Category Archives: religious fanaticism

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Regularly Engage in Coercive Adoption Practices

Almost two years ago, I wrote about a distressing and eye-opening book called The Girls Who Went Away, which is about the women who surrendered their children for adoption under coercion in the years before legal abortion and when single or unwed parenting was ostracized. Most of the women who surrendered their children were threatened, taunted, scolded and otherwise coerced by Catholic or otherwise Christian-affiliated adoption agencies and maternity homes. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking read, and an important one on the subject of reproductive justice that I couldn’t more highly recommend.

Now there’s a terrifying and depressing article in the Nation about how the period of coercive adoptions is not one merely relegated to our history. It’s happening today, and it’s happening via the ever-infamous, deceptive and also Christian-affiliated crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). If you thought that pretending they were abortion clinics and then admonishing women to not kill their babies was bad — and how could you not? — you ain’t seen nothing yet:

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), the nonprofit pregnancy-testing facilities set up by antiabortion groups to dissuade women from having abortions, have become fixtures of the antiabortion landscape, buttressed by an estimated $60 million in federal abstinence and marriage-promotion funds. The National Abortion Federation estimates that as many as 4,000 CPCs operate in the United States, often using deceptive tactics like posing as abortion providers and showing women graphic antiabortion films. While there is growing awareness of how CPCs hinder abortion access, the centers have a broader agenda that is less well known: they seek not only to induce women to “choose life” but to choose adoption, either by offering adoption services themselves, as in Bethany’s case, or by referring women to Christian adoption agencies. Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their children.

Bethany guided Jordan through the Medicaid application process and in April moved her in with home-schooling parents outside Myrtle Beach. There, according to Jordan, the family referred to her as one of the agency’s “birth mothers”–a term adoption agencies use for relinquishing mothers that many adoption reform advocates reject–although she hadn’t yet agreed to adoption. “I felt like a walking uterus for the agency,” says Jordan.

Jordan was isolated in the shepherding family’s house; her only social contact was with the agency, which called her a “saint” for continuing her pregnancy but asked her to consider “what’s best for the baby.” “They come on really prolife: look at the baby, look at its heartbeat, don’t kill it. Then, once you say you won’t kill it, they ask, What can you give it? You have nothing to offer, but here’s a family that goes on a cruise every year.”

There is not much more to say other than go read the rest. Go read Jordan’s story, the story of other women like her, and the ways in which our government is supporting this absolute horror. And then share it with others. I did merely want to specifically highlight one more point:

Even as women have gained better reproductive healthcare access, adoption laws have become less favorable for birth mothers, advancing the time after birth when a mother can relinquish–in some states now within twenty-four hours–and cutting the period to revoke consent drastically or completely. Adoption organizations have published comparative lists of state laws, almost as a catalog for prospective adopters seeking states that restrict birth parent rights.

It’s desperately important to remember that when our government officials, including those who call themselves “pro-choice,” talk openly about “promoting” adoption, this, inadvertently or not, is precisely what they are supporting. “Promoting” one pregnancy option, any option, above another is not allowing women to make an objective decision based on unbiased facts and personal beliefs and circumstances. And I fervently believe that supporting adoption, the women who make the choice to put their children up for adoption, the families that adopt children, and the children who have been adopted, is a vastly different thing from promoting adoption to pregnant women as a more beneficial choice than abortion or parenting. The former is pro-choice and compassionate. The latter is anything but, and ought to be considered the nightmare that it is.

Dr. Tiller’s Clinic Will Remain Closed

tiller-clinicOh god. This twists both my heart and my stomach up into tight, hard knots.

The family of slain abortion provider George Tiller said Tuesday that his Wichita clinic will be “permanently closed,” effective immediately.

In a statement released by Tiller’s attorneys, his family said it is ceasing operation of Women’s Health Care Services Inc. and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.

“We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women’s health care needs have been met because of his dedication and service,” the family said.

This is awful.  Just awful.  I feel quite literally ill and nauseous at the moment.

I can’t blame Dr. Tiller’s family.  I don’t blame his family.  I understand that they have risked, and lost, far more than enough.  No one could have ever blamed Dr. Tiller if he had decided, after the years of harassment and threats on his life, to give up practicing at his clinic.  And so we certainly can’t blame his family now for shutting the clinic doors, once those threats were actually carried out.  And I also hear what Dr. Hern, who provides the same type of late abortions that Dr. Tiller did, is saying.  Who would want to work there?  We can talk about principle all day long, but when it comes down to it — a man was murdered because he worked there.  How many of us would be willing to take is place?  Exceedingly few.

But that doesn’t change the loss, and that loss is huge.  The nation has now not only lost one of its bravest, most compassionate abortion providers.  It has also lost one of only three clinics that performed life-saving and therapeutic abortions this late.  (Please note: dozens of clinics perform abortions that would be considered “late.”  Dr. Tiller’s, however, was one of only three that provided abortions as late as they did.)

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Catholic Church Excommunicates Mother and Doctors Over 9-Year-Old Rape Victim’s Abortion

In Brazil, there is a horrific story of a 9-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated (h/t Falloch’s comment).  It’s believed that the rape was committed by her step-father.  The girl was not only pregnant at that young age, but also pregnant with twins.  And so, as makes perfect sense, she had an abortion.  Because she was raped, because she was much to young to have a child, and because the stress of having twins would of course have been far too much for a 9-year-old’s body to handle.  And she could have died.

Now, the Catholic Church has excommunicated both the girl’s mother and the doctors who performed the abortion, which likely saved the girl’s life.

Well then.  At least they didn’t excommunicate the girl, right?  Maybe they decided that she was much too young to have made the decision to have the abortion on her own, or to understand what was happening.  But not too young, apparently, to be forced to give birth to the twins caused by her rapist.  Not too young to quite possibly die in the process.

In defending the decision, the Church’s lawyer has said:

“It’s the law of God: Do not kill. We consider this murder,” Miranda said in comments reported by O Globo.

But rape, apparently, is a-okay.  After all, I don’t see the step-father, who allegedly admitted to having raped the girl since the age of 6, being excommunicated.  Killing a fetus is apparently worthy of such censure and shunning.  Horrifically violating a small child, though?  Well, we all make mistakes.  And this stance is of course nothing new.

The lawyer also argued that the girl just should have carried to term and had a cesarean section.  Because obviously a lawyer knows the girl’s condition better than her own doctor.  And obviously the girl’s mental well-being doesn’t count for a damn thing.

Who knows what a cesarean section would have done for the girl, since the doctors didn’t present the issue of her giving vaginal birth as being the main health concern here.  But oh well.  God says.  Clearly, if this child died in the course of fulfilling “God’s wishes,” it would have been a lesser tragedy than the cold-blooded murder of those innocent little fetuses.  After all, in other extremist Catholic doctrine, a woman is better off dead than raped anyway.

RH Reality Check asks: Is this what religious objection to abortion looks like?  Seeing as how the point of the entire anti-choice movement is indeed to erase any and all concern for the woman in question, in fact to erase her very existence if at all possible . . . clearly, yes.  In an extreme nutshell, this is exactly what it looks like.

cross-posted at Feministe

Domestic Violence Rates Soar in Turkey

A new report has come out showing that, as in most places, domestic violence is a serious problem in Turkey. But not only are rates of intimate partner violence in Turkey significantly higher than in the U.S., where statistics are already terrifyingly high, women in Turkey are also seemingly significantly less likely to seek help:

A woman in the studio audience stands up and, with the spotlight highlighting her covered head, announces to the crowd that her husband abuses her but that she doesn’t know how to react and still be a good Muslim.

The host of this popular Turkish TV show, “Islam in Our Life,” Professor Faruk Beser, is — from his trimmed mustache to his tailored suit — the image of a modern, successful Turkish man. But as he approaches the woman, his answer is far from progressive.

Looking her in the eye, Beser urges the woman to “carry this pain within you and keep living with your husband,” prescribing constant prayer over divorce, and reminding the woman of the rewards she will receive in heaven for her suffering.

What is shocking about this scene is not so much the reaction of the host, a man known for his conservative interpretation of Islam in a country that is 99 percent Muslim, but rather that the woman had the courage to speak up at all.

Four out of 10 women in Turkey are beaten by their husbands, according to the recent study entitled “Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey,” which has collected the first official statistics on this topic in Turkey. Even more disturbing, the study reveals that a significant number of abused women, almost 90 percent, do not seek help from any organization.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Islam is hardly the only religion used to promote misogynistic ideas about how women should stay with abusive husbands in order to be eligible for a happy afterlife.  But it should also go without saying that the religious component of the problem can’t just go ignored in creating solutions.  If the women being abused are Muslim, and believe that their religion bars them from speaking out and seeking help, setting up more shelters isn’t going to make more than 10% of those abused women attempt to get assistance.

That’s a big part of the reason why I think that those Muslim women who are directly using Islam as a way to make arguments in favor of women’s rights, as I wrote about just the other day, have exactly the right idea.  Again, you have to work within the conditions you’re facing, and the same problems can require radically different approaches for different communities.  If the community is particularly religious, chances are that effective solutions are going to involve religion in some way, too.

Check out the full article over at Global Post.

Thanks to Will for the link.

Muslim Women Fight For Rights Using Islam

The NY Times recently ran an article that is, if not exactly news (because it’s about something that has been going on for some time), nonetheless interesting and important. On the issue of Muslim women using Islam to make feminist arguments, they write:

Ms. Anwar argues that the edict, issued late last year by the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia, is pure patriarchy. Islam, she says, is only a cover.

It was frustrations like those that drew several hundred Muslim women to a conference in this Muslim-majority country over the weekend. Their mission was to come up with ways to demand equal rights for women. And their tools, however unlikely, were the tenets of Islam itself.

“Secular feminism has fulfilled its historical role, but it has nothing more to give us,” said Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian anthropologist who has been helping to formulate some of the arguments. “The challenge we face now is theological.”

The advocates came from 47 countries to participate in the project, called Musawah, the Arabic word for equality. They spent the weekend brainstorming and learning the best Islamic arguments to take back to their own societies as defenses against clerics who insist that women’s lives are dictated by men’s strict interpretations of Islam.

I find it quite interesting, in fact, given the conditions they describe, that Islam is noted as being an “unlikely” tool for dismantling patriarchy.

There seems to be an awful lot (prejudiced) assumptions about Islam wrapped up in that single statement. But while it certainly can be argued, as Audre Lorde famously phrased it, that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” it’s hardly a sentiment that’s shared universally among any type of activist.  Further, in assessing the truth of the statement with regards to any particular situation, we first have to discuss and identify which “tools” belong to the “master.”  And I don’t think that Islam as a religion necessarily qualifies as one of those tools.

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Court Rules that Religious School Has Right to Expel “Suspected Lesbians”

In 2006, two teenage girls were expelled from California Lutheran High School on suspicion of their being lesbians. That’s right — though expelling students because they actually were lesbians would have been a gross violation of civil rights, this took it a step further by expelling the two students merely on a guess.

Now, amazingly, the California  4th District Court of Appeals has ruled that the school had every right to do so.

In response to that suit, an appeals court decided this week that the private religious school was not a business and therefore did not have to comply with a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating. A lawyer for the girls said Tuesday that he would ask the California Supreme Court to overturn the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The appeals court called its decision “narrow,” but lawyers on both sides of the case said it would protect private religious schools across California from such discrimination suits.

Kirk D. Hanson, who represented the girls, said the “very troubling” ruling would permit private schools to discriminate against anyone, as long as the schools used their religious beliefs as justification.

“It is almost like it could roll back 20 to 30 years of progress we have made in this area,” said the San Diego attorney. “Basically, this decision gives private schools the license to discriminate.”

Yes, a license to discriminate.  That’s exactly what this ruling does.  As so often happens in this country, “freedom of religion” has been falsely interpreted to mean “the right to impose my religion on other people and use it as an excuse for my bigotry — even when I’m not following tenants as simple as the Golden Rule myself.”

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Blog For Choice: Sexual Rights

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and that means it’s also Blog for Choice DayUnlike last year (and more like myself), I have little interest in the theme, pro-choice hopes for Barack Obama and the new Congress.

I’ve decided that I want to write about something else.  I want to write about the right to abortion and how it intersects with the issue of sexual violence.  It’s no secret that these are two issues that are perhaps closest to my heart, and I care and write about both regularly on a broad spectrum.  I think that the two issues are highly related.  Simply, both are reproductive justice issues.  Both are reproductive health issues.  And both are sexual rights issues.

In practice, the two are directly connected on a regular basis.  Sexual violence accounts for a particularly large number of teen pregnancies, many of which do end in abortion.  Adult women are also prone to pregnancy as a result of rape, especially depending on who they are and where they live.  Those women who have the highest risk of rape — say, immigrant women or women living in the Congo — also have the highest risk of getting pregnant as the result of that rape.  They also, due to oppressed status, have the least access to abortion services and are most often forced to carry to term, or to attempt risky abortion procedures themselves.

Most visibly — and again, intersecting oppressions are generally responsible for which issues are most visible — sexual violence and abortion rights intersect when it comes to abortion restrictions.  When potential abortion restrictions are put on the table, newspapers almost inevitably report breathlessly that the restrictions even apply to women who have been victims of rape.  If they don’t apply to women who have been raped, it’s reported in a way that presents the restriction as therefore reasonable.  And of course, hardcore anti-choice groups and individuals adamantly oppose exceptions for rape victims for any abortion restriction, whether it be forced ultrasounds, parental notification, “informed consent” or all out abortion bans.

I’ve long made clear my view that while the hardline “no exceptions for rape victims, because a baby is still a baby” rhetoric makes me throw up quite a bit in my mouth, it is at least consistent with their espoused ideals.  This is still certainly true.  But just as true is the fact that this rhetoric tells us something important about what is behind the words about “babies” and “life.”  It tells us about how those who spout the words view women’s bodies. Continue reading