We Need a Whole Life Response to Extreme Access-to-Abortion Laws

My son Theodore was born when he was 36 weeks and 2 days old. Together, his body and mine decided that that was the time his life would transition from one lived inside the womb to one lived outside of it. His birth day was not the day that his life began, it was the day it changed from depending upon an umbilical cord for nutrition to depending on breasts, from being swaddled in amniotic fluid to being swaddled in arms, from sleeping on my bladder to sleeping on my chest. Many things changed the day Theo was born, the value of his life was not one of them.

I write today in response to the extreme access-to-abortion bills being passed, proposed, and considered in several states across the country. My current home state, Vermont, has proposed one of the most severe, calling for unrestricted abortion access for anyone at any time for any reason.

The emergence of these extreme access-to-abortion bills in several states during a time of intense polarization in our country presents a unique opportunity for those who value life at all stages—who often straddle political party lines—to unify. If the pro-life movement acts and reacts in meaningful and intentional ways at this particular moment in history, it has the potential to definitively gain momentum.

The proposed Vermont bill highlights and systematizes values (or the absence of values) in a way that has roused many dormant pro-lifers, and even thoughtful pro-choicers, to speak out against it.

I use the word “dormant” to describe those who, like myself, consider themselves decisively pro-life, but typically disagree with the narrow focus of much of the popular pro-life movement and therefore tend to stay on the sideline when it comes to publicly advocating against abortion. “Thoughtful pro-choicers” refers to those who, while holding positions (contrary to Church teaching) that allow for abortion to be considered in the early weeks of pregnancy or in regulated, informed, medical settings, feel that the proposed bill goes too far in its allowances.

Broadening the scope of the anti-abortion argument to embrace and promote a “whole life” perspective could be the most effective way to protect the specific life of the unborn child.

While often the whole life movement is found calling for those who value the lives of unborn babies to equally value the lives of immigrants, women, non-Christians, those with black and brown skin, prisoners, the ill, elderly, and disabled, among others, now is the time for us to vociferously persuade those who value the lives of many marginalized and vulnerable people that the unborn baby does, indeed, fall into that category. Comparatively, it seems to me that this should be a much easier task.

The pro-choice movement has successfully and effectively framed the abortion conversation as one of women’s rights, ignoring the life and vulnerability of the child. But in what other situation does pitting one group’s rights against another’s result in justice? Creating such stark divisions has often been used to preserve oppression, while justice has been achieved by greater solidarity among the vulnerable and a both/and approach.

Rather than argue for the rights of the women or the rights of their children, we must emphatically reframe the conversation as one of wholistic human rights. Let us not be tricked into the lie of binary thinking just because it is presented as progressive. There is nothing progressive about discounting the humanity of one group of people for the benefit of another. That is a practice that has been used for centuries to preserve the power of the elite.

Whole life proponents have argued that tying legal restrictions on abortion to support for parental leave and protections against pregnancy discrimination could attract a much wider base of support. Promoting and supporting legislation that both restricts abortion access and offers concrete alternatives helps change the question from “Who gets to flourish?” to “How can we ensure mutual flourishing?”

The original version of the Vermont bill stated that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law.” After a public hearing on the bill at the Vermont State House and a committee debate about “how far the bill should go in codifying the definition of personhood under Vermont law” the next morning, the House Committee removed this particularly troubling sentence from the bill before passing it out of committee. While changing nothing in practice, this small measure gives me hope that some of the testimonies delivered at the public hearing did reach the ears and hearts of our lawmakers.

The Vermont bill, as it currently stands, is still upsetting in that it allows for unrestricted abortion for anyone at any time for any reason. However, something stopped the representatives in that committee from definitively claiming that the baby in the womb was not a person. Maybe we can still convince them that it definitely is a person, and that person, like all others, has human rights.

These extreme access-to-abortion bills appearing across the country do not represent who we are as Americans seeking just and humane policies of inclusion that value women, families, the marginalized, and the vulnerable. We can, and must, do better.

Stephanie Clary serves as the Manager of Mission Outreach and Communication for the Diocese of Burlington and the Assistant Editor of Vermont Catholic.


Highlights from the New Catholic-Muslim Document on Human Fraternity

via the Vatican:

Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need….

It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and
sisters….

In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace;

In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity;

In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and those most in need whom God has commanded us to help as a duty required of all persons, especially the wealthy and of means;

In the name of orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and their countries; in the name of all victims of wars, persecution and injustice; in the name of the weak, those who live in fear, prisoners of war and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction;

In the name of peoples who have lost their security, peace, and the possibility of living together, becoming victims of destruction, calamity and war;

In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal;

In the name of this fraternity torn apart by policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women;

In the name of freedom, that God has given to all human beings creating them free and distinguishing them by this gift;

In the name of justice and mercy, the foundations of prosperity and the cornerstone of faith;

In the name of all persons of good will present in every part of the world;

In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard….

We call upon intellectuals, philosophers, religious figures, artists, media professionals and men and women of culture in every part of the world, to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.

This Declaration, setting out from a profound consideration of our contemporary reality, valuing its successes and in solidarity with its suffering, disasters and calamities, believes firmly that among the most important causes of the crises of the modern world are a desensitized human conscience, a distancing from religious values and a prevailing individualism accompanied by materialistic philosophies that deify the human person and introduce worldly and material values in place of supreme and transcendental principles….

History shows that religious extremism, national extremism and also intolerance have produced in the world, be it in the East or West, what might be referred to as signs of a “third world war being fought piecemeal”….

It is clear in this context how the family as the fundamental nucleus of society and humanity is essential in bringing children into the world, raising them, educating them, and providing them with solid moral formation and domestic security. To attack the institution of the family, to regard it with contempt or to doubt its important role, is one of the most threatening evils of our era….

He is the Creator who has formed us with His divine wisdom and has granted us the gift of life to protect it. It is a gift that no one has the right to take away, threaten or manipulate to suit oneself. Indeed, everyone must safeguard this gift of life from its beginning up to its natural end. We therefore condemn all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human trafficking, abortion and euthanasia….

Moreover, we resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood….

Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action….

Justice based on mercy is the path to follow in order to achieve a dignified life to which every human being has a right….

Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity…

It is likewise important to reinforce the bond of fundamental human rights in order to help ensure a dignified life for all the men and women of East and West, avoiding the politics of double standards….

It is an essential requirement to recognize the right of women to education and employment, and to recognize their freedom to exercise their own political rights. Moreover, efforts must be made to free women from historical and social conditioning that runs contrary to the principles of their faith and dignity. It is also necessary to protect women from sexual exploitation and from being treated as merchandise or objects of pleasure or financial gain. Accordingly, an end must be brought to all those inhuman and vulgar practices that denigrate the dignity of women. Efforts must be made to modify those laws that prevent women from fully enjoying their rights….

The protection of the rights of the elderly, the weak, the disabled, and the oppressed is a religious and social obligation that must be guaranteed and defended through strict legislation and the implementation of the relevant international agreements.


Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for February 2019: For the Victims of Human Trafficking


“Although we try to ignore it, slavery is not something from other times. Faced with this tragic reality, no one can wash their hands of it without being, in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity. We cannot ignore the fact that there is as much slavery in the world today as there was before, or perhaps more. Let us pray for a generous welcome of the victims of human trafficking, of enforced prostitution, and of violence.”


How Democrats Can Win in 2020: Win the Communitarian Vote

MSW writes:

As Bacon points out, so-called moderates like Howard Schultz (and Michael Bloomberg) criticize candidates like Warren because of her economic views, which they claim are too far to the left. Schultz and Bloomberg will try and convince us that being a liberal means fighting the culture wars while embracing neoliberal economics, and they are not alone. Gov. Andrew Cuomo clearly thinks his decision to light up the World Trade Center in pink because he signed legislation vastly expanding access to abortion will help protect his left flank while he is busy making nice with Wall Street.

Nicholas Phillips, writing at National Review, pointed to the sheer stupidity of the Schultz/Bloomberg thesis that there is a vast center of the electorate just pining to vote for someone who is fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Phillips included a graph created by political scientist Lee Drutman that plots voters based on their ideological preferences on both economic and social issues. One quadrant has those voters who are conservative on both economic and social issues, and it is almost exclusively Republicans. Opposite is a quadrant of those who self-identify as liberal on both economic and social issues. A third quadrant has those whose views are socially conservative but economically liberal, and it accounts for 28.9 percent of the 2016 electorate. The quadrant opposite, the Schultz/Bloomberg quadrant for those who are socially liberal but economically conservative, is the smallest of the four, with only 3.8 percent. Phillips calls it a “ghost town.” There is not, it turns out, a vast center of the electorate clamoring for what Schultz and Bloomberg offer. It is just their friends from the club.

Other polling confirms the fact that the only way for Democrats to win is to avoid extremism on social issues and run to the left on economic ones. A recent Business Insider poll registered 54 percent approval for Warren’s proposal, compared to only 19 percent disapproval. A Politico/Morning Consult poll asked a more generic question — should the rich pay more in taxes — and a whopping 76 percent agreed. And, even a Fox News poll asked about taxing people making more than $10 million and found that 70 percent of registered voters and 54 of Republicans gave the idea a big thumbs up.

Conversely, late-term abortions are singularly unpopular…While a majority support permitting a late-term abortion to save the life of the mother, only 20 percent indicate wholesale support for a third trimester abortion for virtually any reason….

Inclusivity has become an increasingly important moral theme in the politics of the left, especially in the face of the ugly nativism emanating from the president. Inclusivity is most often discussed in social terms, but there is an economic aspect to it as well. There are people in rural America whose occupational aspirations are thwarted by a lack of access to broadband. There are children in both rural and urban America whose dreams are clouded by poverty. Blessings on the candidate who finds creative ways to unite the social and economic inclusionary themes.

Addressing the growth of income inequality by taxing the uber-rich is a political winner. It may not occur to most of the wunderkinds who run campaigns these days, but they should memorize the numbers cited above: 28.9 percent versus 3.8 percent. If the Democrats are smart, and that is a big if, they will recognize that the way to defeat Donald Trump is to cling to the center on social issues and to the left on economic ones.


It’s Time to Reverse Decades of Extreme Redistribution to the Rich

David Leonhardt writes:

The extreme redistribution of income — upward — has multiple causes. Some of them, like technological change, stem mostly from private-sector forces. But government policy plays a crucial role. Tax rates on the wealthy have fallen sharply. Labor unions have been undermined. Big companies have been allowed to grow even bigger and more powerful. The United States has lost its lead as the most educated country in the world.

More often than not over the past 40 years, our government has helped the rich at the expense of everyone else. As a result, economic inequality has reached Gilded Age levels.

In the face of these trends, the radical response is to do nothing — or to make inequality even worse, as President Trump’s policies have. It’s radical because soaring inequality is starting to threaten the basic fabric of American life. Many people have grown frustrated and cynical. Average life expectancy, amazingly, has fallen over the past few years….

On social issues, like abortion and immigration, the country is deeply divided. But clear majorities support higher taxes on the wealthy, higher taxes on corporations, more education funding and expanded government health insurance. No wonder: Americans don’t resent success, but they do resent not receiving their fair share of economic growth….

The coming primary campaign will be a good time for the candidates to hash out which specific ideas make sense and which don’t. So far, the agenda looks pretty good. Elizabeth Warren has a plan to increase workers’ power within companies — and help them get larger pre-tax raises. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris want to lift the after-tax pay of the middle class and poor. Kirsten Gillibrand and others support reducing major living costs, like child care and education.

Perhaps most important, some Democrats have begun pushing for a wealth tax — to reverse the upward redistribution of the past 40 years. Warren has proposed an annual 2 or 3 percent tax on large fortunes. Bernie Sanders has proposed a big increase in the inheritance tax.


Illinois Bishops Oppose Legalization and Commercialization of Marijuana

via the Catholic Conference of Illinois:

Proponents of legalization say marijuana is not addictive, yet peer-reviewed research concludes that it is. Proponents also say that most people who use marijuana will not move on to harder drugs, yet other studies note that most people who are addicted to other drugs started with alcohol and marijuana.

Advocates of legalization rightly point to the racial disparity of our jail and prison populations, noting that marijuana infractions often lead to lives trapped in the criminal justice system. We recognize the truth of that premise, while observing that recent sentencing reforms should soon reverse that trend, since possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana now results in a ticket of up to $200 and no jail time….

As lawmakers consider this issue, it is important to remember they are not only debating legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from. In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens.

We ask lawmakers to say “no” to legalization of marijuana, as Pope Francis explained in 2014 when speaking about marijuana and other recreational drugs: “… To say this ‘no,’ one has to say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities. If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”


Why Some ‘Catholic’ Media Constantly Attack the Pope and Hunt for Supposed Heretics

via Crux:

The rise of media that call themselves Catholic but seem to exist only to judge others is less about criticizing Pope Francis and more about the misguided notion that to affirm one’s own orthodoxy, one must find someone to label a heretic, said a Vatican communications official.

Andrea Tornielli, the new editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, was commenting on Pope Francis’ remarks Jan. 24 to the bishops of Central America about Catholics losing compassion…

“One must not think this profoundly anti-Christian attitude – even if carried by ‘Catholic’ media – is a transitory phenomenon tied only to the daily criticism of the current pontiff,” Tornielli wrote.

The posture of such Catholics, he said, has less to do with the way Pope Francis challenges their assumptions and their faith and more to do with them thinking “each day my identity requires me to pick an enemy I can pounce on, someone to attack, someone to condemn, someone to judge as a heretic.”