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Why women didn’t need Roe to get ahead: An interview with the head of Secular Pro-Life

October 12, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pro-life feminists participate at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

This December, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many legal experts say it presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

Kelsey Hazzard, an attorney and the founder and president of the group Secular Pro-Life, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s pro-life law. The brief argues that women’s “social, economic, and political opportunities” were already increasing before Roe, and that abortion is not necessary for women’s socioeconomic success 

The following is a transcript of CNA’s interview with Hazzard. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about yourself. What is your personal and faith background? How did you come to the place where you are professionally?

I grew up attending a United Methodist church, which is officially a “pro-choice” denomination. Abortion was never discussed, from the pulpit or anywhere else. As a result, the pro-life position was not framed as “religious” for me. Once I was old enough to understand what abortion was, I came to the pro-life movement simply by applying my general values, e.g. sticking up for the “little guy.” When I left Christianity for unrelated reasons (it just stopped making sense to me), my pro-life position was unaffected because it was always secular. 

Professionally, I am a lawyer in private practice; my pro-life advocacy is 100% volunteer. I earned my B.A. at the University of Miami and my J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law, and held leadership roles in the pro-life student organizations for each [university].

The amicus brief lays out an argument that, contrary to the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement and, in fact, has hurt women. Can you walk me through the brief’s argument and evidence?

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said that even if Roe was wrong, it couldn’t correct its deadly error because American women had come to rely upon abortion for their professional advancement. This is the infamous “reliance interest.” And yet in the decades since Casey, abortion rates have plummeted dramatically while women have enjoyed ever-increasing gains in the workplace. Forget “correlation does not equal causation”—they don’t even have correlation! 

As a professional woman myself, the fact that the highest court in the land attributes my success to the mass slaughter of preborn babies fills me with disgust. That is the polar opposite of my values, and I deserve credit for my own hard work. 

How did it come about that you signed the amicus brief in this case?

One of Secular Pro-Life’s board members heard about the pro-life feminist brief in progress from another signatory, and we jumped on it!

Have you signed amicus briefs in similar cases in the past? If not, why was this case different for you?

This was my first opportunity to join an amicus brief. 

Many are saying this case has a chance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Do you agree?

Yes, it does! 

Have you always considered yourself to be pro-life, or was there a moment or event that convinced you of the position?

I can’t point to a moment. I’ve been pro-life ever since I heard about abortion.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions or myths about the pro-life position that you encounter in your professional environment?

That we’re all Trump supporters, that we’re all Bible thumpers, that we’re all… anything, really, is a myth! Our movement is incredibly diverse.

Do you ever feel you are treated differently from others because you are a pro-life woman? In the pro-life movement, do you feel as though you are treated differently due to your atheism? 

The pro-life movement has welcomed me with open arms. In my experience, women are the majority of engaged pro-life advocates. Pro-life female leadership is commonplace and unremarkable. Pro-life atheism is less common statistically – according to Pew, religiously unaffiliated people are about 12% of abortion opponents in the United States – but most religious pro-lifers welcome the collaboration.   

We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science.” Do you face this accusation often? If so, how do you respond? 

Pro-life is pro-science. The pro-choice movement has become almost a caricature of itself at this point. I mean, talking about “cardiac activity” or “flutters” to avoid saying “heartbeat”? Come on. 

That said, I think the “clump of cells” talking point is on its way out; the truth is just too difficult to avoid. Instead it’s the ad hominem attacks taking the lead: “you hate women,” “you don’t care about kids after they’re born,” that sort of thing.

What is it like leading an organization of secular pro-lifers? How do you counter the “get your rosaries off my ovaries” criticism? 

Leading an organization of secular pro-lifers is an honor, and also reminiscent of herding cats. Secular Pro-Life has become a home not only for pro-life atheists and agnostics, but also for members of minority religious groups like Wiccans, Mormons, Muslims, and more liberal Christians who don’t fit the “religious right” label. 

I’ve gotten to meet people from all walks of life. It’s really emphasized for me how unique every human being is – and how great a loss the world experiences with every abortion.   

What do you hope for the future of the pro-life movement? How can other faithful women support your efforts?

We must remember that success in Dobbs is only the beginning. I worry that people will get complacent, thinking that reversal of Roe was the goal. No: saving lives is the goal.  The post-Roe abortion industry is not going to accept defeat quietly. They are going to enact ever more extreme laws in pro-abortion states. They are already trying chemical-abortion-by-mail schemes. Increasingly, abortion advocates dehumanize not only children in the womb, but their defenders as well. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Is there anything you would like the pro-life movement, or pro-life people in general, to try to improve on, especially as the possibility of a post-Roe country becomes more and more likely?

Pro-lifers have spent decades building up an infrastructure of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and other support systems for pregnant mothers in crisis. We need to continue that investment and also do a much better job of advertising what is already out there. 

What good is a scholarship for pregnant students if the candidate who needs it doesn’t hear about it? 

More broadly, we need to fix the mainstream media’s capture by pro-abortion interests, so pro-life efforts to help needy families can get fair coverage.


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News Briefs

On transgenderism: Common ground, and real differences, between Catholics and radical feminists

December 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Dec 31, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- This article is the second part of Mary Farrow’s two-part series on the Church, gender-critical feminists, and transgender ideology. Part one can be found here.

In their efforts to teach the truth in the face of the transgender ideology, Catholics are finding an unlikely ally: trans-exclusionary, or “gender critical,” feminists, who say the transgender movement hurts women.

But while there are some points of common ground between Catholics and gender critical feminists, there are also important points of disagreement, even on the issue of what gender is.

One point of unity between the Church and trans-exclusionary radical feminists is agreement that the growing transgender movement is especially dangerous to children, who will often outgrow feelings of gender dysphoria naturally, or are led to believe their gender differs from their biological sex simply because they have atypical toy preferences for their biological sex.

“We agree that children should not be subjected to medical experimentation by doctors who profit from ‘affirming’ children, especially girls, in transgender or non-binary identities” in ever-increasing numbers, Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and director of the Catholic Women’s Forum, told CNA.

Kara Dansky, a board member of the Women’s Liberation Front, agreed, telling CNA that children going through the typically-turbulent time of puberty deserve care and guidance, but not medical treatments that could cause them permanent harm.

“A child who is confused about her or his sex definitely deserves compassion and care and guidance to understanding that they’re not born in the wrong body. Their body is fine just the way that it is (barring physical, medical ailments that should be treated appropriately), but we’re all born in the bodies that we’re born in,” she said.

“And we need to learn how to love ourselves physically and emotionally,” Dansky added. “So any child who is struggling to figure out what sex they are really needs caring, compassion and concern and guidance, but not sterilization and mutilation.”

Hasson said she hopes parents are aware of how the growing transgender movement is “radically reshaping how our children understand themselves and others, in ways that are incompatible with Christian beliefs. We need to be compassionate and kind to those who embrace transgender ideology, but we must be wise, and educate and guard ourselves – and our children- against the lies it proposes.”

On Causes, churches, and homophobia

On the causes of transgenderism, feminists and Catholics have both points of agreement and of disagreement.

Feminist Mary Kate Fain, who grew up in a conservative Evangelical church and community, said she thinks that in some cases, an overly rigid take on gender roles has contributed to the rise in the transgender phenomenon. For example, she said that feminists have long fought the gender norm that the only way to be a woman is to desire to stay home, cook in the kitchen, and raise children.

Feminists have argued that women can partake in any role in society that she wishes, Fain said.

But today, she said, a pervasive social message has become: “If you want to stay at home, work in the kitchen, and be feminine, have children, then you must be a woman. And therefore, if you don’t want to do any combination of these things, you must not be a woman.”

Fain also said that from her perspective, some communities with rigid gender roles also speak about homosexuality in particularly negative or disparaging ways. That can lead children in these communities who experience same-sex attractions to believe they were born in the wrong body, Fain believes.

She added that she has friends from such communities who, upon experiencing same-sex attractions, choose to identify as transgender or non-binary (neither male nor female), rather than face the stigma of identifying as gay or lesbian.

“We’re seeing this new ‘trans-the-gay-away’ movement happening, and people think that it’s progressive, when in reality this is happening in some of the most conservative areas across the globe,” Fain said.

“It’s happening in Iran where the government outlaws homosexuality on pain of death, but they’re paying for homosexual people to transition in order to no longer be gay. Then we see it in the United States, where the most red states are where you have the highest rates of transgenderism, and it’s no wonder that this is deeply linked to homophobia,” Fain said.

But Hasson cautioned against the assertion that homophobia in Christian and conservative churches is a significant contributor to the rise in transgenderism in youth. She said the assumption that most Christian churches with a biblical view of homosexuality are homophobic is unfair.

“I can’t speak to the views of ‘conservative’ or ‘evangelical’ churches as such. But I can say that those who adhere to biblical morality, like Catholics who adhere to Catholic teaching, are frequently charged with being ‘homophobic’ because they believe that homosexual sexual activity is wrong, or that the homosexual inclination is not what God intended, because sexual desire should be ‘ordered’ rightly towards the opposite sex,” Hasson said.

“So there’s an unfortunate tendency for those who identify as gay or lesbian to cry ‘homophobia’ when a Church teaches against same-sex sexual relationships or behavior,” she noted.

Hasson said most churches today that teach a biblical view of sexuality do so with the distinction of the action and the person. – the Church’s rejection of homosexual acts is not a rejection of the person, but of the act of sexual relations outside of marriage, which the Church holds is only possible between a man and a woman. 

“But there are a significant number, including Catholic churches, that rightly reject the expression of sexuality towards a same-sex partner (which is always outside of marriage, as understood by the Church). We need to push back on the left’s talking point that Catholic teaching is by definition ‘homophobic.’”

Furthermore, Hasson said, she doubts the assertion because Christian parents by and large would not prefer that their children be transgender instead of homosexual, as both transgenderism and homosexuality go against God’s plan for human sexuality.

“…conservative churches and evangelicals who are against homosexual behavior are generally not going to accept assertions of a trans-identity,” Hasson said.

“They both involve deviations from God’s explicit design, plus no parent would prefer a trans-identity over a same-sex attraction issue with a child, given the chemical castration and surgical interventions that are becoming commonplace ‘treatments’ for identity confusion.”

Hasson acknowledged that there are some fringe Christian communities that could be perpetuating truly homophobic attitudes. She also added that she is aware of a small subculture of Catholics who hold overly-rigid gender roles, such as that women shouldn’t wear pants and are not capable or fit to hold jobs outside the home.

“I think it’s not healthy when someone does that and that strain of Catholicism is nothing new,” Hasson said, though she added that the sliver of truth there is that there is a different between men and women, and there are certain social cues used to distinguish between men and women that vary from culture to culture.

“Within that narrow slice, my sense is that someone who’s growing up and feels constrained, if they feel some sort of weight of conscience like – ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m being a terrible woman,’ – they’re also going to be getting a message that there are men or women,” Hasson said.

She said she didn’t necessarily see how someone who failed to fit into rigid gender stereotypes would then assume that they were actually a different biological sex.

“The most fundamental thing is whether you are a female, and that just doesn’t change,” she said.

“And the fact that someone has put you in a box as to how to express that, it would take quite a leap of logic or something to talk that around and say, ‘Oh, that means I must be the opposite sex,’ when everything else that you would be taught in that same environment would say, ‘No, you are one sex or another.’ And your body tells you that. And science tells you that.”

First-person voices

A growing number of people who were given medical treatments to transition their gender, and then regretted it, are now speaking out against the push to medically treat minors with gender dysphoria.

Keira Bell, a 23 year-old woman in the UK, has recently joined a lawsuit against the gender clinic that began her gender transition when she was 16 and wanted to be a male.

At 16, Bell was given hormone blockers to stunt her development as a female, and then was given male hormones. Bell said the treatments gave her symptoms of menopause, depleted her sex drive and weakened her bones, and may have rendered her infertile. At the age of 20, the National Health Service paid for a surgery that removed her breasts, the Daily Mail reported.

It was not long after the surgery that Bell started to question her gender transition. She told the Daily Mail that she felt “stuck” between male and female, and that she didn’t feel she fit with either gender. At the age of 22, she decided to detransition back to female, and to fight giving such treatments to other young people. She said she felt like a “guinea pig” that was experimented on by the gender clinic, without much thought given as to how the treatments would affect her life in the long-term.

Bell is now considered a key witness in a high-profile case against Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the gender clinic where she had gone for treatments. The lawsuit was brought against the clinic by a psychiatric nurse formerly employed at the clinic, who is arguing in the suit that children are not capable of consenting to the powerful and experimental puberty blockers and hormones being prescribed to them.

Bell is just one of many people – many of them women – who are speaking out after having gone through experimental gender transitioning treatments as minors and who are now in the process of detransitioning.

Charlie Evans, a 28 year-old woman living in the UK, is in the process of detransitioning after identifying as trans since her teenage years. After sharing her story, Evans was contacted by so many men and women who regretted their gender transitions that she was inspired to found The Detransition Advocacy Network, a non-profit that seeks to support men and women who regret their gender transitions.

Evans told The Telegraph that she attributes her own desire to transition as a young person to abuse that she suffered outside of her family, that made her hate her own body so much that she wanted to cut parts of it off. That experience seems to be common among the people who contact her Detransition network, she added.

“…you can’t be born in the wrong body – it’s our minds that need treatment, not our sex,” Evans said.

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 13, 2020.


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