The Devil is in the Details


In the last few weeks, Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, has reserved much of her signature wrath just for me. I'd be honored by her op-eds and blogs devoted to me if it all weren't so disturbing (and to be honest, threatening). She has called me "wicked," an "architect of death," simply for doing nothing other than supporting a different (and mind you, proven effective) approach to preventing abortion. Her actions are, to put it mildly, grossly disproportionate and irresponsible. And provide a sad insight into her brand of pro-life argument, to wit: when you can't win with facts attack your opponent with Biblical rage.

Having followed Judie's work and writing for several years now, I know sanctimony is her pornography. Nothing turns her on more than her own piety. It would be great for everyone if Judie's sanctimony prevented abortion but sadly, her approach leads to more of them. With abortion, the devil is in the details and we have enough details available to us now to know that Judie's approach is far more demonic than mine.

Given this, I could attack Judie as she has me and label her an "agent of deception," an "ideologue" and conclude by saying of her that "we must call evil by its proper name." But, my catholic upbringing has taught me better. (I also recognize such hate speech–let's call it what it is–is intended to rile the dangerous to act. As a mother of a young child, Judie's remarks are received with an added degree of alarm.)

Instead of slinging slurs and stooping to hate speech, I have instead tried to open up the national discussion about abortion. Yes, I have referred to pro-lifers as the "God Squad" but it's a title I'm pretty sure they embrace. And, yes, I did write a provocatively titled book, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, though I consider it a book for reasonable pro-life as well as pro-choice thinkers. (I wanted it subtitled, "a book for pro-life people." My editors opted for another subtitle which was their right.) The fact is, pro-lifers who have actually read the book (most of my critics have not) have thanked me. And there's a reason. My book shows the difference, based on results, between pro-life and pro-lie. Many results-oriented pro-lifers appreciate the distinction. Genuine pro-life people want fewer abortions. Real pro-life people want to see abortion unnecessary. Honest pro-life people don't try to conflate abortion and contraception in a bizarre effort to change American's sex lives, as Judie Brown does, even if it results in higher abortion rates.

It is my firm belief that Judie's main mission is not to stop abortion. If it were, she would not spearhead campaigns against contraception (the only proven way to prevent abortion) but would instead send her staff off to study the policies of the countries that have achieved the lowest abortion rates in the world. (Hint: they are the ones with the greatest contraceptive access.) If making abortion unnecessary were what Judie was truly after, she'd first admit that the countries that have the highest abortion rates in the world (often twice our national average) are those that have adopted her full agenda. These are places where she would proudly fly an ALL banner. They are places where contraception is hard to come by; where only abstinence is taught to sexually active people; where abortion is outlawed.

It goes without saying that Judie didn't send a letter of thanks to Bill Clinton, our first pro-choice president, when he presided over the most dramatic decline in abortion rates ever recorded. But she's also not moved that Bush, the "pro-lifer" in the oval office who has fulfilled much of the anti-contraception movement's agenda, has seen to it that abortion rates are now on the rise. How about that devilish detail?

In her op-ed, "Anti-Life Nonsense," Judie writes,

[Page] denies that a human being's life begins when the human sperm and human egg unite. She cites an official bit of gobbledygook that says pregnancy does not begin until around eight days later, at implantation. In doing so she is carrying on the long, disastrous folly the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology foisted upon women more than 40 years ago. In 1965 this august body of physicians, on the brink of making a whole lot of money by selling birth control pills, chose to redefine the start of pregnancy so they could deny to their patients that the pill can kill a preborn child.

Setting aside Judie's simplistic and paranoid views of the medical establishment, it's important to understand that on the issue of whether contraception can ever act as an abortifacient the most respected pro-life doctors agree with me. Twenty-two of them, including Dr. David Hager, Dr. Susan Crockett, and Dr. Joe McIlhaney, wrote an open statement imploring the pro-life movement to stop campaigns, like Judie's, against birth control mainly because there is absolutely no evidence that any contraceptive device does what Judie et. al. say it does. Turns out, not surprisingly, its Judie's citations that the pro-life medical experts consider gobbledygook. The pro-life Ob/Gyns write:

In this discussion we accept the time-honored definition that conception occurs when a sperm penetrates an egg. Disruption of the fertilized egg after this point represents abortion. We consider fertilization … to be the beginning of human life… Currently the claim that hormonal contraceptives [birth control pills, implants (norplant), injectables (depo-provera)] include an abortifacient mechanism of action is being widely disseminated in the pro-life community. This theory is emerging with the assumed status of "scientific fact," and is causing significant confusion among both lay and medical pro-life people. The "hormonal contraception is abortifacient" theory is not established scientific fact. It is speculation, and the discussion presented here suggests it is error…We know of no existing scientific studies that validate the "hostile endometrium is abortifacient" theory… If a family, weighing all the factors affecting their own circumstances, decides to use this modality, we are confident that they are not using an abortifacient.

Possibly, to Judie, these pro-life doctors too are "ideologues," "agents of deception," "architects of the culture of death," and "wicked." After all, they have made precisely the same argument I do. When I have proven her campaigns against contraception distort science, Judie resorts to desperate tactics. Suddenly, I'm anti-God. She writes, "As if [Page's] disdain for all things holy was not bad enough, she has made a profession out of betraying her fellow women by repeating the lie that chemical birth control agents such as the morning-after pill can not cause an abortion." And "[Page] continues to insist that anything of God must be very wrong and anything resulting from sinful sexual activity must be very good indeed."

I recognize that in Judie's world, one cannot have both a close relationship with God and a close relationship with the facts. Judie believes that to love God you can't love sex for pleasure either. But the majority of Catholics, like the majority of pro-lifers–when asked to chose sides on the issue of contraception and sex-side with little old "anti-God," "evil" me. Eighty percent of self-described pro-lifers support access to contraception and, according to the National Survey of Family Growth, 97% of Catholic women have used artificial birth control. So, does Judie extend the anti-God label to the majority of Catholics and pro-lifers too?

There is a devil is these details and it should make any thoughtful pro-lifer wonder why Judie doesn't want you to know about them but instead retreats behind the iron gate of her holiness. Judie's arguments offer to readers no information only judgments. That's always a suspicious tactic. It's not only what's missing from Judie's arguments that's cause for concern, it's what she chooses to include. A true leader does not make veiled threats, resort to hate speech, label anyone who questions her approach "wicked," or call those who look for reasoned and peaceful solutions in this most acrimonious conflict "evil." That's not leadership. Pro-lifers not only deserve the facts, they deserve better.

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  • amanda-marcotte

    You rock. I've had a lot of commenters at Pandagon tell me they were anti-abortion and sucked into the rhetoric until they learned that the anti-abortion movement is anti-contraception. Nothing has turned more people onto reality than that one fact. So let's highlight the hell out of it.

  • http://picasaweb.google.com/anna.faherty/Artwork invalid-0

    I love the part of her article where Judie says
    “Her recent book, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, practically acknowledges that the number one enemy in the struggle to protect the right to abortion is God Himself.”

    Now I have read your book 3 or 4 times, but I really don’t remember that part. And I think it’s the kind of thing that I would remember.

    Of course this type of weirdness is to be expected from the woman married to the Prince Charming who once said this:
    “[the victim was] not the most beautiful woman in the world, so when I hear her say she was raped, my response is “You Wish”.”
    Lovely.

    Thanks for your book – keep up the good work.

  • http://thewelltimedperiod.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Real pro-life people want to see abortion unnecessary.

    Speaking of the devil is in the details, it needs to be pointed out that, as long as women become pregnant, abortion will never be unnecessary.

    Eliminating a safe and effective medical procedure is not the same as taking steps to reduce, where possible, some of the indications for that procedure.