By Fr. George Welzbacher
October 7, 2012
Lately we've been bombarded with reports of a “WAR ON WOMEN”. This is a war, we are assured, waged by the forces allied with the Pro-Life cause, waged most notably, that is to say, by the Roman Catholic Church in concert with the Evangelicals, and, in the political domain, by the Republican Party. For example, Sandra Fluke, one of a parade of women who spoke out boldly as “Defenders of Women's Reproductive Health” at a recent nationally televised political assembly, has waxed eloquent on more than one occasion on a woman's desperate need for help in securing whatever it takes to ward off—O disaster of disasters!—a child's being born. In so doing she has repeated her performance from just a few months ago when she appeared before a Congressional committee to testify to her own tragic plight as a student at Georgetown Law School. In a deeply moving cri de coeur she described her difficulty in finding sufficient funds to equip herself properly with birth control pills. This, she maintained, was reason enough to demand that Georgetown University, despite its professed Catholicity, should be legally obliged to underwrite her need through its student health insurance plan. (Presumably such need would cease once she passed the bar exam, after which turn of events she could expect to be hired by a prestigious law firm at, on the average, as a Georgetown Law School graduate, a hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars a year).
Answering the radical feminists’ war cry with its obsessive insistence that contraception and abortion will alone provide the “Open Sesame!” to self-fulfillment, two new books written by intelligent, well educated women plausibly present the case for responsible fertility as an authentic source of a woman's fulfillment. The books are Breaking Through, by Helen Alvaré, and Adam and Eve After the Pill, by Mary Eberstadt.
May I share with you here a review of each of these books?
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Helen Alvaré: 'Birth
Control's Worst Enemy'
New Feminism in Action“I felt that until we could get behind the ‘demand side’ [of abortion i.e., what it is that drives the demand] we would never ultimately reduce its incidence dramatically,” she said.
Alvaré was born in 1960, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant father and a mother from Philadelphia. She describes her parents as “very knowledgeable Catholic parents — and both devoted to the Church on a personal, spiritual and an intellectual level.” Growing up, she was the youngest of five children, one of whom was disabled.
After completing her undergraduate work at Villanova University, she attended law school at Cornell.
The decision to earn a law degree gained traction as she witnessed her disabled sister's vulnerability in society and it solidified over a summer during college when she worked with the poor in West Virginia.
“These experiences,” she remembered, “led me to want to have a skill set that would allow me to be an advocate. I kept experiencing the desire to ‘do something’ useful and helpful when I encountered people on the losing side of powerful forces. In the United States, the people often doing something like this were lawyers.” After finishing law school, she went to work for a private law firm in Philadelphia that had a long Catholic history. During that time, she became intrigued by the memos on social issues produced by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB).
“They were taking up the coolest questions at the intersection of law and morality,” she recalled. When Alvaré received a scholarship to study graduate theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, she jumped at the opportunity and left her work in private practice. Providentially, a lifelong friend of her mother's also worked for the NCCB, and that contact helped her secure a part-time position at the conference.
Soon after, while serving at the NCCB, she was asked to do a last-minute “emergency” appearance on NBC’s Today Show with Bryant Gumbel to talk about the bishops’ newly launched public-relations campaign on pro-life issues. The interview was a success and soon led to appearances on other major network shows.
Before long, the bishops’ conference asked her to become the public face of the Catholic pro-life movement.
Alvaré was initially resistant to the idea. Then, one Sunday, as she was leaving Mass at St. Stephen Martyr Church in Washington, she experienced a powerful urge to drop to her knees and pray about the position. After time in prayer, she recalls a moment where she felt she was being told by the Holy Spirit that “I would be accepting the position and that, yes, it's scary, but it's also going to happen — and that it will all be all right.”
The next day she visited the historic New York residence of John Cardinal O’Connor, then chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Committee, and agreed to work for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
During her tenure at the NCCB, Alvaré traveled the world to speak out against emerging threats to the right to life, testified before Congress on numerous occasions, advised the bishops on matters of pro-life policy and appeared on almost every major news show in the country.
At age 39, after 10 years of service, she decided to shift focus to research, writing and teaching.
This led her first to The Catholic University of America and, now, George Mason Law School, where she spends her time focusing on the demand side of abortion: “Between the amount of time I spent in the company of post-abortive women, trying to find out what they had gone through before and after the abortion, and the amount of time I had spent analyzing the other side's arguments, it had become clear to me that I needed to think and to write more about the stuff UNDERLYING abortion — the IDEAS about sex, marriage, family, parenting, the roles of men and women, etc. — that lay behind and beneath women's final decision to have an abortion.”
“So I asked to teach family law and I have continued to teach in that area and to write and to pursue a career of scholarship precisely on those subjects.”
Speaking for Herself
During the 20th century, figures like St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Blessed John Paul II developed a philosophy of a “new feminism,” emphasizing both the complementary natures of men and women, but also the distinct differences between them. In particular, John Paul II used the phrase “feminine genius” to describe the very SPECIAL contribution of women, who make the nurturing of human life and dignity their primary vocation, in the home and in the workplace.
As Doerflinger and many others have noted, Alvaré and her work epitomize the feminine genius.
She describes daily life as a “drop-and-give-me-50 lifestyle.” Along with her full-time work at the law school, Alvaré also serves on the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Witherspoon Institute’s Task Force for Conscience Protection and various other boards.
All of this, however, is of secondary importance to her role as wife and mother to three children, ages 13, 16 and 18, and her daily routine reflects her priorities.
“When a moment arises when I can do work that should be done, I just drop everything else and start the work,” she described, and “plunge in."
“When my youngest son goes over to a friend's house, leaving my house quiet, I start writing a column or a paper that's due,” she explained.
“Waiting an hour in the car at a soccer practice — I read a colleague's paper coming up for commentary the next day.”
But despite the intense demands on her time, she keeps an eye on the larger cultural debates that help to shape the personal and moral choices of American women.
In February 2012, in response to the HHS mandate, Alvaré decided that she couldn't simply sit back and listen to “the ridiculous assertions by opponents of the free exercise of religion — that ALL women are on THEIR side when it comes to forcing religious institutions to provide health insurance covering contraception.”
One evening, while in the kitchen preparing her family's dinner, she decided to draft an OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT and the administration, making two primary points: “First, women VALUE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Second, we are not stupid enough to believe the claim that ‘free contraception’ is the SUM AND SUBSTANCE of women's freedom and equality.”
“In fact, the empirical evidence indicates that it has created a ‘marketplace’ for sex and marriage very much to women's DISADVANTAGE,” she explained.
The letter was CO-AUTHORED by Alvaré’s friend and neighbor Kim Daniels, a religious-liberty lawyer who also serves as the coordinator of Catholic Voices USA and is the mother of six children. Daniels was more than happy to partner with Alvaré in this initiative, as the two families have shared in each other's lives for many years, including carpooling every day for the past three years.
According to Daniels, “Anyone who's worked with Helen will tell you: She puts tremendous energy and passion into issues she cares about, and her enthusiasm is infectious.”
And apparently so — TO DATE, THE [OPEN] LETTER HAS NOW BEEN SIGNED BY MORE THAN 33,000 WOMEN AND COUNTING.
Register correspondent Christopher White writes from New York.
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Mary, Quite Contrary
Adam and Eve after the Pill (Book by Mary Eberstadt)
National Review, October 1, 2012
Review by Kathryn Jean Lopez
…. “Sex is easier than ever before; but the opposite appears to be true for romance,” Eberstadt writes:
This is perhaps the central enigma that modern men and women are up against: romantic want in a time of sexual plenty. Perhaps some of the modern misery of which so many women today so authentically speak is springing [from] …a sexual flood—a torrent of poisonous imagery, beginning now for many in childhood, that had engulfed women and men, only to beach them eventually somewhere alone and apart, far from the reach of one another.
This strangely austere sexualization, Eberstadt contends, has its roots in one specific historic development: “No single event since Eve took the apple has been as consequential for relations between the sexes as the arrival of modern contraception.” The post-pill Sexual Revolution has made people “happy” in one very limited sense. “It has freed the consumers of modern contraceptives from the natural consequences of their sexual behavior.” But she compares this happiness to that of smokers: It's fun while it lasts, but often has devastating results.
Eberstadt discusses decades’ worth of evidence about “the NEGATIVE empirical fallout from the Sexual Revolution,” and the entrenched DENIAL that this evidence has met with in academia and in the media. She compares it to the deep denial among Western intellectuals, a few decades ago, about the true nature of the Soviet Union. Eberstadt hastens to add that she does not intend a reductio ad Stalinem – she's not comparing the hook-up culture on campus to the Gulag. But in both cases, there's denial and willful ignorance. Some of us are asleep, ignoring the “harmful effects” of the “destigmatization and demystification of non-marital sex and the reduction of sexual relations in general to a kind of hygienic recreation in which anything goes so long as those involved are consenting adults.” Those who sound the alarm are dismissed: Woe to the academic who dares to study the effects on family life, and the politician who dares to talk about them.
“Destignatization,” “demystification,” “hygienic”: What's the harm in any of that? Eberhardt lists some of the consequences of the mindset represented by those phrases:
The young women on campus and elsewhere exploited by men whose expectations have been warped by the revolution's false promises; the older women who bought the revolution's rhetoric of sexual equality, only to find out too late that marriage and motherhood won't be for them; the men caught in one or another back room at the revolution's wild party, who discovered, also too late, that they couldn't get back home again after all. And…the children who have faced, and continue to face, all manner of higher risks in their lives because the Sexual Revolution helped to disrupt their lives.
And pornography surely isn't helping matters. “The widespread gorging on pornographic imagery,” she writes, is “deleterious and unhealthy.” Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton has phrased the danger inherent in a pornographic society as follows: “Those who become addicted to this risk-free form of sex run a risk of another and greater kind. They risk the loss of LOVE in a world where only LOVE brings happiness.”
The Sexual Revolution ushered in “a new normal” for sex, one in which non-committed sex, contraception, and abortion have become intimately bound up with one another – and, not coincidentally, with widespread social and marital unhappiness. In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor remarked that “people have organized intimate relationships, made choices that define the views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” George Mason University law professor Helen Alvaré has pointed out that, in turn, the greater availability of abortion “has led to expectations of more UNCOMMITTED sexual encounters….and thereby to more sexually transmitted infections, more non-marital pregnancies and births, and more abortions.” This is a vicious circle, and one with tragic consequences.
Political developments during the Obama presidency give further urgent cause for reflection. In the Department of Health and Human Services mandate for insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortion- inducing drugs, the administration has INSTITUTIONALIZED the values of the Sexual Revolution. When opponents of the mandate talk about religious freedom, the White House insists that its opposition is waging a “war on women”: If you object, in conscience, to paying for contraceptives, you are striking at the heart of women's liberty and self-respect. Never mind that birth control is nearly ubiquitous, and that no woman in America who wants it is being deprived of it. Mandatory, near-universal contraception coverage: this is the post-revolutionary definition of freedom.
The Sexual Revolution may be THE CENTRAL SOCIAL FACT OF OUR TIME, and, as Eberstadt points out, “just about everyone alive today” is “implicated in one way or another” — through divorce, single parenthood, abortion, cohabitation, and other widespread phenomena. But Eberstadt sees signs of HOPE: She writes, for example, about pastoral, psychiatric, and technological efforts to help people BREAK the porn habit.
A startling contrast, on one recent mid-summer night in Manhattan, also suggests an answer to our troubles. Women passing through a commuting hub had the opportunity to meet Megan Hart, a bestselling erotic-fiction author. In the station and on their homebound trains, they would have been bombarded with ads offering “reproductive health” assistance, the tension of encouraged and expected choices hanging over their lives like a dark commercial fog. But – just a short cab ride away from that commuting hub – self-possessed twenty-somethings were gathering in trendy SoHo for their weekly “Love and Responsibility” session, where they walk through the lectures of the late Pope John Paul II on sexuality. If the Fifty Shades erotica audience represents a cultural cry for help, the Millennials downtown are a portrait of a generation that wants – and may even insist on – SOMETHING BETTER.
Call them dissidents. They're not quite Václav Havel, not yet at least. But they're looking for truth, in their dating lives as much as anywhere. Those of us who question today's sexual pieties aren't trying to hurt anybody, or wage a prudish crusade against anybody's freedom. But the truth is out there – not just in social science, but in the lived experience of real people. It's an ailing culture as prescribed by the poisoned pill of modern contraception. Continued denial will only add to the pain, as the clock ticks; the mouse is clicked; and happiness eludes another generation.
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Justin Bieber’s Mom Says She Rejected Abortion Despite Pressure
LifeSiteNews, September 18, 2012
In a recent interview with Kathie Lee Gifford for NBC's TODAY show, Justin Bieber’s mom, Pattie Mallette, talked about the pressure she suffered to abort her famous pop-star son.
A victim of childhood sexual abuse, Pattie engaged in drinking, drugs and sex at a young age, ultimately finding herself pregnant at the age of seventeen. Even though she was encouraged to abort, she told Kathie Lee, “I just knew I couldn't. I just knew I couldn't. I just knew I had to keep him.”
“I didn't know how I was going to do it. But I just knew that I couldn't abort. I had to do my best, and I was determined to do whatever it took.”
Pattie's interview, some say, sheds a new light on a 2011 interview then-sixteen-year-old Justin granted with Rolling Stone's editor Vanessa Grigoriadis in which he stated, “I really don't believe in abortion.”
“I think it [the unborn child] is a human. It's like killing a baby,” Bieber said at the time.
When pressed as to whether he opposed abortion in the case of rape, the young singer replied, “Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that.”
Bryan Kemper, Youth Outreach Director for Priests for Life, commented on Mallette’s revelations about her pregnancy with Bieber.
“I applaud Justin Bieber’s mother for having the courage to stand up and say what she did, and I hope people will look up to what she did in protecting and carrying her son, see the potential of the child they are carrying and follow her example,” said Kemper.
“Justin is a survivor of Roe v. Wade, and as we go into the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, this year marks one full generation that has lived under the shadow of that Supreme Court decision. This is the generation that will abolish abortion. We have survived Roe, we will not let it survive us. We will not allow another 40 years to pass of legalized child-killing.
In a similar story in 2011, NFL player Tim Tebow was featured in a Focus on the Family Superbowl ad with his mother, Pam Tebow, who shared how she almost lost Tim before birth due to some serious health problems. In interviews about the ad, she spoke of the pressure from her doctors to abort Tim, but how she chose life despite the pressure.
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