American Life League

The Anti-Abortion 'Seneca Falls'

Last weekend, about 500 anti-abortion activists — nearly all of whom were women — gathered in Dallas for what was billed as the first-ever “Pro-Life Women’s Conference.”

The event’s organizer, Abby Johnson, said that she wanted to “reclaim the narrative” of the movement, putting women at its front and including “many different groups of people,” including nonbelievers and LGBT people. She repeatedly said that the movement needs to “embrace the f-word”: feminism.

“This is our Seneca Falls, baby!” she said.

Johnson recalled speaking at a recent March For Life alongside a long line of men. “We know that the pro-life movement is led and has been led by women,” she said. “But for many years, women have sort of been leading from behind. And we haven’t done a very good job with our optics, right? So there’s photos and in the photos, it’s dudes.”

The conference came immediately before the Supreme Court rejected Texas’ attempt to limit abortion rights by regulating clinics out of existence, an effort that had been dubiously promoted as an effort to protect women’s health. The mainstream anti-abortion movement in recent years has been trying to claim that their main focus is on “protecting” women and to portray abortion as an unsafe and damaging procedure promoted by nefarious, profit-hungry organizations.

But Johnson’s conference aimed for something more: crafting a narrative that presented opposition to abortion rights as an explicitly feminist movement, one that could attract more than what she called “the traditional Christian pro-lifer.”

While Johnson said she wanted to create a unified “pro-life” message, the conflicts within the movement — and the challenge of expanding its reach — were evident even that weekend in Dallas.

Finding Common Ground With Pro-Choicers?

Several speakers at the conference — all of the speakers were women — urged the anti-abortion movement to take on issues with which they might find common ground with pro-choice feminists , including family leave policies, poverty alleviation and access to child care.

Serrin Foster, the head of Feminists for Life, said, “There are three key reasons for the feminization of poverty: Lack of education, lack of workplace accommodation and paternal support. Do that, three-fourths of the reasons that women have an abortion are over.”

She accused the abortion rights movement of giving up on these issues, saying that “by accepting pregnancy discrimination in the school and in the workplace, by accepting … the lack of support for pregnant women and parents, especially the poor, [Sarah] Weddington [the attorney who argued Roe v. Wade] and the Supreme Court betrayed women and the greatest experiment on women and children began: abortion.”

Similarly, Leah Jacobson, the president of the Guiding Star network of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, talked about the need “to look at how women’s bodies function and make sure that our employers take this into account,” including by pushing for maternity and paternity leave laws, flexible work schedules for parents, and subsidized or on-site workplace child care.

Jacobson coupled this call with a heavy dose of maternalism, alluding to the transgender bathroom debate and saying that women must live out their “motherly calling”: “Men are wonderful but women are the heart of society. We love, we connect, we empathize, we are relational. Men are very good at seeing the large picture sometimes but they don’t see the littlest of all. We need to humanize the culture as women. And so it’s so important as women we live our motherly calling even if it’s not as a physical mother.”

While issues such as expanding family leave requirements and access to child care could be an area of consensus for self-identified pro-life and pro-choice feminists — whatever their reasons for supporting them — there seemed to be little enthusiasm at the conference for working with pro-choicers on these causes.

When Johnson asked who “the abortion movement” was united behind, an audience member yelled out, “the devil!” (The answer was Planned Parenthood.)

Similarly, when Johnson read a polite form letter that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had sent in response to a request to speak at the conference — Johnson had invited all three remaining presidential candidates, but Clinton was the only one to respond — it was met with howls of laughter and derision.

While Clinton has the clearly better record on policies supporting mothers — policies that speakers like Foster and Jacobson said help dissuade women from choosing abortion — the only positive references to presidential candidates at the event were allusions to Donald Trump’s promises to pick Supreme Court justices who would roll back Roe v. Wade. Anti-choice leaders as a whole have rallied behind Trump, who besides vowing to “cherish” women and appoint anti-choice judges, has not offered any serious plans for improving the lot of women in the workforce or helping women out of poverty.

The “pro-woman” talking points, ultimately, were largely meant to further one principal policy goal: recriminalizing abortion.

Many speakers hailed the slew of abortion restrictions that have been passed in the states in recent years, while noting that they don’t go far enough.

Karen Garnett, the director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of Dallas, moderated a panel on anti-abortion politics, telling the audience, “We cannot get pro-life laws passed unless we have pro-life legislators sitting in the state houses to pass those laws and in Washington, D.C. And it’s been good that we’ve been able to get that much done. But have we ended abortion yet? No. Have we fulfilled our call yet — no — to end this? It matters — look at this, where we are, where we sit together today with this Supreme Court decision coming down tomorrow — it matters who is sitting in the Oval Office in terms of the appointments of the Supreme Court justices.”

Star Parker, a frequent speaker at Religious Right events, kept her standard pitch to conservative audiences, blaming government “safety nets” for people getting “lost” and implying that churches rather than the government should be in charge of poverty alleviation: “Maybe God was right that you’re supposed to take care of the poor, not throw them off to some government bureaucrat.”

Ending Roe, Eliminating Planned Parenthood

While some speakers made nods to policies such as paid family leave and efforts to support pregnant women on college campuses, the real political enthusiasm at the event was behind shutting down abortion clinics, defunding Planned Parenthood and eventually eliminating Roe v. Wade.

“Roe v. Wade started here in Dallas, Texas,” Johnson said, “and I believe we can end it here.”

Marilyn Musgrave, a former Republican congresswoman who is now the vice president of governmental affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, gave a speech in which she praised the House committee investigating Planned Parenthood for “kicking down the gates of hell.” She commended Texas’ restrictive legislation that was before the Supreme Court, saying that it was “going to save thousands of lives” and praying “that those abortion clinics will close down that do not meet those standards.”

During the politics panel, Texas activist Carolyn Cline held up a brick that she said was “the last brick in the lot” of an abortion clinic that had been closed by the Texas law, another acknowledgment that the law’s goal was to close clinics rather than improve safety. The law, said the Family Research Council’s Arina Grossu, was another sign that the anti-abortion movement “is winning.”

Throughout the event, Planned Parenthood was portrayed as a remorseless villain. Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who now runs a group that tries to get abortion clinic employees to quit their jobs, showed a video she had recently found from her time at the group guiding counsellors on how to speak to women who are considering abortion, which she said showed “coercion” on the part of the group.

Parker went so far as to pin America’s economic troubles on Planned Parenthood’s continued existence: “Is it any wonder things are so dark in our country? Is it any wonder our economy is still sputtering? I don’t think that God is ready to bless America right now.”

Erin Brownback, a communications consultant who has worked with a number of prominent anti-choice politicians, had a similar warning about legal abortion in the U.S., saying, “Societies throughout history that allow a culture of death are destroyed. That is historically true, you can look back at the gladiators and different groups that have not protected life and those cultures have all died.”

While the criticism of Planned Parenthood centered on its role as a legal abortion provider, there was an undercurrent at the conference about resistance to hormonal contraception, including a workshop on Natural Family Planning. American Life League, a Catholic anti-abortion group, distributed a pamphlet arguing that the birth control pill “may cause an abortion.”

One interesting trend among the women anti-abortion activists was a willingness to talk forthrightly about their opposition to rape exceptions in abortion laws, something that Musgrave’s group has trained male politicians to avoid addressing. (This was in part thanks to the prodding of Rebecca Kiessling, a “conceived in rape” activist who asked as many speakers as she could about exceptions.) Some speakers approached the subject by portraying abortion in such cases not as violence against the “unborn” but as additional violence against the woman.

Musgrave, in response to a question by Kiessling, boasted of her group’s efforts to unseat Rep. Renee Ellmers, an anti-abortion Republican who derailed a vote on a 20-week abortion ban because she was worried that its rape exception was too restrictive. SBA List opposed Ellmers, she said, “because you know what, if we had let that action go unchallenged, we would have dumbed down ‘pro-life’ to where it didn’t mean anything.”

LGBT And Secular Outreach

Johnson made a deliberate effort to expand the reach of her conference beyond what she called “the traditional Christian pro-lifer.”

The Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL) set up a table. One piece of literature the group distributed explained that the line of Supreme Court cases establishing a “right to privacy” that encompasses both reproductive rights and the rights of gays and lesbians is irrelevant because LGBT rights would have succeeded anyway without the courts. “Abortion rights will fail because, unlike gay rights, they are not the result of a democratic process but rather a brand new ‘constitutional right’ created by a court impatient with democratic changes,” it said, seemingly dismissing the importance of major court victories that furthered LGBT equality. The group shared its table with the Pro-Life Humanists, who distribute anti-abortion literature at atheist events.

Kelsey Hazzard, the head of Secular Pro-Life, gave a workshop on “reaching non-Christian, LGBT, and other minority audiences with the pro-life message.” Aimee Murphy, the director of Life Matters Journal, gave a workshop faulting both political parties for what she said was an inconsistent ethic of human rights when it comes to abortion, capital punishment, torture and war, echoing the message of some early liberal Catholic anti-abortion activists. Kristen Day, the head of Democrats for Life, spoke and sponsored a booth.

A panel of mostly young women discussing activism strategies lamented that the anti-abortion movement had alienated LGBT people and others. Kristen Hatten, the vice president of the group New Wave Feminists, said that her gay friends “don’t really feel welcome in the movement. I would love to see that change, and not just for homosexual people, but transgender people and just everybody, everybody of all colors and creeds.”

Yet some of that alienation could be seen at the conference itself. Parker railed against the “war on marriage” and the “elimination of all gender binary.” She lamented that a “war on religion” had removed “any reference to God” from schools and that Americans were sending their kids “to these cesspools we call schools and they learn secular humanism.” She urged young, anti-abortion women to become lawyers “so they can make you a judge and you can get on these courts” and reject laws that are “unlawful in God’s eyes.”

The Family Research Council, one of the most stridently anti-LGBT advocacy groups in the country, sponsored a booth.

In some cases, the embrace of LGBT and secular allies didn’t seem all that sincere. Brownback, the conservative messaging consultant, said at a breakout session how delighted she had been to talk to the representatives of LGBT and secular groups at the conference. Just weeks before, Brownback had written on Twitter that while she loves her gay friends she thinks “they are hurting themselves and society” and opined that it’s “sad to see a feminized man.”

While the event seemed to be mostly comprised of Christians, and was heavily sprinkled with references to the Bible, Johnson seemed to catch on at the end as she noted before a closing prayer that not everyone in the room would choose to participate.

Despite the presence of Democrats for Life and other nontraditional allies, there was not much suggestion of moving beyond the movement’s current alliance with fiscally conservative Republicans who resist expanding the social safety net but are on board with punitive abortion restrictions. Many speakers steered away from explicitly political topics, speaking instead about building a “culture of life” in which women choose not to terminate pregnancies. But politically, there was little question that this self-proclaimed “feminist” movement would continue to ally itself with the party of Donald Trump.

Victims And Heroes

Brownback, a former Alliance Defending Freedom employee who said that she had worked with congressional Republicans on messaging around their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and with the Texas attorney general, who brought the recent Supreme Court case, gave a crowded workshop on “Successful Pro-Life Messaging.”

She gave tips for how to connect with people on all sides of the issue. She recommended warming to pro-choicers by telling them “I hear you,” “that must be really hard” and, creatively, “you’re so pretty.” With people in the middle concerned with cases like rape and saving a woman’s life, she recommended not engaging on those issues but instead telling them that if they’re anti-abortion in 99 percent of cases, they’re anti-abortion.

Critically, she urged anti-abortion advocates to tell stories that “create the perception of a victim, a villain and a hero.”

In those stories, she said, the woman obtaining an abortion is the victim and the provider is the villain (with supporting villain roles sometimes played by overbearing boyfriends pressuring women to get abortions). “Anyone coercing women into having an abortion is in the role of the villain,” she said. “And keep in mind that a lot of times the people coercing women into having abortions are the ones who stand to financially profit from it. So that’s why we’ve talked about Planned Parenthood and we’ve talked about abortion businesses, because they are trained to sell abortions.”

“And who is the hero?” she asked. “You are the hero, your supporters are the heroes. You’re saying, here’s a victim that you have saved from this or someone that you could have saved. You are the hero, you are in that position.”

She said that she tries to bolster this image of anti-abortion heroes by taking “pictures of very attractive, beautiful, youthful people” at events and posting “a ton of them” on social media.

Brownback’s template story of the woman as a victim and the abortion provider as a villain looms large in the messaging of the anti-abortion movement. Yet not everyone at the conference was on board with characterization. Murphy said she was sick of anti-abortion literature that portrayed women as “a damsel in distress,” saying, “Let’s give them information that’s going to empower them and not play into this whole victim mindset.” Destiny De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists said, “When you make someone the hero of their own story, I think that’s very important, and I think the pro-life movement has missed an opportunity because, unfortunately, we tend to put women in the victim role a lot.”

The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public: Part 2

This is the second post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the fetal personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 1: The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice
Part 3: The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

As proponents of the “personhood” strategy to end legal abortion like to remind those who will listen, the original goal of the anti-abortion rights movement after Roe v. Wade was to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the decision. And one possible amendment — along with a dubious statutory alternative  — would have done so by defining “personhood” as starting at conception.

In the 1970s and 1980s, dozens of anti-Roe “Human Life Amendments” were introduced in Congress, containing a variety of language. Only one made it to an up-or-down vote in Congress: the “Hatch-Eagleton Amendment,” which would have simply gutted Roe by stating, “A right to abortion is not secured by this Constitution.” In June of 1983, the amendment fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment, garnering just 49 yes votes.

But there was another strategy for amending the Constitution to reverse Roe, one that rather than just returning to the states the power to regulate abortion would have overturned Roe by declaring that fetuses are "persons" protected under the Constitution. In 1976, one such amendment was put up for a test vote in the Senate, garnering only 40 votes in support.

The language of these amendments was a matter of bitter internal debate among anti-abortion rights groups. One draft amendment formulated by the National Right to Life Committee in 1974, known as the NRLC Amendment, would have declared that the word "person" in the 14th and 5th Amendments "applies to all human beings irrespective of age, health, function, or condition of dependency, including their unborn offspring at every stage of their biological development," but included a specific exemption for "medical procedures required to prevent the death of the mother."  

Some members of NRLC’s budding coalition thought the amendment didn’t go far enough to prohibit abortion, arguing that the “life of the mother” exception was too broad. Two founding members of NRLC, Judie and Paul Brown, had left the group because they perceived it as too willing to compromise and founded their own anti-choice group, the American Life League (ALL) and helped to establish the radical abortion “rescue” movement. In 1979, ALL wrote its own amendment, nicknamed the “Paramount Amendment,” which would have erased all abortion exceptions by declaring, “The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency.”

Faced with a splintering movement, NRLC held months of talks with its fellow anti-abortion groups, hoping to hammer out a Human Life Amendment that they could unify behind. In October of 1981, NRLC announced that “with tears of joy and happiness” it had “solved what formerly appeared to be an irreconcilable difference over a fundamental question: how to allow for just those abortions truly needed to prevent the death of the mother without at the same time making her right to life superior to that of her unborn child.”

NRLC’s new “Unity Amendment,” which was introduced by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina that December (and which ALL still refused to support), tightened the “life of the mother” exception by adding the stipulation that abortion would be allowed only to “prevent the death of either the pregnant woman or her unborn offspring, as long as such law requires every reasonable effort be made to preserve the life of each.”

All of these amendments failed to get off the ground, as did a novel and controversial legislative approach to achieve the same goal. In 1981, Helms and Sen. Henry Hyde introduced a bill that they claimed could overturn Roe without a constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court majority, by simply declaring that life begins “at conception.” The effect of the law, the New York Times reported at the time, would be to once again allow “states, if they choose, to prosecute abortion as murder.” President Reagan got behind the strategy, but legal scholars called the bill unconstitutional. NRLC and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to favor the constitutional amendment strategy, doubting that the Helms-Hyde bill would hold up in the courts.

By that time, however, it became clear that a constitutional amendment and the Helms-Hyde personhood bill weren’t going anywhere in Congress, and proponents had already started focusing on other strategies to turn back the tide on abortion rights.

In 1975, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops had developed a plan to turn every diocese into an anti-choice political machine and to use its existing infrastructure to set up an office in every congressional district. The bishops’ plan included a four-pronged legislative strategy, which continues to guide the anti-choice movement today:

(a) Passage of a constitutional amendment providing protection for the unborn child to the maximum degree possible.

(b) Passage of federal and state laws and adoption of administrative policies that will restrict the practice of abortion as much as possible.

(c) Continual research into and refinement and precise interpretation of Roe and Doe and subsequent court decisions.

(d) Support for legislation that provides alternatives to abortion.

In other words: fight for an amendment to undo Roe, but at the same time work through the courts and legislatures to make it harder for women to access legal abortion. While Roe would remain the law of the land, women would not be able to actually exercise their rights.

Part of this strategy involved targeting public funding for abortions. Frederick Jaffe, Barbara Lindheim and Philip Lee explained in their 1981 book "Abortion Politics":

The new strategy was outlined by RTL [Right to Life] leader Randy Engel, who urged restrictive riders on “any and all federal legislation related directly or indirectly to health,” in order to keep the abortion issue visible and build support. She argued that the efforts to win interim legislation would provide antiabortion workers with political experience, would educate the public, and would force members of Congress to go on record one way or the other. Not least important, she added, this strategy would require the forces supporting abortion rights to expend time, effort and resources in opposing riders.

One of the early victories of this strategy was the 1976 passage of the Hyde Amendment, a rider to the health and human services spending bill that prohibited Medicaid from funding abortions for low-income women. The Hyde Amendment was a victory, but it provoked yet more squabbling within the anti-abortion rights movement.

When it was first passed, the Hyde Amendment contained one exception: for abortions that could save the life of a “clearly endangered” pregnant woman. But because it was attached to a spending bill, the Hyde Amendment had to be renewed annually. The next year, after a lengthy legislative deadlock, Congress kept the exception for saving a woman’s life and added additional exceptions for ensuring a woman’s long-term health and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The 1977 compromise allowing abortion funding for rape and incest survivors — which has been modified several times since then — was a setback for anti-choice hardliners, but the anti-abortion rights movmement's leaders continue to celebrate the Hyde Amendment’s repeated renewal. In 2013, on the amendment’s anniversary, National Right to Life crowed that “over one million people are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment.”

But Daniel Becker, a longtime personhood activist and founder of the new Personhood Alliance, sees it differently. “The Hyde Amendment,” Becker wrote in his 2011 book on the personhood concept, “damaged the very fabric of our mission. No longer would the lofty rhetoric of ‘sanctity of all human life’ and ‘the personhood of the unborn’ be embodied in a strategy to achieve those protections. The prolife movement had a seat at the political table, but contented itself with crumbs.”

In 2007, the anti-choice movement achieved another seeming victory that was divisive in its own ranks. The Supreme Court, which now included George W. Bush appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, reversed a previous decision and upheld the 2003 ban on a specific procedure that the anti-choice movement had labeled “partial birth abortion.”

Linda Greenhouse wrote in the New York Times that the decision, Gonzales v. Carhart, was a “vindication” of the anti-choice movement’s strategy of pursuing a “partial birth” ban after the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey made a more sweeping victory look unfeasible: “By identifying the… procedure and giving it the provocative label ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses.”

As with the congressional fight over abortion coverage in Medicaid, abortion rights opponents hoped to use the debate over so-called “partial birth” abortion, an exceedingly rare procedure, to keep attention on their efforts to end legal abortion entirely.

But not everybody in the anti-choice movement was thrilled. In fact, the decision that was widely seen as a victory for the anti-choice movement brought into the public eye a long-simmering split in the movement.

Six weeks after Gonzales was handed down, a coalition of anti-abortion groups, including the Colorado chapter of National Right to Life, took out a full-page ad in newspapers around the country attacking Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for supporting the ruling.

One Denver pastor in the group, Bob Enyart, accused mainstream pro-life groups of fundraising off a strategy that “has no authority to prevent a single abortion” because other procedures could be used in place of the banned operation. Colorado Right to Life President Brian Rohrbough told the Washington Post, “What happened in the abortion world is that groups like National Right to Life, they're really a wing of the Republican Party, and they're not geared to push for personhood for an unborn child — they're geared to getting Republicans elected. So we're seeing these ridiculous laws like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban put forward, and then we're deceived about what they really do."

As the Post noted, NRLC’s detractors started referring to the group as the “pro-life industry” — a term intentionally reminiscent of the anti-choice movement’s “abortion industry” epithet for abortion providers, implying that those groups had sold out and cared more about their fundraising than their mission. (Several years later, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia was using similar rhetoric to question the group’s motives.)

A week later, leaders of Colorado Right to Life confronted the board of NRLC at its annual meeting, attacking its “immoral and failed anti-abortion strategy.” Enyart told the board, in a speech secretly recorded by Colorado Right to Life:

We’ve provided cover to pro-choice politicians, even Democrats, who would say, ‘I’m not an extremist, I supported the partial-birth abortion ban.’ We wasted 15 years while 20 million kids — 20 million kids — have died. We’ve spent a quarter of a billion dollars as an industry for a ban that does not have the authority to save one life. You guys are worried about what’s growing in Colorado. I’ll tell you what’s growing in Washington, D.C. It’s called the abortion weed. Child-killing regulations — that’s what National Right to Life is really good at — child-killing regulations prune the abortion weed and sanction its root.

National Right to Life promptly voted to kick the Colorado group out of the organization. Colorado Right to Life then hired an Abraham Lincoln impersonator to accost conference-goers with a revised version of the Gettysburg Address: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...no exceptions!"

It was around this time that the “personhood” strategy began to see a national reemergence in the public eye, and along with it a legal theory that had long been dismissed even by leaders in the anti-choice movement.

The next post in this series will look at the debate within the anti-choice movement on how to best confront Roe v. Wade in the courts.

Right Wing Leftovers - 4/4/14

  • FRC's Tony Perkins was on hand as Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a new Arizona-like "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" into law during a private ceremony.
  • Don Feder lays out the "10 Pillars of Patriotism."
  • Judie Brown, founder of American Life League, is outraged that President Obama gave a rosary blessed by the Pope to Nancy Pelosi: "I'm horrified, because as a Catholic, I think it's sacrilegious for someone like Pelosi – who is allegedly a Catholic – to accept anything from a pro-abortion president, but specifically when it is a rosary. It's a sacrilege for the president to have given it to anybody or to have accepted it in the first place. He has no faith."
  • You have been warned: "Without Revival, Our Civilization Will Become Like Sodom and Gomorrah."
  • Finally, Stuart Shepard blames groups like PFAW for an incident in which a little girl was allegedly told that she could not pray before lunch, even though the entire thing was false and ginned up by Todd Starnes.

Right Wing Leftovers - 3/24/14

  • Bill Donohue has bravely refused to march in a gay pride parade because organizers expected him to follow the rules.
  • The American branch of the Christian ministry World Vision has announced a policy change that "will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed" at the organization.
  • Matt Barber trots out the tired old threat from the Religious Right to leave the GOP if the party abandons social issues.
  • An easy guide to "4 Ways to Tell If Your Dream Is From God."
  • Finally, Catholic nuns who support Obamacare have "filled themselves up so much with their own immoral agendas that they've left absolutely no room for Christ."

Anti-Choice Columnist Calls Out Fellow Religious Right Activists For Israel Hypocrisy

Religious Right activists often claim that they will never be silent about “Nazi” abortion rights …that is, unless those rights exist in Israel. We noted last week that Israel’s decision to expand public funding for abortion coverage was met with crickets from many American anti-choice groups that also embrace Christian Zionism and accuse President Obama of being unfriendly to Israel.

These organizations, of course, would have erupted with rage if the Obama administration had even contemplated implementing a similar policy.

In a column today, a writer at the conservative Catholic website Aleteia calls out U.S abortion rights opponents for responding to Israel’s new policy “with little comment or condemnation,” wondering if they either “missed the story” or think “abortion in Israel just doesn’t matter.”

Aleteia’s Mark Gordon writes that in order to be consistent, the same anti-choice movement that demands a ban on government funds for abortion coverage and groups like Planned Parenthood in the U.S. should also call for the end of U.S. aid to Israel: “American taxpayers should not be put in the position of underwriting the culture of death. But if that’s true of Obamacare – and it is – then shouldn’t it be true for American foreign aid?”

American pro-life and pro-family groups responded to the December announcement with little comment or condemnation. Lifesitenews.com chose to run an anodyne report on the policy change, but not editorialize. The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), whose mission is to “defend life and family at international institutions and to publicize the debate,” had nothing to say. The same was true for National Right to Life, Priests for Life, the American Life League and most others.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, head of Americans United for Life, did note in a statement that “Unborn lives are rich with possibilities and worth saving and government should never be used to harm life and harm women.” The Family Research Council’s Arina Grossu agreed, saying, “No government should invest its money into killing its own citizens.” She also predicted that Israeli government funding would only result in more abortions in that country.” On the other hand, Liberty Counsel, “an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family,” told its members on January 9, “there has never been a more critical time for you to show your support to Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu!” Either someone at Liberty Counsel missed the story or abortion in Israel just doesn’t matter.

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, declined to comment, but perhaps that’s understandable. In addition to his pro-life work, Smith is a charter member of the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF). Formed in 2006, IAF is a kind of institutional link between the US Congress and the Israeli Knesset. Smith, a Catholic, is also the House sponsor of a wonderful bill titled “The Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2013.” The measure is intended introduce much-needed transparency to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. If passed, Smith’s bill would force insurers to notify their insured whether abortion is or isn’t covered, and whether any surcharges or other fees are used to pay for abortions. In presenting his bill, Smith wrote, “Obamacare’s abortion mandate violates federal law and makes taxpayers complicit in the culture of death.”

Smith is right, of course. American taxpayers should not be put in the position of underwriting the culture of death. But if that’s true of Obamacare – and it is – then shouldn’t it be true for American foreign aid? Israel receives about $3 billion each year from American taxpayers. About 74% of that is returned to the United States in the form of contracts with American weapons manufacturers. But given the fungible nature of money, and since Israel would buy weapons with money from its own treasury in the absence of aid, the current arrangement amounts to American funding of Israeli abortions.

Right Wing Leftovers - 7/1/13

  • Despite Tony Perkins’ claim that the tide has turned against gay rights, a USA Today poll released today found that 55% of Americans back marriage equality. 
  • Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Huelskamp has officially reintroduced the Federal Marriage Amendment. 
  • Concerned Women for America warns that if gay marriage becomes legal then “the meaning of those sacred [marriage] vows are [sic] no longer there.” 
  • Matt Barber says he is prepared to go to jail or die to fight gay rights. 
  • James Robison fears that “quoting the Bible concerning homosexuality could soon be illegal.” 
  • Judy Brown of the American Life League claims contraception, abortion rights and gay marriage are all part a growing “tide of indescribable evil.” 
  • Oliver North is worried that “the military being used as lab rats in a radical series of social experiments on the part of this administration.” 
  • The Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor thinks children are “abused” by the New Yorker’s Bert & Ernie cover.

Troy Newman: Abortion Rights Responsible for NSA Spying

Did you realize that the decriminalization of abortion is responsible for the creation of the NSA surveillance program? According to Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, because “killing children in the womb is a constitutional right,” there are now “no civil rights in this country” and “everything else can be stripped away from us.”

Newman told LifeSiteNews this weekend that he hopes that President Obama will be impeached over the program and that “the people who are monitoring my conversations will be impacted and turned to life.”

The American Life League’s Jim Sedlak had a similar take, arguing that the NSA program might be targeting groups like his that oppose Planned Parenthood.

Newman linked the administration’s disregard for the most vulnerable human life with its apparent disregard for privacy rights, saying, “If killing children in the womb is a constitutional right, then we have no civil rights in this country. Everything else can be stripped away from us. So, this ought not surprise anyone.”

But just because Newman is not surprised by the government’s spying does not mean he doesn’t want to see the people responsible punished.

Asked what he thinks is the proper response to the news of the NSA’s intelligence gathering efforts centered on ordinary Americans, Newman said, “I think Obama should be impeached.” “I think half of Congress should be thrown out,” he said. “We should fire everybody in the NSA, the heads of the FBI, the CIA, and force everybody to take a basic course on constitutional liberties.”

He admitted such an outcome was unlikely but nonetheless warranted.

Jim Sedlak of American Life League compared the NSA’s tactics to those used in dictatorships and communist countries. He told LifeSiteNews.com that such practices have no place in a free nation.

“We’ve been concerned the the [sic] government would try to regulate speech,” Sedlak said, “and that’s what listening in does, is it tries to put a fear in so that people will be hesitant to say what they really believe.”

“There’s no place for this in the United States of America,” he said. “ They do this in other countries, you know; if you’re in a Middle East country and speaking in the backyard to your neighbor and you say something against the government, you wind up in jail.”

Sedlak said that because his group is on Planned Parenthood’s list of top 15 “anti-choice” organizations, and because President Obama is very closely tied to the abortion giant, he wouldn’t be surprised if they were targeted by the administration for monitoring. But he said the threat of retribution wouldn’t stop him or his group from speaking up for unborn babies.

“What we’re going to do is, we going to do our work,” Sedlak told LifeSiteNews. “We’re going to speak out when we need to speak out, we’re going to write what we need to write in order to get our work done, and trust that if we do the right thing and we do it for the right purpose, which is God’s purpose, God will take care of us.”

He vowed, “We will not be intimidated.”

Newman went one step further, saying that he hopes the government not only listens to but thinks about the words he is saying. “I’m not going to do anything differently,” he said. “I hope that the people who are monitoring my conversations will be impacted and turned to life.”

American Life League: Excommunicate Catholic Democrats for Being Under 'Demonic Deceit'

American Life League founder Judie Brown says that the Roman Catholic Church must drive out pro-choice and pro-gay equality Catholics from the church because they are under “demonic deceit.”

She argues that Catholic Democrats such as the late Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius advocate “anti-Christian” positions such as the decriminalization of abortion and “anti-family militant homosexuality and the destruction of marriage.”

“As the faithful watch the accelerated destruction of morality in America and the Henry the VIII style tactics of the attempted destruction of Catholicism in America by Obama and his ‘Catholic’ drones, one wonders where most of America’s bishops are,” Brown laments, “Why have these high-profile destructive Catholics not been publically rebuked?”

This nation’s moral decline is astounding not only because it has been a relatively swift slide, but more importantly because Catholics have taken leading roles in bringing about the decline.

Until the time of his death, Ted Kennedy was, for years, the most influential U.S. politician advocating an anti-Christian moral culture in America. While doing so he experienced good personal relations, if not admiration, from many American Catholic prelates.

Catholic vice president Joe Biden first took public office in 1972. Since the decriminalization of abortion in 1973, Mr. Biden has supported every major effort to protect and expand abortion in America. Most recently Mr. Biden has become a proponent of the destruction of the covenant of marriage by redefining it to suit the winds of the day which favor so-called same-sex marriage.

Nancy Pelosi, Catholic congresswoman and a graduate of Catholic Trinity Washington University, has been a consistently fierce opponent of life. She has worked doggedly to expand the “right” to abortion in America and to enshrine contraception and sterilization as the force de jure on America’s employers—including the Church. She is also a staunch advocate of forcing the acceptance of anti-family militant homosexuality and the destruction of marriage as “human rights” in America.

Catholic Kathleen Sebelius, as the head of Health and Human Services, is singularly responsible for wreaking upon the American Catholic faithful her Planned Parenthood “HHS” mandate that dictates that all employers pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception for their employees. Kathleen Sebelius is also a graduate of Catholic Trinity Washington University.

As the faithful watch the accelerated destruction of morality in America and the Henry the VIII style tactics of the attempted destruction of Catholicism in America by Obama and his “Catholic” drones, one wonders where most of America’s bishops are.

Why have these high-profile destructive Catholics not been publically rebuked? In fact, why did this not happen years or even decades ago? To cut right to the heart of the matter, why haven’t each of these hypocrites been publically and unequivocally excommunicated?

This near total absence of effective rebuke and call to accountability from the shepherds has created a perception that “American Catholics” are free to support intrinsic evils as “civil rights” because Catholic teachings, in their view, are subjective and arbitrary.

How many millions of people have bought into this demonic deceit and, in the process, jeopardized their souls? And where are the bishops who should risk life and limb in the defense of our Church? Why haven’t they, in a united fashion, rebuked the deceivers and championed Christ and His truth at all costs?

With only a few exceptions, they are hardly to be found.



They have far too long allowed deception and deceit without consequence and at great cost to the faithful. Now the “Catholics” who have perpetrated great public scandal and harm are looking to devour the weak shepherds and their flocks through mandates, dictates, and the total deconstruction of morality in America.

This dire situation reminds me of the biblical account in the Gospel of Mark when Christ confronts an evil spirit that has possessed a man. He commands the spirit to depart, which it does with great violence and screeching. Witnessing this, Christ’s disciples ask why they could not drive out the demon. Christ responds: “This kind can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.”

I believe the current situation in America falls into the same category. A demon of despair and compromise has afflicted a majority of our Catholic bishops, and in response faithful Catholics must pray and fast.

Therefore, I am encouraging every faithful Catholic to pray and fast for our bishops. Pray that God raises up more heroic souls who will help defend and reclaim the truth of Christ through decisive action.

Pray that each bishop will be touched by the Holy Spirit, on fire with a renewal of commitment to Christ and an active desire to abandon everything else in order to defend Christ and His Church from sacrilege—even unto death if that be God’s will.

Right-Wing Groups Protest Desmond Tutu's Appearance at Gonzaga University

After failing in their attempt to block President Obama from speaking at Notre Dame University, far-right activists are now trying to stop Desmond Tutu from appearing at Gonzaga University, a Jesuit institution. Tutu, an Anglican bishop who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing down South Africa’s Apartheid government, is coming under fire from right-wing organizations protesting his views on legal abortion and “affirmation of the homosexual agenda.” The conservative website LifeSiteNews reports that two Catholic groups, the American Life League and TFP Student Action, the political arm of the American Society for Tradition Family and Property, want Gonzaga to rescind its invitation to Archbishop Tutu. TFP Student Action’s director John Ritchie said Gonzaga’s “shameful” decision has “tarnished” its reputation:

Observers are asking why a Catholic university in Spokane would invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to address its graduating class considering his decades-long record of supporting abortion, homosexuality, female ordination, theological liberalism, and collectivist economic theories condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.



Tutu has posed for a picture on behalf of and endorsed the “invaluable work” of Marie Stopes International, the world’s largest abortion provider. The endorsement, which was discovered by pro-life activist Peter Thorp as he logged one of his more than 1,200 hours of prayer in front of the Cape Town abortion clinic, praises Marie Stopes South Africa for “empowering people” and “giving people the opportunity to make informed decisions about their future and a choice.”



Why should someone who doesn’t even respect the most basic Right to Life be honored at a Catholic university?” asked John Ritchie, director of TFP Student Action, a group that actively promotes the Catholic faith on college campuses. “The invitation is mind-boggling and shameful.”

“The Catholic reputation of Gonzaga University is tarnished by this invitation,” Ritchie said.

Tutu has also been outspoken in his affirmation of the homosexual agenda. “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God,” he has said. Tutu has also said he was “saddened” and “ashamed” of the negative reaction to the ordination of the openly homosexual Vicki Gene Robinson as an Episcopal bishop in 2003. Six years later, he supported the Church of Scotland’s decision to ordain non-celibate homosexuals.

“On an international scale, Desmond Tutu opposes Catholic teaching on just about every non-negotiable moral issue,” Ritchie told LifeSiteNews. “He’s a strident supporter of abortion, contraception, the homosexual agenda, and Marxist class warfare.”

The American Life League noted in The Pro-Life Encyclopedia that Tutu once said, “I am a Socialist. I hate capitalism.” However, in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, Pope Pius XI wrote, “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.” A series of Popes have rejected Marxist economic theories.



“There’s still time for Gonzaga to cancel and replace Tutu’s appearance for a true Catholic leader, a real role model, a person students can admire and look up to,” Ritchie said. “However, in this case, the dictatorship of relativism seems to be getting the upper hand. If the event takes place, the cause of the unborn will greatly suffer. And who will gain? Only the abortion lobby.”

Religious Right Groups Plan Rallies to 'Stop the HHS Mandate'

Conservative organizations are planning to hold rallies on March 23rd across the country to “Stand up for Religious Freedom” and “Stop the HHS Mandate” on contraception coverage. Members of the new coalition include the Alliance Defense Fund, American Life League, Christian Defense Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Operation Rescue, Thomas More Society and various anti-choice groups, and they seek to organize demonstrations “outside federal buildings, Congressional offices and historic sites across the country.” In a statement responding to a conciliatory move by the administration which ensures that religious-based organizations won’t have to pay directly for contraceptives, rally organizers doubled down on their criticisms of the Obama administration and said that they are against the insurance mandate’s impact on “all businesses—not just religious institutions”:

"With their March 16 statement, President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius are once again pretending to accommodate employers' conscientious objections to their HHS Mandate. The accounting tricks they're proposing are nothing but smoke and mirrors. At the end of the day, employers are still forced to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans," said Eric Scheidler, co-director of the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies across the United States.



We protest the federal government's definition of what constitutes a religious institution through the narrowly constructed "exemption" to the HHS Mandate, a definition which is both false and beyond the federal government's authority to make.

We protest the fact that religious institutions, even after President Obama's so-called "accommodation," are being forced to facilitate contraception, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs through the health plans they are mandated to provide.

We protest the Mandate forcing all businesses -- not just religious institutions -- to provide coverage of contraception, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, if even doing so violates their own moral convictions on these matters.

We protest the HHS Mandate because, in requiring all health plans to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as "preventative care," it treats pregnancy and childbirth as a disease.
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