Jesurgislac’s Journal

May 29, 2011

Pastor Chuck Phelps is passionate and practical

Colonial Hills Baptist Church has a biography of their senior pastor that is significant for what it omits:

Dr. Charles Phelps is our senior pastor. Prior to coming to Colonial, Dr. Phelps served as a youth pastor in Minnesota and Colorado, as a senior pastor in New Hampshire, and as a college president in Wisconsin. He has traveled to numerous mission fields, colleges, seminaries, and churches to teach and preach the Bible. Pastor Phelps is a passionate, practical Bible teacher and preacher. He ministers faithfully to our church family along with his wife, Linda. They have five children and one grandson.

In 1997 Pastor Phelps was the senior pastor at the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire, when he discovered that a church member, Ernest Willis, had raped (on at least two occasions) a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a church member, and the girl was pregnant. Under New Hampshire law, Willis had committed a felony – a Class B Felonious Sexual Assault – a crime for which he has since been found guilty (verdict Friday, he hasn’t yet been sentenced but it could be up to 54 years). This was the case even if, as Willis persistently claimed, the girl had consented to sex: she was under 16. (Exceptions can be made for two kids more-or-less the same age fooling around with each other, but Willis was then in his late thirties and married: the girl was his kids’ babysitter.)

There were multiple people affected by Willis’s rape of the girl. There was Willis’s wife (they are now divorced), their children, the girl herself, the girl’s mother. (I don’t know if the girl’s father was a church member.) Supposing that, 14 years ago, Willis had been arrested for rape and Phelps had stood by the girl and given his testimony in support of her. One can assume that even an anti-rape Pastor Phelps would have been against abortion, so I’m not going to fantasise that the girl would have been able to make her own decision about that: but suppose she had a supportive mother who hadn’t made her give the baby up for adoption, or if the adoption had been with local parents and as open as possible, so that the girl was not (as actually happened) permanently separated from the baby she’d been forced to have? (I can’t say what decision the girl might have made about abortion if she’d been genuinely free to choose, with a supportive mother to back whatever decision she made, but I can be pretty sure that Pastor Phelps would never have supported abortion nor envisaged a “solution” that included abortion, so let’s assume not.)

Phelps would have been faced with a congregation aware that one of their number was being charged with rape of a babysitter; the man’s wife would have had to deal, there and then, with knowing that her husband was a rapist who molested teenage girls: and the girl herself, pregnant with the rapist’s child. The situation would necessarily have continued for months, maybe for years – really, for as long as any of the people involved remained members. (Adoptive parents might have been members of the same congregation, or known to members of the congregation, too.)

Whereas, I can see the temptation to Phelps: if he got the pregnant girl out of the way, got the girl and Willis to apologise to the congregation thus making it partly the girl’s fault and therefore allowing Mrs Willis to tell herself it wasn’t altogether her husband’s fault, and got the baby adopted out of state and to parents not known to anyone in the congregation, then – he could tell himself – everything would be over and done with in weeks. The girl would be out of the way in Colorado having her baby, when she came back she wouldn’t talk about it, and there wouldn’t be any messy lingering upset. Perfect solution, so long as the girl kept her mouth shut and Phelps wasn’t concerned about justice, or kindness to a raped girl, or protecting other vulnerable teenagers from Ernest Willis – or even with being honest with Mrs Willis, that her husband was a rapist of teenage girls and there could be no excuse for him.

Pastor Phelps’s defense in court was that he did report this to the police, though he also says he told the police that the girl didn’t want to come forward. The two phone calls, he claims, were made on Oct. 8, 1997 when he found out that the girl was raped and pregnant, and on Oct. 9, the following day, when he told the police the girl didn’t want to come forward.

Pastor Phelps says he told the girl “I read to Tina from Deuteronomy 22. The passage is about a maiden in a field and she is accosted by a man, the maiden screamed and no one was there to help her. Then the passage refers to a maiden in a city who is accosted by a man, she didn’t scream. There is the appearance of complicity.”

Chuck Phelps (his new Colonial Hills church says he “especially enjoys teaching pastoral ethics, church management, church growth, and discipleship”) got the girl to read an apology for her misbehaviour to the congregation. Then he had her sent away to another state to have the baby, have the baby adopted, and then return to the New Hampshire Church, where she’d continue to worship alongside the man who’d raped her, Ernest Willis. This kind of abuse, revealed by one brave woman who opted to come forward, doesn’t seem to concern Phelps’ new church.

A lot of people responded to my previous post on this subject. I thank you all now for commenting: I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your comments. Several spoke of how this matched their own experience of Christian charity – caring for rapists more than for their victims.

Chuck Phelps set up his own website to excuse his behaviour: www.drchuckphelps.com. He claims that neither he nor the girl’s mother told her not to press charges. But clearly, even according to his own testimony, he made no effort whatsoever to support the girl against the rapist. Ernest Willis was also a member of Phelps’ congregation. Phelps had a responsibility to him: a responsibility which Phelps seems to have thought he fulfilled by protecting the rapist from the legal consequences of committing a felony. It does not seem to have occurred to Phelps, ever, that he had a moral responsibility towards Willis or towards his other victims, to ensure that Willis was arrested by the police and charged with the crime Phelps knew he had committed: the burden of his defense is that the 15-year-old girl, whom he admits he’d told was “complicit” in her own rape, was solely responsible for ensuring that charges were brought against Ernest Willis, and it’s entirely her fault, not his, that the rapist was left to go free for 14 years.

What’s missing from the website now (I first looked at it a few months ago, soon after the 20/20 broadcast) is a defense by Chuck Phelps that the whole horrible situation was worthwhile because the girl had a baby and the baby was adopted: she didn’t have an abortion, and the couple who got a baby were made happy by this. I don’t know why Phelps took this down – perhaps because someone with more self-awareness realized that it made Doctor Phelps look very, very complicit in the sexual abuse of an underage girl. Perhaps Phelps was still hoping, at the time he first set up the site, that Willis would be found not guilty and he could dismiss the girl whose rape he’d condoned, all those years ago, as just another silly slut. (His website still cites a letter from the girl’s mother which claims her daughter is only doing this for the money: I don’t think he quite sees that abuse from an abusive parent is not exactly helping his case.) But it did strike me as a classic pro-life justification for rape and sexual abuse.

Colonial Hills Baptist Church says it is “a family of caring Christians, a place where people feel like they are coming home. Through fervent prayer, the passionate and practical declaration of God’s Word, carefully presented and God-focused music, and a sincere love for the individual, Colonial Hills Baptist Church desires to help you and your family grow in Christ.” They even have a Facebook page. But their senior pastor condoned the rape of a fifteen year old girl, and continues to excuse his behaviour then. His church appears to think the problem can be resolved by giving him a separate website, hoping perhaps that people won’t keep associating their pastor with the rapist in New Hampshire.

Apparently their sermon for today, May 29, is “designed to strengthen saints and convict sinners. This morning’s message is entitled, ‘God is Able to Keep You Eternally Secure.’” Phelps doesn’t seem to have regarded justice, or kindness, or protecting the vulnerable, or honesty, as anything a pastor ought to be concerned with. But security, yes: he does seem to have cared about that.

June 8, 2010

Pastor Chuck Phelps has sincere love for rapists

In 1997, a 15-year-old girl in Concord, New Hampshire, became pregnant after being raped repeatedly by Ernest Willis, an older man she knew from the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord her family and the Willis family both attended. The girl told her mother after she was made pregnant: the mother told their pastor, Chuck Phelps.

The Trinity Baptist Church website has this careful message on its front page:

In reviewing the events of October 1997, the present leadership is seeking answers for the victim, our congregation, as well as our entire Concord community. The prayers of our entire church are for justice to be served to the alleged perpetrator, and that mercy and care will be extended to the victim.

Pastor Chuck Phelps had the rape victim go up for “church discipline” because, he told her, Willis may have been 99 percent responsible, but she needed to confess her 1 percent guilt in the situation, and that she should be happy that she didn’t live in Old Testament times because she would have been stoned.

A witness from 1997 remembers “I can still see the little girl standing up there with this smile on her face trying to get through this.” The next day the witness, Fran Earle, called Mrs Phelps, who said the victim had decided not to press charges for statutory rape. Earle, who left the church in 2001, said it was “regular” to see young girls who were pregnant called to the front of the congregation to be humiliated in this way.

Statutory rape has a statute of limitations of 22 years from when the victim turns 18 in New Hampshire, so the police are now investigating Ernest Willis. Chuck Phelps, now senior pastor at another Baptist church in Indianapolis (with no message on its website for the victims of its Pastor), says that he did not “participate in a cover-up”. He simply had the rape victim kept in a “prophet’s chamber” (a guest room over the garage used to host travelling ministers) at the Phelpses’ Concord home until she could be “relocated”. “I just know that they made me stay at their house, and I wasn’t allowed to see any of my friends or talk to anybody. I had to stay there until they shipped me away.” After she moved to Colorado, a minister there asked her to write a letter to Ernest Willis’s wife, apologising to her for “abusing her trust” by having sex with her husband. Church members there monitored her phone calls and didn’t allow her to be with people her own age. When she gave birth in March 1998, Chuck Phelps urged her to put her baby girl up for adoption. After about a year she returned to Concord for about six months, living with her mother, attending Trinity Church, and seeing Ernest Willis in church regularly: he was still a church member.

Chuck Phelps’ current church is Colonial Hills Baptist Church , 8140 Union Chapel Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46240. Phone: 317-253-5597. Fax: 317-254-2847. There’s a comments form.

They say “We’re interested in your comments and questions.” They also say: “Colonial Hills Baptist Church is a family of caring Christians, a place where people feel like they are coming home. Through fervent prayer, the passionate and practical declaration of God’s Word, carefully presented and God-focused music, and a sincere love for the individual, Colonial Hills Baptist Church desires to help you and your family grow in Christ.”

Presumably, Ernest Willis and his family were “helped to grow in Christ” by Pastor Chuck Phelps. Wonder how many other rapists he’s “helping” at his new church?

Update, Sunday 10th April 2011
If you live inside the United States, you may be able to watch a 20/20 documentary on the ABC website (20/20 4/8: Victim’s Forced Confession)

Chuck Phelp’s new church, Colonial Hills Baptist, now has a message up on its website:

ABC’s 20/20 has featured a documentary having to do with independent fundamental Baptists. What occured in Concord, NH while Pastor Phelps was pastor was a part of their focus. Pastor Phelps now has a website available to provide accurate information. Please go to www.drchuckphelps.com for more information.

This 20/20 program is what ABC describe in a news release as a “yearlong investigation” into “a religious subculture many Americans have never heard of, yet has thousands of churches across the country . . . churches that critics claim can foster physical and sexual abuse.” Anchor Elizabeth Vargas said yesterday the 1997 incident at Trinity is “a big part of our hour” but other churches are also examined. (Concord Monitor) It would certainly be interesting to do a follow-up with the church in Indiana, to find out how many rapists have received the benefit of Pastor Phelps’ spiritual support there.

June 1, 2010

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Liver and Chianti

Pro-lifers tend to be in agreement that forced use of organs is immoral: they just make an exception for using the uterus (using the organs of a pregnant woman) without her consent. As the essay The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion has already demonstrated, the anti-choicers are themselves unwilling for their own bodies to be used against their will: men can’t get pregnant,and pro-life women have abortions as often as pro-choice women.

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Many more eggs are fertilsed than there are babies born. For a baby to be created from a fertilised egg, a woman must be willing to use her body – not only her uterus, but her heart (which must beat for two); her liver, her kidneys, her guts – all of her bodily resources are used in the process of making a baby.

As I noted in a comment on Catherine Palmer’s blog Ethika Politika (the blog of the Center for Morality in Public Life) the pro-life argument against medically-required abortions is that women have no right to life or health if their bodies are being used by a fetus: explicitly, that fetuses are more valuable than women. (That the only way to keep a fetus alive, safe, and supported through pregnancy is to ensure that the health and life of pregnant women is made a priority, is something that does not appear to have occurred to pro-lifers.)

The pro-life argument against elective abortions, is that a fetus has the right to make use of a woman’s body against her will, because a fetus is a “person”. But that’s not a workable argument if a woman is a person: because then she has an inalienable right to decide for herself not to use her body to bring a fetus to term.

To rephrase the very basic statement of morality made by a member of the pro-life community against forced organ use: The [pro-life] community has tempted some to seek a weakening of the strict ethical rules which prevent patients—no matter how sick or catastrophically disabled—from ever being treated as a mere organ system rather than an equal member of the moral community.

The key rule is: Organs will be taken only if consent is freely given—either by the patient or by family members (if the patient is catastrophically disabled or otherwise unable to consent). That informed and freely given consent is both a legal and an ethical principle. Arguments that the use of an organ is for the “common good”, that saving life justifies taking the use of an organ against that person’s will, are profoundly immoral: A woman must never be treated as a mere organ system to be “submitted to the common good”. Not for the use of her heart, her liver, her kidneys – or her uterus.

Again, going back to the article about disrobing pro-life euphemisms:

This ideology is, broadly speaking, the pro-life ideology. This doctrine insists, sans sound premise, that certain human beings ought to be labeled non-persons and thus be denied rights. It insists further that it is fundamental to society that no woman who decides against pregnancy ought to be allowed her choice: that human rights for women ought not to be regarded as protected by the US Constitution or by any other human rights laws.

As Catherine Palmer herself notes: The ramifications of this mentality are unspeakable, but not unprecedented. Anytime unpopular human beings are reduced to something disposable, we see horrific effects. We saw it in our segregated nation under Jim Crow laws in the 1950’s, when African-Americans were lynched by the thousands because they were dark-skinned; and we see it in [Latin America] today with denial of medically-required abortions where pregnant women are allowed to die of preventable complications as a human sacrifice to a religious Law without humanity. (For horrid examples of pro-life Americans celebrating the ideal of human sacrifice to the Law, see the comments thread here.)

Like Catherine, I would like to think (and generally do think) that the propagators of these killings would never commit them were they to see them for what they really are.

But the pro-life movement is guilty of murder, terrorism, and other violence towards health service workers, and has recently and very openly made clear that where the choice lies between saving a pregnant woman’s life by performing an abortion, and letting the pregnant woman die even though the fetus dies too, they argue for the latter: they prefer two deaths to one.

Like Catherine, I say the first initiative is educational in nature. We have a responsibility both to educate people who have been deceived by pro-life lies about fetuses, pregnancy, and abortion, and to educate people in valuing women as human beings. The abortion question ultimately comes down to the moral status of pregnant women, but pro-lifers like to argue that it’s all about “saving fetuses” – and then tell further, complicated lies both about the nature of fetuses/fetal development and about abortion. Both contradicting the pro-life lies and affirming the equal humanity of women are required to correct the inimical pro-life mindset. Pro-lifers need intellectual confusion to make their case: the service of truth corrects their lies.

Like Catherine, I say the second initiative is active in nature. The pro-lifers have political and religious power and money on their side: she argues that “we see that the Civil Rights Movement required authors and activists, professors and preachers, to bare segregation for the world to see”. I agree with her that the Pro-Life Movement will likely prove no different: it is not enough for them to expose themselves as indifferent to women’s lives and opposing human rights for women, it is essential that they should be exposed for what they are.

The pro-life ideology is an inhuman ideology “parading in dress-up clothes and pretending to be human”. Catherine quotes a Narnian in one of C.S.Lewis’s novels saying “But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that’s going to be human and isn’t yet, or used to be human once and isn’t now, or ought to be human and isn’t, keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet”. While a pro-lifer would naturally think in terms of violent action, which I oppose as I oppose all pro-life ideology – I agree with the recommendation to be wary of inhumanity.

The belief that other people exist to be used against their will is one of the most pernicious and deadly that humanity is rife with: and it is the pro-life belief in a nutshell. Pro-life euphemisms, be gone!

I should admit: I plagiarised large chunks of Catherine’s post with satiritic intent. The best satires were teaching rants. Catherine’s post presumes that if only those of us who believe that women are human and so support a woman’s right to choose, could understand the humanity of the cute li’l fetuses, we would somehow change our minds about the humanity of women. We do need to convince pro-lifers who have a sincere concern for humanity, that their concern is severely misdirected when they argue that because human fetuses are fully human, that must mean women ought to be treated as slaves, animals, or incubators. A fetus can have all the human rights that every human is born to: that does not mean that a fetus (or a pro-lifer claiming to act for a fetus) can force a woman to use her body as an incubator against her will. As humans we have the right to choose if, when, and how many children we will have: pro-lifer arguments that pregnancy is a “common good” for which women can be used against their will are straightforward arguments for enslavement and dehumanisation of women.

May 24, 2010

ConDem: More privacy for rapists

Three years ago David Cameron, now Prime Minister, called for tougher sentences for rapists, saying too many men “think they can get away with it”. (BBC)

Now he’s Prime Minister, he seems to have decided that the important thing is to preserve the privacy of rapists.

It’s generally agreed by crime statistics compilers that the percentage of false accusations in rape is no greater than the percentage of false accusations of any other crime (around 4%) – and the police are pretty good (some would say overly good) at weeding out the false accusations before the case is given to the criminal justice system and they decide whether or not to prosecute.

It’s also confirmed that most rapes – more than half – go unreported, because the victim either can’t believe herself (or himself – men are even less likely to report rape than women) that she was raped, or is sure she won’t be believed.

Once a case of rape gets to court, slightly over half the cases win a conviction.

Anyone accused of a crime has the right in a court of law to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But we don’t generally have a problem with the idea that even though Fred Bloggs was found innocent in court of stealing the lead from the local church, still everyone local is pretty damn sure Bloggs did it, given the locally known circumstancial evidence of missing lead from the roof, Bloggs seen around the church at the right time, and Bloggs suddenly acquiring some inexplicable money from somewhere unknown. And it’s perfectly okay to report all of this in the local paper, once the trial’s done and Bloggs has been acquitted.

Fred Bloggs also has a habit of picking up young women, taking them out to dinner, going on a second date in which he gets her drunk, offers to “drive her home”, drives her instead to an out-of-the-way place to rape her, an then drives her home, pointing out to her on the way that if she talks, he’ll just say it was consensual, and there’ll be no evidence. Eventually one of them reports to the police, who arrest Bloggs, who maintains the young woman was “gagging for it”, and as she was drunk and admits herself that she went out on a date with Bloggs before he raped her, the jury decides “insufficient evidence” and acquits. And to protect Bloggs’ good name, the local paper is not allowed to report that Fred Bloggs does this – or any identifying details which might help anyone realise that the man acquitted is good old Fred Bloggs, last seen at the Slug and Lettuce courteously helping his drunken date into his car for a drive home.

Why all the concern for the men accused and acquitted – most of whom did actually commit rape, even if they couldn’t be convicted – while no concern whatsoever for the victims, whose rape can’t “unhappen” just because the rapist walked free?

May 21, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves, part 4

This is why pro-lifers shouldn’t be allowed near hospital administration:

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure,” and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was “close to 100 percent.”

The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital, agreed to an abortion. NPR

This isn’t an “ethical dilemma” even on the level of my last Pro-life is what they call themselves post: this wasn’t a situation where the pregnant woman might have been kept alive for long enough as a hosting mechanism so that the fetus could survive.

According to a professor of theology at Boston College the official church position mandates that the pregnant woman is allowed to die with her fetus, because “the Catholic perspective” is that performing an abortion is evil, and “you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means”.

John Ehrich, who is the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix (he now has a front-page letter on his St Thomas the Apostle parish website, from which I’m quoting), says “It is not better for a woman to have to live the rest of her existence knowing that she had her child killed because her pregnancy was high risk. When we try to control every possible situation in life, we end up playing the role of God. As people of faith we know that our lives are always in God’s hands. In these situations the reality of our dependence upon Him becomes ever more clear and pronounced.”

In short: a woman who is dying, who will live if she has an abortion, should be let die. Along with the fetus she is carrying, of course – no 11-week fetus will survive if the pregnant woman dies.

That’s pro-life theology: two deaths are better than one. That’s why no hospital should ever permit medical decisions to be made by people who will put their religious beliefs ahead of the patient.

Sister Margaret McBride is a nun of the Sisters of Mercy, founded in Ireland, “vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education with a special concern for women and children”. Canon law mandated automatic excommunication: whether an excommunicated nun is then expelled from her Order is up to the leadership of the Order.

Sister McBride acted in the spirit of her Order’s mission:

Mercy saves lives, lifting people everywhere out of desperation and sorrow, out of hunger, impoverishment and illness.

Mercy enriches souls, bringing spirit, laughter and hope to those who thought they were lost.

Can you imagine how the family and friends of that woman whose life was saved would have felt – a friend, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, taken to hospital gravely ill – and then the hospital simply puts her to bed and lets her die, even though they could have saved her?

As a matter of contrast, though acting to save a woman’s life by performing an abortion got “automatic excommunication”, ordained priests in Arizona who are known to have sexually abused children were never excommunicated.

For Michael Teta and Robert C. Trupia: the Vatican took years to examine their cases and finally have them laicized: but a 2004 report names 44 priests who served in Arizona who are credibly accused of molesting children. (YumaSun) Some may have been laicized. None were excommunicated.

Pope Benedict XVI said “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

So there may be “legitimate diversity of opinion” about whether or not it’s okay to rape a child. But saving a woman’s life when her pregnancy is killing her? That’s always wrong.

The Pope says so. Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix says so. The “medical ethics” priest of Phoenix says so. Raping a child.. legitimate diversity! Performing an abortion so that one life is lost instead of two:

If a Catholic formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion, they are automatically excommunicated by that action. The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty.

“Defending life”, of course, in the strange Catholic sense meaning “Let the pregnant woman die”.

I have no problem with the Pope and the bishops and the priests of the Catholic Church arguing as a theological principle that it’s wrong to perform abortions. I do have a problem when their religious beliefs are allowed to make pro-life decisions in hospitals where pro-life reasoning has no place: pro-lifers may feel that two deaths are better than one, but no doctor or nurse or any other health professional ought to let that theological reasoning override their professional standards of care for their patient.


Update: Just in case anyone was in doubt about the correct Catholic position on saving a woman’s life, there’s a post by Elizabeth Scalia, who also blogs as The Anchoress, all about how when a woman is dying and an abortion will save her life, the Catholic thing for her doctors to do is let her die – after all, if God wants her to live, God will save her. (In this kind of thinking, Catholics really don’t need to run hospitals, because if someone’s broken their leg or their appendix has burst, well, if they’re meant to live, God will save them: if they die because the leg wasn’t set or because the appendix wasn’t removed, well, God obviously wanted them dead.)

Michael Liccone’s post on the same site is almost a sideline (since the main issue for most people is the publicity about the substandard care that a Catholic hospital is required to provide by the Church’s ethical code): he points out that Bishop Olmsted sidestepped a pastoral disagreement by declaring that Sister McBride had excommnicated herself – which meant the bishop did not have to engage with the nun or pay attention to any medical evidence which would have justified the abortion according to a Catholic directive that was thought to imply that it was OK to perform an abortion if it was to save the woman’s life. (This is substandard, because it may well mean the woman will be literally at the point of death before the hospital can elect to save her: a Catholic hospital is required to be indifferent to a pregnant woman’s health and wellbeing, regardless of what long-term damage may be caused, which a secular hospital is not.)

The comments thread to the post (and to the echoed post) however makes clear that to many ardent Catholics, Bishop Olmsted’s position is the moral high ground: Catholics stand for letting pregnant woman die rather than performing an abortion. I’d say that was disturbing, but it’s also not uncommon: it’s just pro-life to let women die.

Plus this frankly amusing post by a Catholic who appears to feel that the real problem isn’t that the woman’s life was saved, but that the woman’s life was saved by a Catholic hospital – if she’d known she might die, she should obviously have gone to some other hospital where they have no moral objection to saving pregnant woman’s lives. (I agree with that, but this guy’s post is just so NIMBYish about it: why must these pesky pregnant women behave as if they thought the hospital should just act to save their lives?) (I felt slightly sorry for mocking because Nadal was very polite when I joined a discussion here, but he did acknowledge in the course of the discussion that there was a NIMBYish element to his opposition: and he presents here in detailed response to a doctor’s comments, his own settled belief that the Catholic Church’s position is that the pregnant woman should have been left to die: it was morally wrong to save her life.)

November 10, 2009

What the Stupak-Pitts coathanger amendment means for Americans

Bart Stupak, Democrat for Death, decided he hated women and he didn’t want women who needed abortions to get healthcare: he wants taxpayers who are women to be required to pay for government subsidies for health insurance plans, but he wants those health insurance companies to be allowed to deny those women life/fertility-saving healthcare.

The amendment will prohibit federal funds for abortion services in the public option. It also prohibits individuals who receive affordability credits from purchasing a plan that provides elective abortions. However, it allows individuals, both who receive affordability credits and who do not, to separately purchase with their own funds plans that cover elective abortions. It also clarifies that private plans may still offer elective abortions.

From a woman who had an abortion on Hallowe’en:

As much as I struggled with the sudden realization that the pregnancy was over, I also found myself trying to decide financially what I was willing to do. A chemical abortion would cost $40, but I would be alone, bleeding, and it could still be incomplete and I would require a D&C anyway, since my pregnancy was so advanced. Surgery would be quick, total, and under controlled circumstances, but would likely be our full maxed insurance amount of $1500. And of course, there was the free option of waiting for my body to finally realize I wasn’t pregnant, but after 4 weeks the risk of infection was steadily climbing, increasing my chances of future miscarriage, infertility, or even death. With a toddler at home, and still nursing hopes for extending our family some day, this was not an option.

I chose the quick and total route of the D&C, despite the costs, prioritizing my health and the health of possible future children. I was lucky, and could afford to make that choice, because currently, my insurance cannot chose to refuse to cover what the hospital as termed an abortion.

Thanks to the Stupak amendment, that can now change.

This is an anti-women amendement – the kind of misogynist crap that women-haters spew – but it is also a typically rich-bastard anti-poor people amendment. A woman who already has a good insurance plan – one that covers abortion – or who has the kind of income that can afford to pay a couple of thousand for an unexpected medical expense that her health insurance, she discovers, won’t cover – will be OK.

A woman who figures she can scrape together $40 for a chemical abortion and just hope that will do it? Or a woman who can’t afford anything but a coathanger?

Congressman Bart Stupak has decided such worthless women can die. Or become involuntarily infertile. Or whatever. Their lives, and the lives of the children they hoped to have, are of less than no importance to a man like him. He has an e-mail form here, if you want to let him know what you think. (You will need to provide him with a zip code inside Michigan’s 1st District, which you can do by looking a city up here and the zipcode for it here. )

October 11, 2009

Cupcakes for Macduff

The Cupcakes for Life site is down due to bandwidth, but the magic of Google found me the cache, and this is too good not to share:

“Cupcakes were designed with birthdays in mind. However, not everyone has been allowed to be born.”

How did you celebrate pro-life cupcake day? (via)

Act V, SCENE VIII. Another part of the field.

Enter MACBETH

MACBETH

Why should I play the bakin’ boy, and cut
with my cake knife? whiles I see cakes, the cuts
Do better upon them.

Enter MACDUFF

MACDUFF

Turn, cupcake, turn!

MACBETH

Of all men else I have avoided thee:
But get thee back; my plate is too much charged
With cake of thine already.

MACDUFF

I have no cakes:
My cake is in the oven: thou baker’s reject
That sugar can cover!

They fight

MACBETH

Thou losest frosting:
As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air
With thy cake knife impress as ice my cake:
Let fall thy sugar on softer baked goods;
I bear a charmed cake, which cannot yield,
To one of woman born.

MACDUFF

Despair, cupcake;
And let the baker whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripp’d.

MACBETH

Accursed be that tongue that tells me so,
For it hath cow’d my better part of man!
And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope. I’ll not fight with thee.

MACDUFF

Then yield thee, cupcake,
And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time:
We’ll have thee, as our rarer cake wrecks are,
posted on a blog, and underwrit,
‘Here may you see the cupcake.’

MACBETH

I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Marcotte’s feet,
And to be baited with the rabble’s curse.
Though Conservapedia be come to Slacktivist,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike cake. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’

Exeunt, frosting. Alarums.

March 11, 2009

To the courageous people who save so many lives each year

Belatedly: I found out via that yesterday National Abortion Providers Appreciation Day in the US.

Thank you for what you do. Thank you for saving the lives of my friends who’ve had abortions, and who – because you were there – did not lose their lives or their ability to have the children they wanted to have, when they wanted to have them.

And this is what the pro-lifers do to women’s health care:

A decade ago, after an Atlanta clinic was bombed, Ms. Welsh had to take terrorism prevention classes. “I’m a director of a nonprofit, and I’m sitting there thinking, Why am I learning about letter bombs?” she recalled. “My board decided after that, only I could open the clinic mail — I was the only one they insured, to save money on the premium.”

On July 11, 2008, protestors picketed Ms. Welsh’s retirement party.

It’s been years since there was violence at the Hope clinic. In 1982, the clinic was firebombed, and eight months later, the owner and his wife were kidnapped for a week, before being released. When Ms. Burgess arrived as director in 1990, all the windows were still boarded.

But in 1999, she opened a new clinic building that is twice as big and tastefully decorated with paintings, dried flowers, framed letters of commendation from former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. The building was designed like a fortress — walls are three cinder blocks thick, windows are bullet-resistant and out front is a concrete booth where an armed guard is stationed.link

December 9, 2008

Persephone embraces Hades: Demographic Winter

Pomegranate Apple whines: …it still persists. this argument that if someone is pro-traditional family it means you are also a bigot, a homophobe, a religious-crazy, a racist etc.

Yes, it does, for fairly obvious reasons. “Pro-traditional family” is the name used for themselves by those who oppose equal rights for same-sex couples and their children: although these people talk a lot about being “pro” this and “promoting” that, they identify themselves primarily as against some couples, some parents, and some children.

this argument also says that if you promote traditional family you also promote the oppression of women, senseless breeding

If you are against the oppression of women, it’s fairly basic that you support the right of women to decide how many children to have, and when to have them. The post to which I am responding is all about promoting a video, Demographic Winter, which regards the ability of white women in developed countries to make use of effective and safe family planning as a threat. While some people linking to this video may be doing so stupidly, without thinking about what they’re promoting, the movement behind this video is very explicitly for the oppression of women and the denial of family planning because not enough white babies are being born.

Proposition 8 is pretty much over

No. Not by half. On 19th November, the California Supreme Court agreed to review the validity of Proposition 8 in response to a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The lawsuit argues that Proposition 8 is invalid because it “improperly attempts to undo the constitution’s core commitment to equality and deprives the courts of their essential role of protecting the rights of minorities. According to the California Constitution, such a radical change in the way the courts and state government work cannot be decided by a simple ballot measure.”

Proposition 8 will not be “over” until it has been overturned by the Californian Supreme Court. As this is the same court that determined in May that the state constitution made a ban on same-sex marriages invalid, I think the bigots happily hugging to themselves the belief that they won are having a premature bigotgasm.

my blog continues because I think strengthening marriage is a pretty crucial conversation.

I note, however, that far from “strengthening marriage”, this blogger is firmly on the side that opposes the freedom to marry – and far from wanting to have a “crucial conversation”, this blogger bans all comments except from pre-approved commenters.

Children are not accessories.

True, but who said they were?

Children are not annoying.

Oh, come now. Whoever said that has never looked after a child in their life. Every child has an entirely human capacity for being thoroughly annoying, and children have a special capacity for being specially annoying. I speak as an experienced babysitter/childminder and aunt to several niblings. Children can be exceptionally damned annoying.

Children are not burdens.

Oh yes, they are. Whoever said that has never had full financial/emotional responsibility for a child in their life.

Children are blessings.

True. This does not prevent them from being exceptionally damned annoying and burdensome.

From Nature, from God, from the Universe. They should not be lightly or selfishly dismissed (to day-care) (to raise themselves) (to fend for themselves) (to grow up with out a father) (to grow up without a mother) (to abortion clinics).

Now here is the crux of it. A “traditional family” by this definition is a family in which one or both of the parents, who are in this paradigm if “traditional” always a mixed-sex couple, provide all the childcare for all the children. Anything else is “lightly or selfishly” dismissing the children.

This excludes most of the families in the US. Not by sexual orientation, but by income. This is a statement of class privilege, not just homophobia, sexism, and racism: the only really good parents, in this paradigm, are the parents who can afford to raise a family with just one regular income. Parents who can’t – where both must work – are being “light and selfish”, treating their children as “burdens”.

It is unacceptable for any society to shrug their shoulders and say, “they turn out fine.”

Because it’s unacceptable to be content with fine children?

I’m not okay with fine.

Again: see the class privilege? Rich parents produce children who aren’t just “fine children”.

Children deserve (perhaps have a fundamental and natural right?) to grow up with a mom and a dad interested in all the moments of their lives.

But as we’ve just established: working-class parents can’t provide that – “lightly and selfishly” they put the kids in daycare so that they can both work to pay the rent. Middle-class parents usually can’t provide this either: “lightly and selfishly” they too need to use daycare: the only kind of “mom and dad” who won’t ever need daycare and won’t ever need to leave the kids alone when they work are, in fact, the kind of couple who are so wealthy they can afford live-in staff. Without having even a part-time job.

Adults should do everything they can to help make this a reality.

For the privileged few who can afford it?

Strong families means sacrifice, but it means children grow up healthy, happy, and capable of contribution (without being weighed down by emotional scars).

I think, actually, the children of the very rich who never went to daycare but who had a mom and dad “interested in all the moments of their lives” are quite as likely to be weighed down by emotional scars as the ordinary children this blogger thinks have “light and selfish” parents who merely work hard all day to feed, clothe, and house their children, and then pick their kids up from daycare and take them home…

Strong families means a civilization that can focus on art, science, helping 3rd world countries, instead of being traumatized by its own issues (poverty, welfare, crime, psychological problems, the list goes on). (and on).

So a ciivlisation made up exclusively of the enormously wealthy? Can you say “Eloi”? How about “Morlock”?

This is, yes, way beyond this blogger’s determination to discriminate against and dismiss some parents and some children: to denigrate strong families and to deny marriage as a civil right. This is about an idea of privileged, wealthy couples somehow being the only kind of couple who really deserve to have children. Parents who work for a living are “light and selfish” parents.

So, tangled up in a complex knot at the root of the anti-marriage movement there is classism, sexism, racism, and homophobia. My my my my my my, what a mess.

December 6, 2008

Humans are not an endangered species

Sometimes, the obvious needs to be said. The world’s population is 6.7 billion (World Population Clock) and rising: a large and flourishing population of human beings exists in almost every part of the world. About the only continent we don’t have a breeding population of humans on is Antarctica, and we could, any time we wanted, it would just take much more technological investment than penguins need.

So what’s with the “demographic winter” thing that Christian-right “profamily” activists are so keen on? As Kathryn Joyce points out in The Nation, what’s missing are the “right” babies – what worries this kind of person is not the human species becoming extinct, but not enough white babies being born.

At the national level, in 2004 Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered a “baby bonus” of about $1,000 to parents who had a second child. … Elizabeth Krause, an anthropologist and author of A Crisis of Births: Population Politics and Family-Making in Italy, tracked that country’s population efforts over the past decade and found politicians demanding more babies “to keep away the armadas of immigrants from the southern shores of the Mediterranean” and priests calling for a “Christian dike against the Muslim invasion of Italy.” The racial preferences behind Berlusconi’s “baby bonus” came into embarrassing relief when immigrant parents were accidentally sent checks for their offspring and then asked to return the money: the Italian government hadn’t meant to promote those births.

Barry McLerran, said to be a “producer” (he doesn’t appear on IMDB), did a “documentary” about this problem racists have with white women not having “enough” babies, which is entitled Demographic Winter.

Proposition 8 passed on lies: one of the most prevalent lies before it passed was that somehow it would affect the Californian school system. That’s not a lie the pro-Prop8ers can usefully stick to, as it will become evident as time goes on that “Yes on 8″ didn’t affect the school system in California at all.

But now the rash of homophobic blogs that appeared around Proposition 8 have been picking up on this: I noticed it via Beetle Blogger, Kingfisher Column, The Pomegranate Apple, all of whom are linking to a free torrent. They need an excuse: a claim that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, this will somehow affect the white population of the world, or at least of their respective countries. This works for the anti-marriage movement because for them (as I wrote two years ago):

these people who oppose contraception, sex education, abortion, and who oppose child support, a right to paid maternity leave, breastfeeding, subsidised daycare, free education for all beginning in nursery school. Racism and sexism are the roots, with homophobia as a flourishing fruit of the tree.

Not just the bloggers, but their permitted commenters (most of these blogs only allow their own cohort to post comments):

  • “Oh man. If that video doesn’t make obvious the need for traditional, healthy marriage and family, I don’t know what will. Homosexuals seem to always bring up the broken homes, victims of divorce, that plague our society today. As if the crumbling family unit and committed, loving marriage will be saved by allowing gays to marry.”
  • Marriage has been weakened by no-fault divorce and the general acceptance of cohabitation and adultery. Will gay marriage serve to strengthen the desire for marriage in the eyes of young heterosexual males? The mule is about to kick again.
  • The amazing thing is that people can see pretty clearly that the trends are going south, but the majority of people haven’t been convinced enough to change how they see things. Perhaps this has to be like the new “environmentalism” cause. Save the planet, go back to basics, families, values, vegetables and whole grains.

It’s not just about equal marriage. For these people, racism is just as important as sexism is just as important as homophobia: not only must same-sex couples be denied marriage, white women must be denied contraception and access to abortion, because more of the right kind of babies must be born.

On 16th November, in The Advocate, Michael Joseph Gross described an encounter with an elderly straight woman:

The night before Election Day, a black woman walked into the San Francisco headquarters of the No on Proposition 8 campaign. Someone had ripped down the No on 8 sign she’d posted in her yard and she wanted a replacement. She was old, limping, and carrying a cane. Walking up and down the stairs to this office was hard for her.

I asked why coming to get the sign was worth the trouble, and she answered, “All of us are equal, and all of us have to fight to make sure the law says that.”

Right on.

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