Catholics Working to Make “Pro-Life” Less of an Oxymoron

It’s been a busy seven days in abortion-related news, even in light of the recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A new abortion clinic is preparing to open in the space previously occupied by Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Arizona state Rep. Cathrynn Brown introduced a bill that would charge pregnant rape survivors that terminated their pregnancies with “tampering with evidence.” Reliably conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tried to make the case that focusing on pregnant women was “too simplistic” when talking about abortion. And a group of Catholic nuns, priests, and scholars spoke out about the need for Catholics that call themselves “pro-life” to support gun control.

While the Wichita news is encouraging, the Douthat op-ed unsurprising, and the Arizona news infuriating—can someone explain just why politicians in that state hate women so much?—it’s this last item that really jumped out in a crowded week. Frankly, I’m impressed that a number of high-profile Catholics are finally making it plain that if you claim to care about one aspect of life, you should logically care about all aspects.

After all, if you just care about life insofar as it exists in a woman’s uterus, that’s a pretty limited view. And that’s also not really being “pro-life”—it’s more accurately being “pro-fetus,” or “pro-birth.” Which is a very limited viewpoint, as it ignores what happens to people after they are born and able to live independently in the world. [Read more...]

People of Faith are Pro-Choice

Editor’s Note: Feminist Conversations is a regular column, where we talk to pro-choice activists from across the interwebs to find out what folks are up to in their neck of the woods.

Today we’re talking to Meghan Smith, the Domestic Program Associate for Catholics for Choice, which was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health. Meghan integrates CFC’s US policy activities and advocacy throughout the country by fostering relationships with collegial organizations and compiling legislative and policy analyses. Meghan also develops educational materials outlining CFC’s unique perspective on issues of reproductive health and rights and engages in other efforts supporting CFC’s mission at the state level. She holds a bachelor’s of arts degree in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

When did you get involved with Catholics for Choice, and what was your motivation for working with them?
When I began working for Catholics for Choice several years ago, I knew that it was an organization that perfectly complemented my upbringing and my theological and political inclinations. I grew up in rural New England, where the interplays between Catholicism and public life were as obvious as the photos of the my mother’s big Irish clan, the Pope, and the Kennedys hanging side by side on my grandparents’ walls. From union organizing to initiating an elementary school penny drive to make sure that everyone had mittens, I saw my family members living out their faith, one centered in sisterhood, compassion and social justice.
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Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Rights

Editor’s Note: Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to feminists from across the interwebs to find out what type of activism they’re engaged in, and what feminism means to them. Today we’re spotlight Marissa Valeri from Catholics for Choice. Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.

1. What was your motivation for working with Catholics for Choice?
It sounds clichéd, but this is the organization I was always meant to work for. From an early age, I knew that I was a prochoice Catholic and have constantly worked to resolve my faith with my belief in the ability of women and men to make the decisions that are best for them and their families. I was even sent to the principal’s office back in grade school for asking questions about abortion in cases of rape or incest so I knew even back then that there truly was no space for Catholics to engage in even the slightest bit of conversation on the topic of abortion and I knew that was wrong.

I started off my volunteering and marching and protesting before I dedicated myself to finding a job within the progressive community so that I could work on issues close to my heart. I enjoy the ability to help others to feel comfortable being both prochoice and Catholic and I enjoy sharing resources on our faith tradition and the support for a prochoice position within church teachings.

2. When did you first call yourself a feminist? And what inspired that decision?
I remember being a young girl and talking to my dad a lot about feminism. He was a high school teacher, and we would have these great long conversations about movements and important issues of the day since he loves to talk politics and I do as well. We had one such conversation about Geraldine Ferraro and her bid to become the first female vice president. I remembered watching her speak at the Democratic National Convention and being in awe – not quite understanding everything she said since I was just 7 years old at the time but just seeing her on the stage was a powerful visual for me. It was only afterward that the enormity of the moment hit me: not only was she a woman but Catholic and prochoice as well. It was in talking about that moment and what it meant to me personally that I realized that I truly was a feminist.
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Anti-Woman Legislation and the Rise of Christian Extremism

Thanks to Kimberly Latta for this guest post. Kimberly is a feminist writer and activist in Pittsburgh. She received her Ph.D. in English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick and her M.A. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Kimberly regularly blogs at Left Hand of Feminism.

Christian extremists have not quite taken hold of the country, but they pose an emergent, lethal threat to women, men, and children in the United States of America. They do not constitute the majority of Americans, who largely trust women to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

Nevertheless, a vocal and fiercely religious minority have gained ground in state and federal legislatures and in right-wing media conglomerates such as Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which host women-haters and homophobes on a regular basis. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that contraception is good for society, and most think that in most circumstances abortion should be legal.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes contraception, and a variety of evangelical Protestant organizations have helped to elect politicians now in national and state offices.

The legislation that these Christian extremists support would severely harm women, girls, children and men by preventing them from receiving vital STD screenings, routine gynecological care, contraception, and information about safe sex. They also present dangerous precedents for legalizing excessive government intrusion into private life.  They would allow the State to regulate human bodies as it has never done before and force women to remain pregnant, even if the pregnancy would kill them. Consider the most recent legislation that candidates supported by Christian extremists have proposed or passed in Congress:  [Read more...]