Conservative Columnist Supports Family Planning as “Pro-Life”


It’s not often that I agree with Michael Gerson, the conservative former speech writer for President George H.W. Bush, advocate for abstinence-only policies in U.S. global AIDS programs, and columnist for the Washington Post. 

Today, however, I am in near-full agreement with him on a piece he published in today’s Post.

Gerson just returned from a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored by CARE during which he and others saw firsthand the struggles of women who live in societies in which they have little control of whether, when and whom they marry, and whether, when and how many children they bear.  In these settings, women bear more children than they want and can afford to raise, infant and child mortality rates are high, and complications of both pregnancy and unsafe abortion are a leading cause of deaths among women ages 15 to 49.  Medical care is largely inaccessible.

Reproductive and sexual health and rights advocates have always argued that ensuring that women have unfettered access to family planning information and counseling and consistent contraceptive supplies is a “pro-life” strategy, because voluntary family planning dramatically improves the quality of life and survival rates of both children and their mothers, and by extension, families and societies.

But the anti-choice movement in the United has moved from opposing abortion per se to opposing all forms of birth control, an agenda it was always suspected to have in the first place.  As such, this movement, led largely by male religious leaders, Congressmen or virulently anti-choice male activists opposes support for family planning services and birth control methods both at home and abroad.

Having a “card-carrying” conservative evangelical columnist support family planning as a “pro-life” intervention not only speaks to reality, it is what I hope to be a welcome first step in pushing back against anti-choice positions that cost far more lives–those of women and children–than they ever “save.”

Visiting the village of Bweremana, Gerson writes:

[T]he correlation between the number of children and the absence of some of their mothers becomes clear. Kanyere Sabasaba, 35, has had 10 children, eight of whom have survived. Her last delivery did not go well. “I delivered the baby without any problem, but I was bleeding much,” she told me. The case was too complex for the local health center, so Kanyere had to pay for her transport to another medical facility. After the surgery, the doctor performed a tubal ligation. “If I give birth again, I could die,” she said. “The last child is the one who could really kill me.”

As Gerson rightly notes, for women in this part of Congo, the complications of childbirth are as dangerous as the militias in the countryside.

One woman I met had given birth to 13 children, only six of whom survived. Women sometimes deliver in the fields while working. Medical help can be a few days’ journey away. Each birth raises the odds of a hemorrhage, infection or rupture. Those odds increase dramatically when births come early in life, or late in life, or in rapid succession. In Congo, almost one in five deaths of women during childbearing years is due to maternal causes.

And, he notes, “While both the pill and condoms are generally available in larger cities such as Goma, access is limited in rural districts. Determining the pace of reproduction is often a male prerogative instead of a shared decision. Sexual violence can be as close for a woman as gathering fuel in the woods.”

These are all absolutely true and I appreciate and admire Gerson for acknowledging these realities.

The women of Bweremana, continues Gerson “are attempting to diffuse and minimize their risk. In a program organized by Heal Africa, about 6,000 contribute the equivalent of 20 cents each Sunday to a common fund. When it is their time to give birth, the fund becomes a loan to pay transportation and hospital fees. The women tend a common vegetable garden to help with income and nutrition. And the group encourages family planning.”

But even this is not enough.  It is estimated that 215 million women worldwide want and need access to basic family planning and supplies but do not currently have it.  These women bear more children than they want or can support.  As a result, they also watch more infants and children die, suffer poor health themselves, and are far less likely to achieve their own educational and economic goals.  That is why investments by nations in their own health care systems, including basic reproductive and sexual health care, and international donors in those same systems, are so critical.

But, as Gerson notes:

The very words “family planning” light up the limbic centers of American politics. From a distance, it seems like a culture war showdown. Close up, in places such as Bweremana, family planning is undeniably pro-life. When births are spaced more than 24 months apart, both mothers and children are dramatically more likely to survive. Family planning results not only in fewer births, but in fewer at-risk births, including those early and late in a woman’s fertility. When contraceptive prevalence is low, about 70 percent of all births involve serious risk. When prevalence is high, the figure is 35 percent.

The United States was once the global leader in funding family planning worldwide.  But U.S. funding of international family planning programs has remained essentially flat for the last 10 years, and is hamstrung by an increasing number of medically-unnecessary and ideologically-driven restrictions that end up reducing, rather than expanding access to this urgently-needed health intervention.

Gerson argues that support for family planning and contraceptive supplies shouldn’t be the ideological lightening rod it has become because:

“[e]ven in the most stringent Catholic teaching, the prevention of conception is not the moral equivalent of ending a life. And conservative Protestants have little standing to object to contraception, given the fact that they make liberal use of it. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, more than 90 percent of American evangelicals believe that hormonal and barrier methods of contraception are morally acceptable for adults. Children are gifts from God, but this does not require the collection of as many gifts as biologically possible.

In fact, more than 80 percent of the U.S. public writ large strongly supports women’s rights to determine the number and spacing of children they have.

So far we strongly agree: It’s a strategy that saves lives, it makes economic sense, and because this is about public health, it should be free from ideology.  If you don’t like contraception, don’t use it. But don’t use religion or ideology to deny it to others, especially when the overwhelming majority of women of all religious persuasions in fact use birth control.

Where I diverge with from Gerson in regard to these issues is on abortion. 

Gerson points to “[s]ome liberal advocates” who think these are intrinsically related.  A woman’s ability to prevent pregnancy and her ability to safely and legally terminate an unintended and untenable pregnancy are intrinsically linked to her rights to self-determination, her human rights to be free from violence and to enjoy bodily integrity, her right to obtain an education and be economically active, and to public health, and women know this. It only becomes ideological when religion and politics intervene in these basic rights and tries to undermine them.

It is true, as he notes, that “support for contraception does not imply or require support for abortion.”  You can, personally, be a supporter of contraception but decide you would not choose abortion were you to become pregnant, which obviously men can’t.  Where we’ve become lost, however is in politicizing abortion care in much the same way as family planning services and ignoring, for ideological convenience, the same public health and medical evidence on safe abortion services that supports access to family planning.  Safe abortion care makes sense because it saves women’s lives, and ultimately the lives of their current and future children borne through wanted pregnancies.

Notwithstanding religious and ideological beliefs, access to safe abortion is also a well-recognized critical public health intervention.  Moreover, without it, ultimately women can not truly be in charge of their reproductive destinies–and hence can not truly exercise self-determination. Access to safe abortion services is a necessary back up to any unintended and untenable pregnancy, from any cause, including contraceptive failure, interrupted access to contraceptives, and pregnancies resulting from intimate partner violence and rape, rape as a tool of war, stranger rape, or incest.  Access to contraception can dramatically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and hence the need for abortion, but it can never completely eliminate abortion. So the need for access to safe abortion care is a fact-based medical and public health position, not an ideological one. And by suggesting it is an ideological position, we continue to miss the point.

Gerson also fails to clarify that for the purpose of U.S. policy, contraception and abortion are already kept separate.  U.S. international family planning assistance goes solely to family planning information and supplies; it does not support access to safe abortion care.  Under the Helms Amendment, funding for abortion care is only allowable in cases of rape, incest or the health and life of the mother.  In reality, because of politics, U.S. funding is rarely if ever used even for these “allowable” conditions.  The issue of abortion would come into play if we were talking about repealing the Helms Amendment, an effort I wholeheartedly support, but which has nothing to do with current discussions around the scope of U.S. international funding for family planning, unless you are a Congressperson trying to deflect attention from the fact that you don’t want to support family planning and want to ignore the evidence that it saves the lives of women and their children.

So when we talk about ideological fights around family planning, it really comes down to a majority male GOP Congressional leadership that vociferously opposes access to basic services that would enable women to choose the number and spacing of children they want by using basic family planning services.  Abortion is a red herring here, because it is not in the equation.  Gerson himself would have been more forceful if he had clarified that, and he also would have been more honest if in this piece he had reversed his own earlier position supporting the prohibition of integration of family planning into U.S. global AIDS programs, a position adopted by the Bush Administration and, unfortunately, continued by the Obama Administration that dramatically diminishes access to contraceptive supplies to HIV-positive women who desire not to have any more children.

So I agree with Gerson that family planning is pro-life, as all people who are pro-choice and by definition therefore “pro-life” understand those concepts.  I also agree with Gerson that “women in Congo have enough home-grown problems without importing irrelevant, Western controversies.”  And finally, I completely agree that access to contraceptives do not solve every problem and that women in Bweremana want access to voluntary family planning for the same reasons as women elsewhere: to avoid high-risk pregnancies, to deliver healthy children and to better care for the children they have.”  They want the same happy, healthy families we all strive to have.

This is the best understanding of why the pro-choice movement, based as it is on public health and medical evidence is indeed “pro-life,” and why U.S. support for voluntary international family planning services is one of the single most effective investments we can make.  Let’s keep the funding politics separate from abortion right now, while recognizing that on the ground, in the hut, for the woman, these two things are rarely in neat little boxes.

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  • sonicnylon

    I wish I could share Ms. Jaconson’s optimism about Michael Gerson’s seeming growth toward humanitarianism but  I fear it is more likely the familiar case of the antis’ deceitfully trying to pass themselves off as less virulent than they actually are.

  • crowepps

    I may be a cynic, but I agree.  Seems to me the plan is ‘since birth control is available let’s ban abortion’ with a course of ‘let’s get Planned Parenthood with ACORN in the ashcan’ and a followup of, ‘oopsie, somehow we seem to have accidentally made it really difficult for women to get birth control.  Guess they just will have to stop having sex!’

  • marysia

    According to polling data from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, about *eighty percent* of Americans who identify as prolife on abortion support the right to contraception. And some of us have been fighting for decades for voluntary family planning as a human right for its own sake as well as a necessary, indispensible means of reducing abortion. This is nothing new. It just doesn’t get a lot of media play. I wish prochoicers were more aware of and welcoming of this prolife support for contraception. It would certainly make it easier to ensure that all people who want and need family planning services can access them. We may not and may never come to an agreement about abortion itself-but in the meantime, why not cooperate to make practical, real-life differences so that women have the “other choices”?

    Prochoicers frequently point out that some who identify as prolife don’t seem to care about people after they’re born-in some cases, a valid criticism. But when prolifers *do* care about already-born people-including the right of the already-born to voluntary contraception-I wish prochoicers would not become so quickly dismissive and cynical about our existence and motives. Thank you.

    Marysia

    All Our Lives

    http://www.allourlives.org

  • marysia

    According to polling data from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, about *eighty percent* of Americans who identify as prolife on abortion support the right to contraception. And some of us have been fighting for decades for voluntary family planning as a human right for its own sake as well as a necessary, indispensible means of reducing abortion. This is nothing new. It just doesn’t get a lot of media play. I wish prochoicers were more aware of and welcoming of this prolife support for contraception. It would certainly make it easier to ensure that all people who want and need family planning services can access them. We may not and may never come to an agreement about abortion itself-but in the meantime, why not cooperate to make practical, real-life differences so that women have the “other choices”?

    Prochoicers frequently point out that some who identify as prolife don’t seem to care about people after they’re born-in some cases, a valid criticism. But when prolifers *do* care about already-born people-including the right of the already-born to voluntary contraception-I wish prochoicers would not become so quickly dismissive and cynical about our existence and motives. Thank you.

    Marysia

    All Our Lives

    http://www.allourlives.org

  • marysia

    for the double post. tried to remove the 2nd copy, but unsuccessfully.

  • crowepps

     I wish prochoicers were more aware of and welcoming of this prolife support for contraception.

    This is a really interesting statement.  Just what exactly would the prochoicers then be doing differently?

     

    First, it makes an enormous difference what kind of birth control we’re talking about.  The idea that ‘abstinence’ is birth control ought to be laughed off the table at the outset.  And promoting ’natural family planning’ under all its many aliases as ‘birth control’ is almost as funny.  Having sex as little as possible and hoping when your husband nags you into agreeing that your basal thermometer or calendar or dabbling in your mucus aren’t going to betray you again isn’t much different than rolling the dice while you pray.  I’m certainly not going to be welcoming of somebody whose religion demands that all women be restricted to an unreliable method because otherwise sex is sinful and it just ‘serves them right’ if they can’t control their husbands.  I’m not going to be much more welcoming of somebody who only approves of male controlled methods because those best keep women under the control of their possessors and the priests.  Women aren’t breeding stock.

     

    When it comes to actual reliable female controlled methods, if 80% of the people who say they’re prolife are okay with birth control, why do they allow the 20% of prolifers who are NOT okay with birth control to dominate the conversation?  Why do they wander away and go do something else while fanatics are promoting pharmacy conscience laws and trying to defund Planned Parenthood and refusing to do tubal ligations/vasectomies and allowing hospitals to gag doctors so they can’t mention Plan B to rape victims?

     

    Why do they acquiese when the hardliners insist women aren’t entitled to stop pregnancy from occurring after rape, to stop pregnancy from occurring when their health is at risk, to stop pregnancy when their families are complete?  Why do they rely on prochoice people to fight to save their birth control for them?  It’s hard to be welcoming to someone who won’t speak to you in public and then slips up next to you in an empty hallway and whispers, “I agree with you but I don’t dare say so in front of my friends.”

  • marysia

    crowepps:

    –This is a really interesting statement.  Just what exactly would the prochoicers then be doing differently?–

    Not tarring everyone with criticisms of “anti-birth control” when it doesn’t apply. Treating us like we really do care about the issue and want to do something about it every bit as much as prochoicers instead of behaving like the fight is for prochoicers only. It is for *everyone.*

     

    –First, it makes an enormous difference what kind of birth control we’re talking about.  The idea that ‘abstinence’ is birth control ought to be laughed off the table at the outset.  And promoting ’natural family planning’ under all its many aliases as ‘birth control’ is almost as funny.  Having sex as little as possible and hoping when your husband nags you into agreeing that your basal thermometer or calendar or dabbling in your mucus aren’t going to betray you again isn’t much different than rolling the dice while you pray.  I’m certainly not going to be welcoming of somebody whose religion demands that all women be restricted to an unreliable method because otherwise sex is sinful and it just ‘serves them right’ if they can’t control their husbands.  I’m not going to be much more welcoming of somebody who only approves of male controlled methods because those best keep women under the control of their possessors and the priests.  Women aren’t breeding stock.–

    I agree, women aren’t breeding stock. We should be free to use whatever methods of voluntary family planning we prefer, whenever, with whomever we choose. And so I fight for *all* methods.

    However, I disagree that abstinence (whether from penis-vagina sex or from all forms of heterosexual sex) or natural family planning/fertility awareness methods are necessarily “male-controlled.” When women are forcibly restricted to these alone-the description male controlled does apply.

    When women practice these as choices, for reasons of their own-it does not apply.

    NFP/FAM are not for everyone, by any means, but they can be highly effective when used correctly and consistently (like most methods). This is not according to the Catholic hierachy but “Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers,” one of the World Health Organization’s cornerstone documents of  family planning:

    http://www.fphandbook.org/

     

    –When it comes to actual reliable female controlled methods, if 80% of the people who say they’re prolife are okay with birth control, why do they allow the 20% of prolifers who are NOT okay with birth control to dominate the conversation?  Why do they wander away and go do something else while fanatics are promoting pharmacy conscience laws and trying to defund Planned Parenthood and refusing to do tubal ligations/vasectomies and allowing hospitals to gag doctors so they can’t mention Plan B to rape victims?–

    Who says we just allow this to happen and just wander away? How do you know what we’re up to if you assume we don’t exist and don’t try to take action?

     

    –Why do they acquiese when the hardliners insist women aren’t entitled to stop pregnancy from occurring after rape, to stop pregnancy from occurring when their health is at risk, to stop pregnancy when their families are complete?  Why do they rely on prochoice people to fight to save their birth control for them?  It’s hard to be welcoming to someone who won’t speak to you in public and then slips up next to you in an empty hallway and whispers, “I agree with you but I don’t dare say so in front of my friends.”–

    Ha! I say anything and everything to support contraception in front of anyone & am not alone in this. I don’t not talk to prochoicers in public-what’s going on right now?

    And again why are you assuming we don’t take action, that we just sit around acquiescing? I for one cofounded an organization TO take action despite having no money prestige or clout and being seriously ill & needing to be very careful about what I do w/ my limited time & energy.

    If prochoicers don’t want to hear us let alone deal with us-some thankfully do, but some don’t-what else are we supposed to do?

    Personally I am grateful for prochoicers who work hard for birth control. I just wish there was more room for cooperative action, more organizational infrastructure to support that work alongside the work I & others have been doing for years. But it takes *both* sides to accomplish that. Not just one.

     

    Marysia

    All Our Lives

    http://www.allourlives.org

     

  • crowepps

    However, I disagree that abstinence (whether from penis-vagina sex or from all forms of heterosexual sex) or natural family planning/fertility awareness methods are necessarily “male-controlled.” When women are forcibly restricted to these alone-the description male controlled does apply.

    What I meant by male-controlled is that the woman cannot make these methods work well without full male cooperation.  A boyfriend or husband who whines about not getting enough sex until she gives in, or threatens to abandon her if she doesn’t give him what he wants, or who insists on sex at a ‘maybe’ time, or who unilterally begins to have sex while the woman is sleeping, has a practical veto over her wishes.  Even if he does not outright physically force her to have sex, she can only prevent pregnancy with his cooperation, and he can decide he doesn’t want to cooperate.  Even one instance a year of noncooperation could result in a whole bunch of children.  Condoms have the same male-controlled mechanism; so long as she wishes to continue the relationship, he is the one who really chooses whether or not she gets pregnant.

    If prochoicers don’t want to hear us let alone deal with us-some thankfully do, but some don’t-what else are we supposed to do?

    What you’re supposed to do is work hard to promote and put in place the idea that you think is worthwhile, without expecting prochoicers to stop doing what is important to them and come instead support your efforts and stop pointing out they think it’s a bad idea.  Do you think that people like me should accept what you propose because it at least acknowledges women shouldn’t be perpetually pregnant, and stifle our personal opinions?  Well, my opinion is that promoting natural family planning is the same as handing the man in the relationship a collar and leash for the little woman and why should I stand by and watch someone be persuaded to volunteer for reproductive slavery?

     

    I have every sympathy in the world for your position.  You are attempting to reconcile a medieval religious faith I don’t share and patriarchal gender roles that I find outdated and rigid by finding a family planning method that is supposed to ‘celebrate womanhood’ but which to me instead just celebrates the man’s sperm and devalues any part of the woman that isn’t useful for babymaking.  In addition, in actual real life use the method has a lousy record of success precisely because of men’s reluctance to cede control and ‘deprive’ themselves.  If natural family planning works well and children arrived exactly as the woman prefers because the man has a little tootsie in town for the abstinent periods, personally I wouldn’t consider that a success.

     

    You absolutely have every right to believe as you wish, to arrange your life to your own pattern and to choose your personal actions so that you can best balance faith, mythos and relationships in any way that allows you to be psychologically comfortable, but at the point where you start  encouraging other women into what I see as a straightjacket, particularly when you have the conflict of interest that you are making money from doing so, I and many other prochoice women are going to open their mouths and point out the disadvantages so that the woman involved can actually make an informed choice.  I would note that I don’t follow you around the internet, tooting my trumpet of tattle, but only interact with you when you come here.

     

    See, the thing is, while your posts here are interesting to discuss and they bring up valuable points about respecting other women’s choices, when you put the little blue ’come here to my business, I’ve got something to sell you’ link at the bottom of the posts, my uncharitable and cynical assumption is that mainly you’re looking for free advertising.

  • person-0

    ….it still stinks once you get closer.

    You present a nice picture of supporting birth control and other pro woman issues, but under it all, you still want to take away women’s rights to choose abortion and that pretty much negates all the warm fuzzy feelings. Yes, it’s admirable that you at least break away from the rank and file crazies to acknowledge that women should be free to control their fertility, but your acceptance of that is conditional. Support of one facet of reproductive choice while condemning another is clearly contradictory and disrespectful of the value of women and their abilities to make ALL choices for themselves, not merely the one you happen to agree with.

  • marysia

    PC person-I think abortion is an issue where deeply thoughtful, compassionate people can arrive at different conclusions. I simply would never say you or anyone else is inherently smelly simply because you are prochoice.

    My prolife position arises from long deep deliberation over all facets and real life ramifications of the issue and the conclusion that pregnancy is a matter of *two* deeply interconnected bodies and lives. Abortion always takes the smaller of those two lives and is often not a picnic for the larger one either.

    This is why abortion differs from matters like contraception and LGBT rights, and why it is (in my view) not contradictory to generally oppose it while upholding everything else defined as a a reproductive right.

    In fact-I think if one has any problems with abortion-one is *obligated* and *responsible* to get working on those very rights! I have long been deeply critical of anyone who calls themselves “prolife” but is not willing to do that work.

    This position is not just my personal peculiarity, it is quite close to a consensus stance in the global reproductive health community, for example the stance of UNFPA and many nations that (unlike the US) uphold its work.

  • marysia

    crowepps:

    –What I meant by male-controlled is that the woman cannot make these methods work well without full male cooperation.  A boyfriend or husband who whines about not getting enough sex until she gives in, or threatens to abandon her if she doesn’t give him what he wants, or who insists on sex at a ‘maybe’ time, or who unilterally begins to have sex while the woman is sleeping, has a practical veto over her wishes.  Even if he does not outright physically force her to have sex, she can only prevent pregnancy with his cooperation, and he can decide he doesn’t want to cooperate.  Even one instance a year of noncooperation could result in a whole bunch of children.  Condoms have the same male-controlled mechanism; so long as she wishes to continue the relationship, he is the one who really chooses whether or not she gets pregnant.–

    Just as important as access to a full range of methods is women’s right to be free of contraceptive sabotage and violent, unequal relationships.  I agree. But men who insist on violence and inequality can disrupt *any* method, not simply condoms or NFP/FAM. They can intercept contraceptive pills and flush them down the toilet. They can put women with IUDs at risk for PID or threaten them if they don’t remove the device.

    Those aren’t reasons not to promote access to IUDs or the pill for women who want them. They are reasons to challenge and abolish contraceptive sabotage and all forms of gender-based violence.

    At the same time, I have heard feminist women in egalitarian, nonviolent relationships with men say they prefer condoms and/or NFP/FAM because these methods promote responsibility sharing with their partners.

     

    –What you’re supposed to do is work hard to promote and put in place the idea that you think is worthwhile, without expecting prochoicers to stop doing what is important to them and come instead support your efforts and stop pointing out they think it’s a bad idea.  Do you think that people like me should accept what you propose because it at least acknowledges women shouldn’t be perpetually pregnant, and stifle our personal opinions?–

    I don’t expect prochoicers to change their minds about abortion. I would like it if more prochoicers would acknowledge the existence of people like me and would be willing to work with us on contraception. Because all of us are needed to get the job done, and there is strength in numbers and in good coalitions.

    Coalitions by definition involve groups who don’t see eye to eye on everything. The kind of purism that says, “I can’t have anything to do with you unless you are first 100% like me” means that in the real world, critical human rights work goes undone, with devastating results.

     

    – Well, my opinion is that promoting natural family planning is the same as handing the man in the relationship a collar and leash for the little woman and why should I stand by and watch someone be persuaded to volunteer for reproductive slavery?

    I have every sympathy in the world for your position.  You are attempting to reconcile a medieval religious faith I don’t share and patriarchal gender roles that I find outdated and rigid by finding a family planning method that is supposed to ‘celebrate womanhood’ but which to me instead just celebrates the man’s sperm and devalues any part of the woman that isn’t useful for babymaking.  In addition, in actual real life use the method has a lousy record of success precisely because of men’s reluctance to cede control and ‘deprive’ themselves.  If natural family planning works well and children arrived exactly as the woman prefers because the man has a little tootsie in town for the abstinent periods, personally I wouldn’t consider that a success.–

     

    crowepps, you obviously do not know a thing about what my spiritual beliefs are or aren’t. but they definitely don’t have anything to do with “a medieval religious faith” or “outdated patriarchal gender roles.” you might be surprised!

    my support of nfp/fam as a *choice among many choices* has to do with the same reasons that it is taught and supported by many feminist health advocates, including many who identify as prochoice on abortion, and including an increasing number of women’s rights advocates in the two thirds world. are you going to tell all of them that they are medieval religionists inflicting patrirachal gender roles?

    you can tell me all you want what my real motives are-but that does not make my motives into what they are decidedly not.

    –You absolutely have every right to believe as you wish, to arrange your life to your own pattern and to choose your personal actions so that you can best balance faith, mythos and relationships in any way that allows you to be psychologically comfortable, but at the point where you start  encouraging other women into what I see as a straightjacket, particularly when you have the conflict of interest that you are making money from doing so, I and many other prochoice women are going to open their mouths and point out the disadvantages so that the woman involved can actually make an informed choice.  I would note that I don’t follow you around the internet, tooting my trumpet of tattle, but only interact with you when you come here.–

    I am not “following you around.” I regularly read RH Reality Check b/c of the shared concerns, though i seldom comment any more. I was glad to see the above article. But you know, when people like you express such derision and cynicism about the very existence of pro contraception prolifers- I do have to stand up and say, We do exist, and we are what we say we are.

    And where on earth do you get the idea that my sort of reproductive advocacy is some money maker, that there is some profit motive involved-let alone a profit motive at the expense of women? Where exactly are these alleged Big Bucks coming from-from whom, to whom, for what purposes? You are only showing here that you are no more aware of my motives, values and finances than of my spirituality.

    –See, the thing is, while your posts here are interesting to discuss and they bring up valuable points about respecting other women’s choices, when you put the little blue ’come here to my business, I’ve got something to sell you’ link at the bottom of the posts, my uncharitable and cynical assumption is that mainly you’re looking for free advertising.–

     

    When someone says people like me don’t exist, or we’re not what we claim to be-as a person with self-respect and respect for the truth, then I am going to present the concrete evidence to the contrary. This (*nonprofit, all-volunteer, by the way*) organization is part of the evidence. But you know what, it is entirely up to you whether or not you are willing to give the evidence a fair hearing.

     

    Marysia

    All our Lives

    http://www.allourlives.org

  • colleen

    I think abortion is an issue where deeply thoughtful, compassionate people can arrive at different conclusions.

    There is no way to legitimately claim to be thoughtful and compassionate (or a feminist, for that matter) while you’re simultaneously trying to shame, guilt trip, manipulate and force other women into agreeing with you, particularly when you and your well funded allies are working to change the laws in a manner which will demean and degrade the lives of all women. . The fact that you’re unable and/or unwilling to acknowledge or recognise the effects your ‘conclusions’ ,if implemented, will have on the lives of all women does not mean that the rest of us have to pretend we’re stupid, martyred pseudo-religious cows and agree with you.

     

    My prolife position arises from long deep deliberation over all facets and real life ramifications of the issue

     

    Is that “long deep deliberation” what compelled you to shill for the oxymoronic  Feminists for Life for so long? Or your work in Crisis Pregnancy Centers where women are lied to and manipulated as a matter of policy and on the taxpayer’s dime?

     

  • colleen

    I wish prochoicers were more aware of and welcoming of this prolife support for contraception. It would certainly make it easier to ensure that all people who want and need family planning services can access them.

    Right, because you folks have been little troopers when it comes to constant attempts by your political allies to defund and destroy Planned Parenthood. Or stand up to the Catholic heirarchy. Go pick fights and spam your website somewhere else.

     

     

  • marysia

    Colleen:

    – Is that “long deep deliberation” what compelled you to shill for the oxymoronic and deeply hypocritical Feminists for Life for so long?–

    Colleen, I would never mock whatever has brought you to your stance on abortion. So kindly please do not mock whatever has brought me to my own.

    First of all, I have never been anyone’s “shill,” including FFL’s. I was never even a paid staff member.

    The organization was in its early years run by decidedly leftist women. When it took a more conservative turn, including a professed “neutrality” on contraception-I persistently fought these changes from the inside but eventually decided that I could no longer in good conscience remain.

    Whatever else one might make of it, FFL does valuable work in marshalling all too often absent or inadequate resources for pregnant and parenting college students. This is a very real need, as I can attest from my own real life experiences and from my daughter’s a generation later.

    However, contraception is just too essential not to put at the very core of relieving abortion’s root causes, so is creating a comprehensive social welfare system that goes far, far beyond a shredded little “safety net.”

    Does that sound like a “shill” to you? Even if it does, I reject the label.

  • colleen

    I would never mock whatever has brought you to your stance on abortion. So kindly please do not mock whatever has brought me to my own.

     I mock your pretensions &  your assumptions of superiority.

    shill = to act as a spokesperson or promoter

    This is precisely what you did (and  to some extend continue to do) for the absurdly named ‘Feminists for Life’ . Your name on google is inextricably tied to theirs and you still associate with them. And, while I have no interest in discussing that dead horse further, I remind you that your notions of ‘leftist’ and mine are quite different just as your notions about what constitutes the “valuable work” of FFL. Were you even aware that ‘leftist’ is a right wing slur/characterization?


  • marysia

    No, “leftist” can be a valid selfdescription. It originated as that in European politics, to the best of my knowledge. I know lots of selfrespecting leftists who call themselves that. Ask me about just about any issue-probably you will hear something that is recognizable from that part of the political system.

    I am not “superior” to anyone. Here I am standing up against character slurs, because as a human being I and people like me merit the same respect and truthfulness that you or anyone else deserves as a  human being.

    It would be a lie to pretend I never had any involvement in FFL, even as I was fighting for contraception and comprehensive social welfare policy from the inside after its ideological shift.  However, I resigned in protest as a member of FFL some years ago, over these issues.

    I have no association with them now except on issues of common concern-which I will work on with a wide range of people in the abortion debate. As limited and insufficient as marshalling campus resources for pregnant and parenting students is, it is not a wrong cause to support. There are prochoice groups working on it too, like the National Women’s Law Center. More power to them all.

    Whenever anyone associates me with FFL, I explain that I am no longer a member and why I left and why I will never go back unless and until they actively fight for contraception and European-style social welfare policy. They do not supply the  information, so I do.

    At any rate, if anyone wants to have a productive discussion, one that does not consist of name calling, please contact me elsewhere than this forum.

  • crowepps

    It is just so frustrating when I spend a long time going over my post to make SURE I am stating things in as neutral of language as I can, and the person responds as though I had left in all the sarcasm and nastiness that was my first impulse and which I carefully removed in an attempt to have a respectful conversation.

     

    You know what?  From now on when somebody refers to ‘having sex only once in a while’ as ‘contraception’, I’ll just laugh in their face and then ignore them.  I guess we’d end up at the same place.

  • colleen

    I know lots of selfrespecting leftists who call themselves that. Ask me about just about any issue-probably you will hear something that is recognizable from that part of the political system.

    That’s odd because I don’t know any self respecting  ‘leftists’ who would put up with the self serving and shallow analysis  you serve up here for one minute in a face to face encounter. At least not any ‘leftists’ with a modicum of common sense.

     

     

    I am not “superior” to anyone

    I’m aware of that. I was speaking to how you present yourself here.

     

    I have no association with them now except on issues of common concern-which I will work on with a wide range of people in the abortion debate.

     

    I’m rolling my eyes here. All of the people you “work with on the abortion debate”  including F for L are trying to make abortion illegal.

    They don’t ‘supply’ the information because you are what is referred to in political circles as a useful idiot.

  • person-0

    …between being “generally opposed” to it and desiring and working toward removing the right from women.

    So, which one is it? Do you want to force women to gestate and birth against their will or do you just generally oppose it?

    I do find your willingness to accept and promote contraception to be admirable, but surely you realize that you and other like-minded people are a tiny minority. It’s hard to be overly thrilled that a few of you are on board with contraception when the majority of you are interested more in violence and anti woman rhetoric.

  • ack

    What you’re supposed to do is work hard to promote and put in place the idea that you think is worthwhile, without expecting prochoicers to stop doing what is important to them and come instead support your efforts and stop pointing out they think it’s a bad idea.

    This.

     

    I am encouraging, welcoming, and supportive of any person who has the following philosophy:

     

    I disagree with abortion as a moral choice.

    I understand that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it, so I’m not going to try to make it illegal.

    I understand that contraception decreases abortion, so I support it.

     

    The problem is that the folks who support those statements aren’t the people who are speaking up. If you are part of group that believes those statements, make yourself heard. You are being drowned out by a much smaller group that does not represent you.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • ack

    I would like it if more prochoicers would acknowledge the existence of people like me and would be willing to work with us on contraception. Because all of us are needed to get the job done, and there is strength in numbers and in good coalitions.

    If you could point me to an example of pro-choice people being unwilling to work with an individual or group in efforts to promote contraception based solely on their stance on abortion, I would find more merit in this statement. My experience is that people and groups who identify as pro-life are unwilling to align with individuals or groups supporting comprehensive, medically accurate sex ed and/or access to contraception.

     

     

     

     

  • ack

    I think if one has any problems with abortion-one is *obligated* and *responsible* to get working on those very rights! I have long been deeply critical of anyone who calls themselves “prolife” but is not willing to do that work.

     

    I think there’s a very big difference between someone who says they’re “pro-life” and someone who actively works to criminalize abortion. There are plenty of people out there who disagree with the process but don’t think it should be illegal. The problem, from my perspective, is that the more moderate people who have an opinion but understand the reality (abortion is going to happen whether it’s legal or not, and our choice is whether it’s safe or unsafe) are overshadowed and overwhelmed by the extremists.

     

    Your voice counts. We all want fewer abortions, though our motives may differ, and the ONLY way that’s going to happen is to make sex ed and contraception more accessible.

     

    In fact, if you disagree with the morality of abortion but still want it to remain legal, and want increased access to contraception and sex ed, you probably have MORE weight with legislators who are anti-abortion rights. They’re listening to the conservatives who don’t believe in birth control. Don’t you want them to listen to you, instead?

  • crowepps

    Maybe I read it into the statement but I processed “willing to work with us on contraception” to mean ‘stop telling people our natural celebration of womanliness method actually isn’t reliable without many unspoken assumptions being in place (like an egalitarian, nonviolent relationship) unless you also use condoms’.

    I am willing to work with people who promote contraception.  I am NOT willing to work with people promoting a contraceptive method that sums up to a whole lot of obfuscation disguising what is at base “having sex means you’re obligated to make babies so unless you stop having sex (at least part of the time) tough luck”.

    I can think of zero reasons for anybody to reject ALL the hormonal and barrier methods and instead voluntarily avoid sex half the time outside of religion, and I’d note that for all her talk about how religion and gendered sex roles had NOTHING to do with it and her real motives were something else entirely, (approved by feminists!), she failed to specifically state what those real motives were.