George Orwell, Move Over

Jennifer Fulwiler is here, channeling Winston Smith in response to a scathing article by Amanda Marcotte about the Pope’s invitation to Catholic women who have had abortions to come and receive his “forgiveness” so they won’t be excommunicated. It’s not a long article, so here is a good chunk of it:

Oh boy, the Vatican, no doubt patting itself on the back for being so generous to the filthy sluts of the world, has set up a six-day event in Madrid where ladies who’ve had abortions can come and confess in order to escape the automatic excommunication they otherwise would get. The reports don’t indicate if the Vatican is generously offering the same thing to murderers, rapists, or priests who molest children only to get transferred to a new parish where there’s fresh young people who haven’t learned to fear you yet, but that’s probably because none of those people are subject to the dogged excommunications of women who let penises near their vaginas for reasons other than producing more hands that can put money in the collection plate. …

… I would like to make a counteroffer to the Vatican’s six-day get-out-of-hell-for-your-abortion pass. After all, the price tag on that seems awfully high, between the last-minute plane tickets to Madrid, hotel, travel expenses, and whatever little ways the Vatican is going to get some cash off you during this World Youth Day event. For the nice, simple price of $0, you can simply stop being a Catholic, and tell the Pope and his minions to buzz off with their obsession with controlling women and punishing female sexuality. …

If that currently seems like too high a mountain to climb, since you really don’t know what you’d do with all your new free time on Sunday mornings, you can also just stay with the Church and pointedly ignore the misogyny while keeping your mouth shut about your conflicting views and behaviors. This option is also wildly popular. Twenty-eight percent of women getting abortions identify as Catholic, which is actually higher than the percentage of Americans overall who are Catholic. I’m not seeing the Vatican excommunicating them all, so that’s a lot of women telling their doctors they’re Catholic but not telling their priests that they’ve had abortions. And even though the Vatican claims that contraception is a no-no, 98 percent of Catholic women just ignore that ignorant edict and use it anyway. If being an American Catholic meant doing what the church tells you to do, there wouldn’t be any American Catholics.

The tone of Marcotte’s piece is caustic and angry (justifiably so, in my view), but anger is too much of an appropriate emotion for an adult woman who believes that women have the intelligence and the moral agency to make their own private decisions for their own private health and bodily autonomy. So Fulwiler pretends that Marcotte is just “very upset” (read: emotionally out of control), in this incredibly patronizing, condescending, infantilizing response.

Amanda Marcotte’s article in Slate about World Youth Day is making the rounds this week. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by suggesting that she was very upset when she wrote it. What was it about the event that got her so flustered? There’s not a clear thesis to the piece, but it seems that the Church’s anti-abortion stance, emphasized when Pope Benedict offered forgiveness to women who have had abortions, is what triggered most of her angst.

I get it. When I was pro-choice, I would have been upset too. The foundation of the pro-choice position is that access to abortion is necessary in order for women to have control over their bodies. Abortion = freedom. It’s that simple. Without it, the thinking goes, women have almost no control over when they have children. And, let’s face it, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are no joke. …

But let’s take a closer look at this worldview. Implicit in the “abortion as freedom” stance is the idea that women don’t have much control over getting pregnant in the first place, thus they must resort to violating medical procedures once the pregnancy has already occurred.

That’s kind of a crazy idea, when you think about it. And, like a lot of crazy ideas in our culture, we have contraception to thank for it. Now that there’s widespread access to contraception, our young women are told not that sex creates babies, but that unprotected sex creates babies. They’re assured that sex can be safely separated from its life-giving potential, as long as they use artificial birth control. …

According to Family Planning Perspectives, a publication of Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute, a woman using a method of birth control with a 99 percent success rate has a 70 percent chance of experiencing an unexpected pregnancy over a 10-year period. Again from the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the woman who get abortions were using contraception when they conceived their child. …

So, let’s summarize the situation: Women are handed contraception and assured that they need not have a second thought as to whether they’re ready for pregnancy. Then, when their birth control method fails, they’re encouraged to undergo a painful medical procedure performed on the most sensitive part of their bodies. Also, in order for the “sex doesn’t have to have consequences” view to hold up, life within the womb cannot be human—otherwise, when a woman’s contraception fails, she just became a mother, and abortion won’t change that. And so women are discouraged from seeking accurate information about the new life within their bodies, fed insulting euphemisms about what the abortion procedure involves, and shouted down when they speak up about personal negative experiences with it.

Anyone who cares about women should be outraged.

And so, to Amanda Marcotte and others like her, I would say, as I’ve said before: You’re right to be angry. You are correct in sensing that women’s freedom is being taken away. You’re just wrong to blame the Church. Not only does it not “punish female sexuality,” but it’s one of the few voices in our culture that respects it.

The Catholic Church is the only institution that consistently proclaims the truth that the bonding and pleasurable aspects of sex cannot be severed from its life-giving potential. The Church advocates for methods of birth control that keep couples mindful of the possibility that each sexual act could create a pregnancy, even if they’re trying to avoid it, and thus encourages women to be completely bought in to the entire process. If it seems to be a killjoy, it’s only because it’s telling you the full truth.

I encourage Marcotte to take another look at the situation, and to carefully trace where the threat to women’s reproductive freedom really begins. It’s not with the Catholic Church’s stance against abortion. Women’s freedom was gone the moment our society bought into the lies of contraception.

You know, I started to bold the especially egregious parts above, but then I realized I was bolding all of it.

Contraception takes away a woman’s freedom? “Women’s freedom was gone the moment our society bought into the lies of contraception“? Denying women access to contraception is liberating them, and making contraception available to women who choose to use it is enslavement?

This is not “very upsetting.” It’s infuriating. It’s outrageous. It’s evil.

But I’ll just let Amanda speak for me on this one, because she does it so well, and I agree with every word:

I love the way she characterizes how contraception and abortions happen.  It’s not that women seek these things out!  No, the contraception man comes to your door and hands you your bag of contraception.  Prior to then, it would have never [occurred to] you to do something like put a penis in your vagina.  But suddenly, without even thinking about it, you’re rolling a condom on a penis and boom! Next thing you know, pregnant. And then the abortion posse shows up to your house and takes you to the clinic.  You probably didn’t even realize that you’d get a baby if you didn’t go with them. Because you have no will or mind of your own.

Marcotte also takes issue with Fulwiler’s reporting of those Guttmacher statistics:

She goes on to point out that contraception some times fails, citiing the Guttmacher (who she erroneously claims is owned by Planned Parenthood—they’re actually an independent organization with no connection to Planned Parenthood) statistic that half of women who have abortions were using contraception at the time.  Actually, she misinterprets the data, saying, “were using contraception when they conceived their child.”  Actually, the statistic is “Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant.”  Of this group, only 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use. She’s fudging the numbers to imply that contraception is less effective than it is.

When contraception is used consistently and correctly, it is highly effective. That’s what the Guttmacher fact sheet is saying. And I didn’t just take Marcotte’s word for it. I clicked on her link and looked at the Guttmacher statistics, myself. Marcotte is correct. Fulwiler misrepresented them.

One part Marcotte did not specifically respond to was this paragraph:

The Catholic Church is the only institution that consistently proclaims the truth that the bonding and pleasurable aspects of sex cannot be severed from its life-giving potential. The Church advocates for methods of birth control that keep couples mindful of the possibility that each sexual act could create a pregnancy, even if they’re trying to avoid it, and thus encourages women to be completely bought in to the entire process. If it seems to be a killjoy, it’s only because it’s telling you the full truth.

The implicitly assumed idea here that, when a woman is married, she will want and welcome a pregnancy even if she doesn’t want and wouldn’t welcome a pregnancy, is just totally obnoxious. Aside from anything else, what about women whose emotional or physical health makes childbearing risky or even potentially fatal? What about marriages that are troubled to begin with and could not survive the strain of another child — or any child? Forcing a married woman to choose between having sexual relations with her husband, and possibly creating a pregnancy “encourages women to be completely bought in to the entire process”? The entire process of what? Divorce? Heartbreak? An unwanted child who grows up feeling like a resented burden? Death in childbirth? Permanently impaired health? What is it about the state of being married that makes Fulwiler believe that it can survive a pregnancy even if it can’t? Being married is suddenly going to make a woman welcome a child who doesn’t want a child, or make a medically inadvisable pregnancy not a problem? I mean, what is WRONG with this woman?

Also, I cannot end without slamming Fulwiler for this: The “bonding and pleasurable aspects of sex cannot be severed from its life-giving potential.”

Oh, yes, they can — for men. That is why women should and must have access to contraception — because men do not get pregnant, women do. Men can absolutely have sex for pleasure alone and walk away afterward — and that, my friends, is the key to why anti-feminists and Catholics who buy into the Catholic Church’s bullshit about contraception and abortion, like Jennifer Fulwiler, oppose it: because effective and accessible contraception evens that playing field. With contraception, for the first time in human history, women can control their own fertility — which of course totally violates the traditional view of women as being either virgins or whores. Contraception removes the probability of unwanted pregnancy that has always been a tool for misogynists who fear and sometimes hate the idea that women are sexual creatures who can and do enjoy sex for its own sake just as much as men can and do. You can’t call women sluts for having sex outside of marriage or for having multiple sexual encounters if there is no visible outward sign to indicate that they are doing so. That makes them free and unaccountable — just like men!

And as sad as it is to acknowledge this, there ARE women who are — to echo Fulwiler — completely bought in to this view of women.


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