Archive for the ‘Abstinence-only education’ Category

An Inconvenient Truth at the Heart of Catholic Teaching About Abortion

Abstinence-only ed

by Dean Hansen

6/20/13: Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum quotes part of a recent letter to Nancy Pelosi from Father Frank Pavone:

You speak here of Catholic faith as if it is supposed to hide us from reality instead of lead us to face reality, as if it is supposed to confuse basic moral truths instead of clarify them, and as if it is supposed to help us escape the hard moral questions of life rather than help us confront them,” Father Frank Pavone continues in the letter. “Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it’s time for you to stop speaking as if it were.

Mr. Bailie, our seemingly interminable argument about abortion has been so wracked by blame-fixing and moral one-upmanship that it has become nothing but a great waste of time. To properly address the issue, we must cut straight to an obvious and unavoidable question: How can people be forced to stop engaging in sexual activity? This is not a silly question. It lies at the heart of the dilemma for those intent on controlling our sex lives out of a misguided quest for moral “purity”—a quest that is neither dignified, honorable, nor compassionate.

Unless you can prevent premarital, marital, extramarital, and even postmarital sex from happening, people will continue to seek abortions when they fail—through ignorance, distraction, or avoidance—to take the necessary and available precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancies. But the Church tells us, “To avoid pregnancy, don’t have sex.” To which I can only respond that if you expect people to listen to you, much less to trust you, you’ll have learn how to be less clueless and more emotionally available. An entire segment of the population has already proven you wrong. They never get pregnant though they have sex all the time. Needless to say, you’ve discounted them as “intrinsically disordered.”

Since the Church condemns contraception and the vast majority of its members disregard its proscriptions on sex and birth control, abortion will unfortunately continue apace. This sad state of affairs will continue until the Church opens itself to a truly modern discussion about sexuality and contraception and begins fully honoring its congregants’ humanity and sexuality. What has been lacking is mercy, common sense, and genuine compassion for those who face tough decisions about unwanted pregnancies. The Church must stop treating these persons as criminals and murderers. It must stop setting up false thresholds of life and personhood. It must extend love and forgiveness to those who have chosen abortion. Caring about abortion’s effects must begin with caring for those who have survived it.

All the horror stories about evil, sadistic abortion doctors running filthy, medically unsafe clinics and destroying the lives of women who seek their help will not dissuade women in the slightest when it comes to making the decisions for themselves, hopefully minus the inhuman monsters who sometimes prey on them. The more untenable you make safe abortions by driving them underground, the more horror stories you’ll have to back up your flawed arguments, and the more complicit you’ll become to the worst of those vile scenarios. People are sexually active in large numbers. This is an ineluctable fact of life. As a result, many women get pregnant when they don’t want to, and many of them kill babies they don’t want. The surest way to prevent these two unpleasant outcomes is to teach them about responsible birth control and make it fully accessible to them.

The disgrace of abortions is one for which you and the so-called church fathers are largely responsible. All your moral badgering and and mind-gagging ethical anguish will only make people even more determined than they already are not to allow you or the church anywhere near their bodies or their souls. Since people are not going to stop fucking, you have two options: Either promote legal abortion or change the Church’s teaching about contraception. Legal and accessible abortion ensures that people who are too overwhelmed or distracted by desire to guard against pregnancy in the first place will have a reasonable alternative to being bound together in a merely physical relationship against their will. Changing the Church’s policy toward contraception will give those who act as though they care what the church thinks the more reasonable option of avoiding pregnancy, therefore making abortion unnecessary.  Those are and will forever remain, the only options.

But of course, your deep concern and moral anguish is disingenuous rubbish, because you’re not telling the truth. You love the Church so much you’ll let it sink into hell rather than be an agent of real change and reform so that it can better the lives of those you claim to be concerned with. The truth is, you don’t want there to be fewer abortions because you’re creepy enough to believe that disastrous consequences have a way of reforming people and making them despise their own sexuality. But the Church has a sad history of pouring kerosene on the flames, whether it’s discouraging condom use amongst those stricken with AIDS, promoting abstinence, encouraging teenagers to take chastity vows and wear purity rings, or just sticking your noses in people’s crotches as an excuse for introducing them to Jesus. In fact, it’s safe to say, you don’t even know what the problem is.

Hopefully, Catholicism under Pope Francis is beginning to steer the church away from some of its past errors. His acknowledgement (fiercely and immediately contradicted by his underlings who claim deference to him unless they disagree with what he has to say) that God loves and saves atheists as well as everyone else is as good a start on the road to real grace and freedom as anything could be. When Catholicism finally includes homosexuals as something other than  fodder for renewed scapegoating, invites women to participate in the church in real positions of authority, and learns to treat all women with respect and compassion when they are forced into painful choices they shouldn’t be required to make, then you may have to abandon your role as son of the church and embrace the double jeopardy of being an orphan of two fathers. The only way you can countenance this very real possibility is to engage in a thorough re-evaluation of what you hold dear. The Church already recognizes that it’s in crisis. If it is ever to repair the damage wrought by its rejection of science and modernity, it will have to shake off the anachronisms of thought and piety that have eroded its moral force for centuries. What is needed is a détente with the real world through what the current Pope is calling the culture of encounter. You don’t encounter the culture by turning tail and running from it. Will you be among those in his service when he declares that all are redeemed, or just absent without leave?

Gil Bailie finds a third moral calamity contributing to civilizational degeneration

Gil Bailie writes:

We have been told that allowing mothers to hire medical professionals to end the life of the child in their womb is the quintessence of social progress, comparable only to regarding homosexual coupling as the moral and legal equivalent of the conjugal embrace. So now we are to have women serving in combat, and, again, we imagine that we are making progress. All this is so conspicuously a sign of civilizational degeneration that one can hardly believe people capable of seeing it otherwise.

Dean Hansen responds:

Interesting choice of moral calamities:  Abortion, homosexuality, and women combat soldiers. I think the egregious meter will skew differently depending on whom you ask, and not because one respondent is more morally despicable or irresponsible than the next. The thing that personally enrages me the most is woman combat soldiers.  Abortion and homosexuality mostly don’t bother me at all. Why? The first deals with forced equivalency; of pretending that women are the same as men, and that they should be equal participants on the basis of political correctness in the disaster that their male counterparts cause. The second deals with fairness; of no longer pretending that homosexuals are just mixed-up heterosexuals who can be fixed by a generous infusion of Christianity and prayer (never mind that the founder of this particular religion spent every waking moment of his ministry hanging out with guys) and the last deals with the honest realization that women are free moral agents capable of choosing their own destiny biologically. I’m less troubled about women ending a life in gestation in their womb than about their ending a fully-realized life on the battlefield. One is almost always a surgical procedure involving non-conscious cells; the other is murder.

So let’s see if it really makes more sense to be more morally inflamed by abortion than by soldiering.

Abstinence-only ed

When you tell teenagers and young adults not to have sex or to wait for marriage before they have intercourse, you’re actually just advocating for abortion. News Flash: They are not going to listen to you. It will not be because they don’t respect you or your authority; it will not be because they don’t love you or are purposely disobedient and rebellious, although they may be those things too. It will not be because Satan won and Christ lost. Or that civilization is closer to collapse now than when the Apostle Paul believed it was. No, it will be because nature speaks more powerfully and more ardently than a mountain of rules and restraints ever could. Biology has the upper hand, and will not relinquish it until long after everyone’s children have left home.  So, instead of preparing themselves for the inevitable, teens engage in magical thinking at the behest of their parents. They wear chastity rings, or avoid alcohol and drugs, or attend Bible study, or they are chaperoned on dates. None of that matters. It just makes the pot boil that much hotter. They earnestly believe they can resist temptation, which is a big part of the problem, because up until now it’s been an abstraction with no teeth. What they quickly discover when temptation strikes is that they were thoroughly unprepared and overwhelmed. They are also very angry about being told there is something “wrong” with something that feels so much better than they could have imagined, and so you end up with conflict, turmoil and distrust.

The problem with self-control is that the “self” is participating just as eagerly in the loss of that control as in its maintenance, because control represents an ideal that simply can’t be attained. Since your abstinence-only approach has precluded any useful instruction about birth control, your daughter is ill-equipped to react sensibly when she hears the siren call of biological reality, and there is no back-up plan. It’s all or nothing, as far as she knows. The desire not to get caught is then all that matters to her.

Think about it:  You’ve given her no realistic or sane reasons for denying what you fear. You want her to avoid sex and remain abstinent until she’s married. So you can’t teach her to prepare herself for sex because that might imply tacit acceptance of her having it. Any preparation is proof of intention. Instead, you teach her that sex is sinful or dirty or morally wrong, which she discovers to be completely untrue the moment she falls in love and experiences an overwhelming desire that utterly eclipses all restraint. Like it or not, your little snowflake is going to go out on the limb because that’s where the forbidden fruit is. Nature planned it that way.  And it’s not nice to fool mother nature.

Sexual morality has changed. It had to. It was smothering us to death in the abysmal mediocrity of Eisenhower America. As a result of these long overdue changes, the stigma of unwed motherhood has declined. Men no longer feel the absolute responsibility to sacrifice themselves to an unwanted life in exchange for sexual relations if their sexual partners opt for biological blackmail instead of contraception or abortion. Shotgun marriages are no longer the default mechanism by which shame is administered in relationships. Now the only question is whether the parents, who are aware of these changes but nonetheless resistant where their own progeny is concerned, will double down and force an unwanted pregnancy on their unprepared children as a means of avoiding a consequence they were heavily responsible for. These days, it’s becoming less likely that the kids will go along. The shotgun may still go off, but it is aimed at no one in particular and in no way guarantees that the person compromised by a bad decision will go for the double jeopardy of a marriage to satisfy mom and dad. In this sense and this sense only, an abortion is wrong, because it was simply unnecessary and opened the gates to increased suffering all around when personal choice was overruled by parental authority. Anticipatory counsel is wiser, saner and more loving than blind indifference to dumb inevitabilities.

Unfortunately, the number of abortion providers is dwindling. The number went from 2,680 providers in 1985 to 1,787 in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available. The generation of obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) who had watched women bleed to death from botched abortions and had responded to those tragedies by staffing clinics when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade is reaching retirement.

There are now an estimated 1.5 million abortions each year in the United States, making it the most common surgical procedure. Yet there are fewer and fewer abortion providers available, putting those who are forced to wait at increased risk. One-quarter of women needing abortions must travel more than fifty miles for the procedure; six percent must travel to another state.

The obstacles placed in the path of women seeking abortion by pro-life activists will ultimately be no more effective than parental displeasure over discovering that one’s children are sexual beings with lives of their own, destined to free themselves from the burden of other people’s displeasure by taking legislative, social and physical control of their own destiny and learning through less painful methods that proscriptive rules and roadblocks have little effect in determining personal choice.