gallup poll question revealed some of the lowest rates of American optimism in decades. Too many Americans do not see the light that comes with believing in a higher power and in its ability to redeem even those of us who seem beyond saving. Liel Leibovitz, First Things, 4/23]
Femininity is Not a Function of Stilettos.
Or red lipstick. Or even skirts and dresses. Drag queens are not showcasing femininity when they don their costumes on stage, and neither are any female politicians when they don their red lipstick. Femininity is not a measure of fashion choices or makeup usage. Drag queens insult me because they reduce femininity to an appearance that can be purchased and painted on. We who believe in biological sex as an essential part of our
human and personal identity ought to be sure we do not
fall prey to the same error.
My female body has matured through the trials of puberty, the decades-long challenges of menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and nursing. I will never bond over any of these experiences with a man, a (male) drag queen, or a trans “woman,” even if we swap dresses, wear matching shades of lipstick, or hire the same surgeon to reconfigure our chests. Masculinity and femininity can’t be bought. Our (gender) identity is given to us freely at the moment of conception. My body, with its uniquely feminine powers, makes me a woman. Not my wallet.
Being pro-choice defaces a woman’s femininity—built by God to nurture life—more than ugly shoes ever could. Some women scorn their femininity in a parody just as grotesque as a man dressed in drag. [letter, Gina Loehr, First Things, April 2023]
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