Warning from Canada

Dawn Stefanowicz

Contributed by Dawn Stefanowicz

Americans need to understand that the endgame of the LGBT rights movement involves centralized state power—and the end of First Amendment freedoms.

I am one of six adult children of gay parents who recently filed amicus briefs with the US Supreme Court, asking the Court to respect the authority of citizens to keep the original definition of marriage: a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, so that children may know and may be raised by their biological parents. I also live in Canada, where same-sex marriage was federally mandated in 2005.

I am the daughter of a gay father who died of AIDS. I described my experiences in my book: Out From Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting. Over fifty adult children who were raised by LGBT parents have communicated with me and share my concerns about same-sex marriage and parenting. Many of us struggle with our own sexuality and sense of gender because of the influences in our household environments growing up.

We have great compassion for people who struggle with their sexuality and gender identity—not animosity. And we love our parents. Yet, when we go public with our stories, we often face ostracism, silencing, and threats.

I want to warn America to expect severe erosion of First Amendment freedoms if the US Supreme Court mandates same-sex marriage. The consequences have played out in Canada for ten years now, and they are truly Orwellian in nature and scope.

Canada’s Lessons

In Canada, freedoms of speech, press, religion, and association have suffered greatly due to government pressure. The debate over same-sex marriage that is taking place in the United States could not legally exist in Canada today. Because of legal restrictions on speech, if you say or write anything considered “homophobic” (including, by definition, anything questioning same-sex marriage), you could face discipline, termination of employment, or prosecution by the government.

Why do police prosecute speech under the guise of eliminating “hate speech” when there are existing legal remedies and criminal protections against slander, defamation, threats, and assault that equally apply to all Americans? Hate-crime-like policies using the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” create unequal protections in law, whereby protected groups receive more legal protection than other groups.

Having witnessed how mob hysteria in Indiana caused the legislature to back-track on a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, many Americans are beginning to understand that some activists on the Left want to usher in state control over every institution and freedom. In this scheme, personal autonomy and freedom of expression become nothing more than pipe dreams, and children become commodified.

Children are not commodities that can be justifiably severed from their natural parentage and traded between unrelated adults. Children in same-sex households will often deny their grief and pretend they don’t miss a biological parent, feeling pressured to speak positively due to the politics surrounding LGBT households. However, when children lose either of their biological parents because of death, divorce, adoption, or artificial reproductive technology, they experience a painful void. It is the same for us when our gay parent brings his or her same-sex partner(s) into our lives. Their partner(s) can never replace our missing biological parent.

The State as Ultimate Arbiter of Parenthood

Over and over, we are told that “permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not deprive anyone of any rights.” That is a lie.

When same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005, parenting was immediately redefined.Canada’s gay marriage law, Bill C-38, included a provision to erase the term “natural parent” and replace it across the board with gender-neutral “legal parent” in federal law. Now all children only have “legal parents,” as defined by the state. By legally erasing biological parenthood in this way, the state ignores children’s foremost right: their immutable, intrinsic yearning to know and be raised by their own biological parents.

Mothers and fathers bring unique and complementary gifts to their children. Contrary to the logic of same-sex marriage, the gender of parents matters for the healthy development of children. We know, for example, that the majority of incarcerated men did not have their fathers in the home. Fathers by their nature secure identity, instill direction, provide discipline, boundaries, and risk-taking adventures, and set lifelong examples for children. But fathers cannot nurture children in the womb or give birth to and breast-feed babies. Mothers nurture children in unique and beneficial ways that cannot be duplicated by fathers.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that men and women are anatomically, biologically, physiologically, psychologically, hormonally, and neurologically different from each other. These unique differences provide lifelong benefits to children that cannot be duplicated by same-gender “legal” parents acting out different gender roles or attempting to substitute for the missing male or female role model in the home.

In effect, same-sex marriage not only deprives children of their own rights to natural parentage, it gives the state the power to override the autonomy of biological parents, which means parental rights are usurped by the government.

Hate Tribunals Are Coming

In Canada, it is considered discriminatory to say that marriage is between a man and a woman or that every child should know and be raised by his or her biological married parents. It is not just politically incorrect in Canada to say so; you can be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, fined, and forced to take sensitivity training.

Anyone who is offended by something you have said or written can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals. In Canada, these organizations police speech, penalizing citizens for any expression deemed in opposition to particular sexual behaviors or protected groups identified under “sexual orientation.” It takes only one complaint against a person to be brought before the tribunal, costing the defendant tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The commissions have the power to enter private residences and remove all items pertinent to their investigations, checking for hate speech.

The plaintiff making the complaint has his legal fees completely paid for by the government. Not so for the defendant. Even if the defendant is found innocent, he cannot recover his legal costs. If he is found guilty, he must pay fines to the person(s) who brought forth the complaint.

If your beliefs, values, and political opinions are different from the state’s, you risk losing your professional license, job, or business, and even your children. Look no further than the Lev Tahor Sect, an Orthodox Jewish sect. Many members, who had been involved in a bitter custody battle with child protection services, began leaving Chatham, Ontario, for Guatemala in March 2014, to escape prosecution for their religious faith, which conflicted with the Province’s guidelines for religious education. Of the two hundred sect members, only half a dozen families remain in Chatham.

Parents can expect state interference when it comes to moral values, parenting, and education—and not just in school. The state has access into your home to supervise you as the parent, to judge your suitability. And if the state doesn’t like what you are teaching your children, the state will attempt to remove them from your home.

Teachers cannot make comments in their social networks, write letters to editors, publicly debate, or vote according to their own conscience on their own time. They can be disciplined or lose any chance of tenure. They can be required at a bureaucrat’s whim to take re-education classes or sensitivity training, or be fired for thinking politically incorrect thoughts.

When same-sex marriage was created in Canada, gender-neutral language became legally mandated. Newspeak proclaims that it is discriminatory to assume a human being is male or female, or heterosexual. So, to be inclusive, special non-gender-specific language is being used in media, government, workplaces, and especially schools to avoid appearing ignorant, homophobic, or discriminatory. A special curriculum is being used in many schools to teach students how to use proper gender-neutral language. Unbeknownst to many parents, use of gender terms to describe husband and wife, father and mother, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and “he” and “she” is being steadily eradicated in Canadian schools.

Which Is More Important: Sexual Autonomy or the First Amendment?

Recently, an American professor who was anonymously interviewed for the American Conservativequestioned whether sexual autonomy is going to cost you your freedoms: “We are now at the point, he said, at which it is legitimate to ask if sexual autonomy is more important than the First Amendment?”

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian citizens were supposed to have been guaranteed: (1) freedom of conscience and religion; (2) freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (3) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (4) freedom of association. In reality, all of these freedoms have been curtailed with the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Wedding planners, rental halls, bed and breakfast owners, florists, photographers, and bakers have already seen their freedoms eroded, conscience rights ignored, and religious freedoms trampled in Canada. But this is not just about the wedding industry. Anybody who owns a business may not legally permit his or her conscience to inform business practices or decisions if those decisions are not in line with the tribunals’ decisions and the government’s sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination laws. In the end, this means that the state basically dictates whether and how citizens may express themselves.

Freedom to assemble and speak freely about man-woman marriage, family, and sexuality is now restricted. Most faith communities have become “politically correct” to avoid fines and loss of charitable status. Canadian media are restricted by the Canadian Radio, Television, and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is similar to the FCC. If the media air anything considered discriminatory, broadcasting licenses can be revoked, and “human rights bodies” can charge fines and restrict future airings.

An example of legally curtailed speech regarding homosexuality in Canada involves the case of Bill Whatcott, who was arrested for hate speech in April 2014 after distributing pamphlets that were critical of homosexuality. Whether or not you agree with what he says, you should be aghast at this state-sanctioned gagging. Books, DVDs, and other materials can also be confiscated at the Canadian border if the materials are deemed “hateful.”

Americans need to prepare for the same sort of surveillance-society in America if the Supreme Court rules to ban marriage as a male-female institution. It means that no matter what you believe, the government will be free to regulate your speech, your writing, your associations, and whether or not you may express your conscience. Americans also need to understand that the endgame for some in the LGBT rights movement involves centralized state power—and the end of First Amendment freedoms.

Dawn Stefanowicz is an internationally recognized speaker and author. She is a member of the Testimonial Committee of the International Children’s Rights Institute. Her book, “Out From Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting,” is available at http://www.dawnstefanowicz.org. Dawn, a full-time licensed accountant, is married and has two teenaged children.

This piece was originally published by The Witherspoon Institute.

Surrogacy and Gay Couples

Julie Bindel

Contributed by Julie Bindel

The right of gay couples to have children through surrogate parents is increasingly seen as an advance for equality, a triumph of tolerance over prejudice. That is why there was such an outcry recently when the Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stephano Gabbana described the IVF children of Sir Elton John as “synthetic.” Riding on a wave of indignation from his fans and calling for a boycott of Dolce and Gabbana’s products, the pop legend told the designers, “shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children.”

But this row has not prevented the iconoclastic writer and feminist Germaine Greer from renewing the criticism of Elton John and his partner David Furnish. In a talk this week at the Hay Literary Festival, Greer warned that the very concept of motherhood was now being “deconstructed” through the process of IVF surrogacy, pointing out the absurdity that Furnish is listed as the “mother” on the birth certificates of the two boys he has with John.

Well, I am with Germaine Greer on this one. Through all the cheerleading for supposed equality, our society has not faced up to the implications of commercial surrogacy or the cruel side of this growing industry. As we saw in the Dolce and Gabanna controversy, open debate has been inhibited by sentimental bullying, with the enthusiasts for surrogate parenthood now treating the practice as a inviolable sacred cow.

It is time for a bit of honesty. The accelerating boom in surrogacy for gay couples is no victory for freedom or emancipation. On the contrary, it represents a disturbing slide into the brutal exploitation of women who usually come from the developing world and are often bullied or pimped into selling their wombs to satisfy the selfish whims of wealthy gay or lesbian westerners. This cruelty is accompanied by epic hypocrisy. People from Europe and the USA who would shudder at the idea of involvement in human or sex trafficking have ended up indulging in a grotesque form of “reproductive trafficking”.

Moreover, their support for this vicious business has led to the shameful neglect of abandoned or abused children within Britain. As commercial surrogacy becomes ever more fashionable, so it is becoming increasingly difficult for the authorities to find foster or adoptive parents for the tens of thousands of looked-after children currently languishing in residential care. The deepening crisis in fostering and adoption fills me with despair. As a lesbian feminist, I campaigned for years for gays and lesbians to be allowed to adopt children, not only because of our own fundamental human rights to have a family but also because of the need to give secure, loving homes to vulnerable children.

But the rise of IVF surrogate parenthood is in real danger of making the acceptance of gay adoption look like a hollow success. Now I can accept that, in certain circumstances, surrogacy can be a positive option, such as a case where someone – purely out of compassion – agrees to have a baby for a close friend who is infertile and may be unable to adopt. But that is a private arrangement built on mutual trust and concern. What really sickens me is the commercial trade, which not only leads to misery and degradation among its victims but also promotes a narcissistic view of IVF children as designer products.

Sadly, this kind of artificial baby farming is now a major international business. There is no law to prevent surrogacy in Britain, but it is illegal for surrogates to advertise, as they do in the USA and elsewhere. Nor are private surrogacy agreements enforceable in the courts, which means, for example, that a surrogate mother cannot be forced to hand over the baby if she changes her mind.

But this lack of legal safeguards has not inhibited the trade. Indeed, commercial surrogacy is fast becoming the preferred route for gay couples to have children, so much so that the trend is now known as the “Gaybe” revolution. Much of the market is in the developing world, especially India, because the costs are much lower and the regulation far lighter. In the USA, the process usually costs around £65,000, but in India the charges can be as low as £15,000. That is the prime reason that India has become known as the “rent-a-womb capital of the world”, sustaining a “reproductive tourism” industry that is estimated to be worth over £300 billion and offers services through a network of around 350 clinics.

Pro-surrogacy propaganda usually portrays the surrogate mother as a white, blonde, smiling woman who is carrying a baby in order to make a childless couple happy. But the real story is far less palatable than the airbrushed, racist stereotype suggests. Mostly Asian or black, the women who provide the eggs and wombs for potential parents can suffer appallingly. As the recent Channel 4 documentary “Google Baby” revealed, they are kept in cramped conditions and are controlled to the point of being told when to eat, drink and sleep. Monitored like prisoners, they often have to refrain from sex and even riding a bicycle. Surrogates can also be required to take a string of medicines like Lupron, oestrogen and progesterone to help achieve pregnancy, all of which can have damaging side effects. In fact, the entire process of commercial IVF reproduction can have a serious impact on surrogates’ health. Studies have shown that the dangers to women include ovarian cysts, chronic pelvic pain, reproductive cancers, kidney disease and strokes, while women who become pregnant with eggs from another woman are at a higher risk of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure.

Remarkably, none of this seems to matter to the eager clients. I interviewed one rich gay couple for whom the oppression is part of the appeal, because they said that they found it reassuring that women are required to live in a clinic under the surveillance of the “brokers” throughout their pregnancies. In truth there is a huge streak of misogyny throughout this business, with women treated as worthless or little more than reproductive machines. As Germaine Greer said at Hay, all traditional notions of motherhood, even female identity, are being written out of the script. I was told that one gay couple had such loathing for the biological role of the mother that they even insisted that their (paid-for) baby should be born by caesarean section so it was not tainted by travelling down the vaginal canal.

Against this backdrop, it is amazing that many leading left-wing campaigners, like the Guardian columnist Owen Jones, should see commercial surrogacy as a progressive cause. But then the left often loses its moral compass on ethical sexual issues like this.   So, in the name sex workers’ rights, they demand the end of controls on prostitution and pornography, even though that would actually mean more misogynistic degradation, violence and abuse.

If radicals like Owen Jones want to support gay parenthood, they would do far more good by promoting adoption rather surrogacy. That used to be the inspiring cause of the left.  Exactly three decades ago, the Greater London Council caused a storm by circulating a book called “Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin” about a girl brought up by a gay couple.   Ultimately, the controversy led to the introduction in 1988 of the notorious Clause 28 by the Tory Government, banning local authorities from issuing material that “promoted homosexuality.” Thankfully, we have moved on from that kind of homophobia. The institutionalised barriers to gay families have been shattered.

But that does not mean we should now embrace commercial IVF surrogacy. If gay couples want children, why on earth do they have to go down this exploitative route rather than adopting a child? The answer raises a profoundly troubling question about the attitudes of too many gay and lesbian couples. Fixated by vanity, imbued with overweening self-regard, they want to create a child in their own image, meeting a checklist of ideal characteristics. This kind of narcissism reached a grotesque logical conclusion in the case of the American lesbian couple Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullogh, both deaf since birth, who made the headlines in 2002 when they embarked on a search for a congenitally deaf sperm donor. Having been turned down by a number of sperm banks, they then approached a friend who had five generations of deafness in his family and was deaf himself. He agreed to their request, and a deaf child was brought into the world.

No greater symbol of the epic selfishness of surrogacy could be found than the decision to create deliberately a child with a severe disability. But sometimes the desire for a designer baby can move in the opposite direction, descending into a form of eugenics where the couple allow no room for any perceived flaws or idiosyncrasies. That happened in the disgraceful “Baby Gammy” case last year, in which an Australian couple, David and Wendy Farnell, left a twin boy with his surrogate Thai birth mother when it was discovered that the child had Down’s Syndrome, though the Farnells took the baby’s sister Pipah with them back to Australia.

Since that scandal, Thailand has banned foreigners and same-sex couples from accessing surrogacy services. That sort of robust approach is needed elsewhere if we are to combat the nasty, self-serving commercialisation of women’s wombs and eggs. There is nothing homophobic about criticising this vile, unbalanced trade where the rich exploit the bodies of the poor and desperate. On the contrary, to do so represents a service to humanity.

Julie Bindel is a British journalist, writer, broadcaster and researcher. She has been active in the global campaign to end violence towards women and children since 1979 and has written extensively on rape, domestic violence, sexually motivated murder, prostitution and trafficking, child sexual exploitation, stalking, and the rise of religious fundamentalism and its harm to women and girls. Julie has authored over 30 book chapters and academic reports on a range of topics pertaining to gender inequality and abuse, and writes regularly for The Guardian newspaper, the New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph and Standpoint magazines, and appears regularly on the BBC and Sky News. She was Visiting Journalist at Brunel University (2013 – 2014) and is now Visiting Researcher at Lincoln University (2014 – 17). Julie’s book on the state of the lesbian and gay movement in the UK (Guardian books, 2014) has been praised for being thought-provoking and challenging.

Stop Surrogacy Now!

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

An important new campaign launched on Mother’s Day. I am a signatory to petition. Will you join us?

Stop Surrogacy Now Launched

Worldwide Coalition to End Surrogacy and the Exploitation of Women and Children

San Francisco, CA/May 11, 2015Stop Surrogacy Now launches today. Stop Surrogacy Now brings together a worldwide, ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse group opposed to the exploitation of women and the human trafficking of children through surrogacy.

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With support from 16 organizations and more than 100 individuals from 18 countries, Stop Surrogacy Nowdemands recognition that surrogacy exploits women (in many cases poor and marginalized) who are paid to bear children. Often these women are subject to coercion, restrictive or substandard living conditions, and poor health care. In addition, surrogacy carries many severe, short- and long-term health risks. Many surrogates live as indentured persons with 24 hour monitoring of the “property” within their wombs.

Stop Surrogacy Now demands recognition that children conceived for surrogacy are quality-controlled: subject to sex-selection or abandonment for disability or simple change-of-mind. Children produced through surrogacy are objects of contract as well as products of inequitable bargaining power and unregulated markets. Most often, these commercially produced children experience the sudden and complete severance of the natural bond between mother and child and are intentionally deprived of contact with and knowledge of one or both biological parents in direct violation of the U.N.’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Signatories to Stop Surrogacy Now demand a complete stop to surrogacy in order to protect women and children worldwide and to end efforts that would seek to legitimize and normalize trafficking children.

“A woman is a human being not a machine, states Shagufta Omar, President, Pakistan Chapter of the International Muslim Women Union. She continues, “Disconnecting both mother and the child from each other is the violation of the human rights of both.”

“There is no right to a child and rich people must be stopped from using a woman as a living incubator and then taking their baby away and showing it off as their own. We must prevent this reproductive slavery and stop it now”, says Dr. Renate Klein, long-time health activist and FINRRAGE (Australia) co-ordinator.

Among the 16 organizations joining the Stop Surrogacy Now campaign is CoRP, a French NGO that promotes human rights and the abolition of surrogacy as being in contradiction to international conventions such as Article 21 of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, the so-called Oviedo Convention, which stipulates, “The human body and its parts shall not, as such, give rise to financial gain.”

Dr. Mia Fahlen of Sweden states, “I’m joining this campaign to fight surrogacy to combat the exploitation of women all over the world. The ethical, medical and psychological consequences are far greater than thus far have been recognized.”

We invite everyone to join us and add their signature in support of the Stop Surrogacy Now campaign.

Sex, Lies and Birth Certificates

Jennifer Lahl

Recently in my state of California, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that, beginning in 2016, will alter birth certificates in a dramatic way.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) authored Assembly Bill 1951, which amends the California Vital Records Birth Certificate law in order to “modernize” California birth certificates by allowing each parent to self-identify as mother, father, or simply “parent.”

Gomez said, “I authored this bill to say that it’s okay to have two mothers or fathers. I believe that parents do see themselves as a mother or a father and that they want to express that on their child’s birth certificate. We should give people the flexibility to accurately reflect their relationship with their child.”

A birth certificate is, indeed, a vital record, in the same category as marriage and death certificates. Such documents serve as a means of properly and accurately documenting important events that happen in a society. Who was born? Who married whom? Who gave birth? Who died?

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The birth certificate legally documents who a child’s parents are. That is, who the birth mother and birth father are. It is a record of who is genetically related to a child. It is not intended to be a means by which adults decide what they want to be called. Rather, it answers the question, who can this child’s beginning be traced to?d whom? Who gave birth? Who died?

Contrast this bill to what took place in New Jersey last year. The Star-Ledger reported on May 27, 2014: “After 34 years of publicly sharing their deepest feelings and most painful experiences, adoption activists celebrated today as Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that will enable them to obtain their original birth records, beginning in 2017.”

Why do adoptees want their original birth records? Because these records hold vital information regarding who their birth parents are. They are not a record of who the adults decided would be mother, father, or “parent.”

Those born via anonymous egg or sperm donation share this same desire. They want to know who they came from, who they are biologically related to, who they look like. They do not appreciate the secrets—and oftentimes outright lies—that surround their origins.

One of my favorites lines in Anonymous Father’s Day is when Barry, describing his experience as a donor-conceived person, says, “Secrets are like landmines you know. They can go off at any time, but until they go off you’re sort of treading around them.”

Assemblyman Gomez thinks his new law is modern and progressive, necessary to keep up with the times. He says, “In the long term, this will change the way people view the family structure and view each other. In the future, it won’t be a debate; it will be something that is commonly accepted.”

If we’ve learned anything from the history of adoption, it’s that we can’t just wish away biological origins and simply declare new family structures without impact, particularly on children.

Assemblyman Gomez’s new law will create a new debate. This debate will be lead predominately by those created from anonymous gametes who, no matter what the adults decide, will want to know the truth of who their mother and father are.

They should have access to know the truth. A birth certificate should record the name of the biological mother and biological father of the child, not the wishes of adults.

 

Walk for Life West Coast 2015

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

Under beautiful blue skies, the 2015 West Coast Walk for Life took off from City Hall.  Like last year, the walk rambled along Market Street from Civic Center Plaza to Justin Herman Plaza at a lazy, happy pace. While the signs tell the story of the march – why people came and their sentiments – three new features stood out this year.

First, the march was more joyful and “happy-faced” than ever, including an anti-abortion secular contingent. Second, the technology allowing us to see unborn babies has made it’s way into the parade for life. Third, the pro-abortion voice has reached new levels, openly advocating for the abortion of all babies to “save the planet.”

Let’s start with my favorite sign this year. Thanks to Amelia for making and posing with her poster. Awesome Amelia.

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We’ve all been in marches but our Walk for Life West Coast has become a fun and joyful event. This year, yellow balloons, happy faces and a very youthful crowd created a festive atmosphere.

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While the pro-life movement is often associated with religious orientation in the media, Feminists for Life – which originated the slogan “Women Deserve Better” – has always opposed abortion, following in the steps of the original feminists. This year, SecularProLife.com made its presence known.

IMG_0084 And this T-shirt told the abortion story in terms familiar from childhood tales.

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Many walkers came in groups, with their own custom T-shirts, prayers or music.

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IMG_0022_2 IMG_0102Women who regretted their abortions came to say so, just as fathers grieved lost fatherhood.

IMG_0161 IMG_0142_2I liked the homemade signs. They seem to come from the heart.

IMG_0141_2 IMG_0107 IMG_0050Despite the science, abortion proponents insist that “fetuses” are not human, not babies, not children, not people – a category of life with no rights, protection or value.

IMG_0117_2 IMG_0075But Amelia did not think so. Pro-life signs asserted the dignity – and rights – of the silent unborn.

IMG_0095 IMG_0160_2 IMG_0077 IMG_0072Historical perspective was offered.

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In the hot spots along the route, order was maintained by the dedicated San Francisco Police.

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As the Walk has grown and become safer over the years, the crowd has swelled with young adults, teens and children.

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Yet, on the edges, advocacy for death howls. This year, for the first time, one protestor called for the death of all babies – to save the planet. Isn’t this “hate speech”?

IMG_0043 What a contrast to the Culture of Life – darkness and light side by side on Market Street in San Francisco.

IMG_0173 IMG_0171 We reached the end of the Walk happy to see signs for … logistics.

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Happy to see media coverage.

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Happy to pass through the end of Walk balloon arch – where the determined pro-life youth linked arms to buffer the last ditch efforts of the opposition. Frankly, I could not hear the opposition over the “pro-life” chant of these young adults.

IMG_0127_2 IMG_0135It was a day to walk in favor of life.

IMG_0104_2In favor of life.

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In favor of life.

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In favor of life – an idea expressed now for 11 years … but just this year, covered by NBC. 

And so … the Walk goes on.

 

 

 

No Nice Guys?

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

I look down at my little boy’s smile- I watch his complete lack of reserve, his total vulnerability. He buries his head into my chest and with my whole being I pray to God that he never feels ashamed of his tenderness.

I recall the many times I’ve heard a boy or man say that “nice guys don’t get anywhere.” “Girls don’t like nice guys.” And I guess they think it goes without saying that guys don’t like nice guys. We all watch it happen around us. Suddenly, the once sweet and genuine little boy– the little boy who used to feel– turns up to third grade and he’s got that new look about him. He saunters with his hands in his pockets and he hangs his head. He doesn’t smile or laugh except at crude jokes or in making fun of other people. He’s scared to say he loves anybody. He’s scared to say he cares. He’s scared to say he hurts.

And who would blame him? He may feel like he’s the last one to finally man up. Finally. It’s a cruel world and it wants it’s men to be cruel too.

So what do we do?

A lot of people say it falls in the hands of fathers and other male role models. There’s no doubt about that. One football coach can make all the difference in the world on a boy’s tenderness. We know this.

But are women powerless in the cause? I think we are often too quick to assume so. We are too likely to watch the leagues of little boys pass by, their tenderness robbed or stifled, without saying a word because we figure that’s just how things are. That’s just how boys are and we don’t know what or how to do something about it.

But then we expect them to just figure out the tenderness when they need it. To go from tough guy to flowers and letters and date night and Daddy. We turn a blind eye to the suppressed tenderness but then expect it to come out easily, full force, when it’s for us. This is obviously a contradictory and ridiculous expectation. So why do we perpetuate it?

In the end, women want two different things. We want the lover, but we don’t necessarily want to do what it takes to encourage him. We don’t want to spend the time and energy on the nice guy when he’s not our guy. It begins in elementary school (or even before.) Tenderness, especially male tenderness, is delicate and sometimes awkward. To recognize it, embrace it- you have to be willing to be shunned. Tenderness makes many people uncomfortable. So the girls on the playground shy away from the nice guy. Associating with him requires too much courage. The jerk gets continually affirmed over and over because nobody wants to be the one to change that. The nice guy assumes he’s not wanted and he quits.

This is unacceptable. As mothers, as sisters, as daughters, as teachers, as friends, we have to be proactively aware of the tenderness in the men around us and proactively encouraging of it. We have to be willing to stand by them when they feel foolish or lonely or embarrassed. Too often, women make the careless remark that there “just aren’t any good guys anymore.” And I wonder– of those guys who aren’t “good”- weren’t they once? Weren’t they all once little boys on their mothers’ laps? But in a world of cruelty, the tenderness won’t stick around on its own. We have to encourage them. We have to let them know it’s worth the fight. We, women, have to want them. We have to want their tenderness before the romance. We have to cherish and cling to the tenderness of the men around us- from little baby tears to grandfather hugs. We have to be willing to stand by it even when all the world rejects it.

Fox-Genovese: Abortion

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

On January 2, 2007, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, to whom this site NewFeminism.co is dedicated, died at age 65 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Her husband, Eugene Genovese, outlived her, dying on September 26, 2012 at age 82.  As far as I can determine, the elder Genovese wrote and published only one work of his own in the five and a half years he lived without his beloved wife – a slim, eloquent volume entitled Miss Betsey: A Memoir of Marriage. The cover photo of that book invites the reader to his tale of romantic devotion, surprising conversion and academic intrigue, told by the survivor of this highly visible – and controversial – intertwined pair of academics.

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Genovese did not write about his marriage in order to share memories with their children – they had none.  Nor did Genovese seek to memorialize his wife’s thoughts – this she had ably done. (See, for example, the 5 Volume collection, History & Women, Culture & Faith: Selected Writings of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese). Rather, when she died, Genovese “felt driven to write about the life of a woman who led me out of the slough of despond and provided the loving home I wanted and badly needed.” (p.3) Genovese wrote of his beloved wife, it seems, more as an exercise to understand his own life, a life “split in two: Before Betsey and Since Betsey” – a life he had always hoped to have but found in Betsey “by the grace of God.” (p 2).

It is in this context that Genovese reflects on one of the more controversial developments in his wife’s thinking, when she decided she could no longer present herself “pro-choice” on abortion and, as a result, became target for the bitter backbite of fellow feminists and intellectuals.  But what Genovese found remarkable in his wife, her passion for unadorned truth and her love and compassion for women as women, has established a foundation upon which New Feminism continues to grow and flourish.

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Abortion had always made Betsey queasy.  For years she remained sufficiently attached to the feminist movement to persuade herself to support “free choice” during the first trimester and with such limitations as parental consent and absolute denial of partial-birth abortion. She supported such “compromise” largely because she considered it the best politically available alternative to an incipient civil war.  She gagged on abortion for a simple reason: She knew, as everyone knows, that an abortion kills a baby. Betsey responded with incredulity to the argument that the baby a woman carries in her womb is not a baby at all or, alternatively, that although it is a baby, her mother has a moral and constitutional right to kill her. And Betsey resented the denigration of women implicit in the “pro-choice” campaign. Years later, in the private journal she kept as she entered the Church, she wrote:

Paradox: intent of abortion has been to free women, but it has imprisoned them. Anima Christi: soul and body are one, not two. Abortion devalues and debases woman’s bodies – strips them of their character as Temples of the Holy Spirit.  Abortion has not heightened respect for woman’s bodies, but only confirmed their status as objects to be used.

A related matter went down hard with her. We hear all the time that retarded and deformed children should never have been born – that their lives should have been snuffed out by parents and doctors sensitive to the “quality of life.” Betsey did not take well to people who claimed the privilege of judging who deserved to live and who ought to be put to death. Again, as a Jew aware of the underlying ideology of the Holocaust, she had no tolerance for people who claimed the right to dispose of human life in accordance with whatever sick creed they were espousing. Over the years, she met a number of retarded and autistic children. None struck her as floating miserably in a life without pleasure. Betsey saw for herself that, however painful their daily experiences, they awoke every morning secure in the knowledge that their parents loved them, considering them gifts from God.

The radical feminists’ assertion that a woman has absolute property in her own body provoked mirth from those who, like Betsey, knew that the modern Left had arisen to oppose the bourgeois theory of absolute property in anything. Betsey steadily hardened her line against abortion while she maintained unsparing compassion for the unmarried young or poor pregnant women who felt trapped. She spent years as a volunteer in community groups that cared for pregnant teenagers, poor mothers and their children, and battered wives.

On these matters, as in others, she had special powers of persuasion. I caught a glimpse of her ability to touch an audience in January 2005 – less than two years before she died. I attended her lecture on abortion at Hamilton College in New York. She had been invited by the small conservative student contingent, but she faced a large and largely skeptical audience. Once again, I thought she might have spoken in a livelier fashion; once again, she refused to indulge rhetorical tricks or cheap shots, much less talk down to students. She took up the major arguments, pro and con. Calmly, she reviewed moral, statistical, and other evidence and dug into the implications and ramifications of the slaughter of millions of infants. I watched the students closely. Apparently, most did not support her pro-life position, yet they hung on her every word. She may not have convinced many, but she clearly made them thoughtful. And they responded respectfully. It was obvious that their radical feminist professors had not deigned to introduce them to the pro-life side, so that they might “choose” between the alternatives. As the students left the hall, they did not disguise their admiration for Betsey’s presentation and replies to hard questions. They also made clear that they were not amused at their professors’ efforts to shut them out from an opportunity to consider pro-life views.

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Miss Betsey: A Memoir of Marriage is available in hardcover.

Intimacy: It’s Complicated

Kerry Cronin

Contributed by Kerry Cronin

How I found myself talking with young adults about hookup culture, dating, and relationships is still a bit mysterious to me, but one thing I know for sure si that about 10 years ago I started to sense a genuine loneliness amount the otherwise bright, involved, connected, and accomplished students at my university.

When I asked about their lives—not just about their academic lives, but about their personal, moral, and spiritual lives—what troubled and saddened me more than whether or not they were having sex (though that certainly concerns me, no doubt), is how little sex and sexual intimacy even mattered to them. Still today, not only do many of them think that sex is “no big deal,” they usually display little hope that it will ever amount to all that much. They are deeply ambivalent about sex having any significant meaning, and in the context of their mostly ironic culture, they are wary of being duped by grand claims about intimacy, sexual or otherwise. As they say, it’s all “just a thing.” And they have plenty of evidence from their own lives, the lives of their families and friends, and from the wider, sexualized culture to prove it. But when I started to really pay attention to what young adults were saying and doing in their hookups, dating, and relationships, I found what I would call a low- level, grinding despair.

I spotted that despair in a Q&A session following a talk I gave a number of years ago in a residential hall lounge packed full of first-year students about six months into their first year of college.

A student thanked me for my talk on hookup culture and said that she wholly agreed with my critique of it. She went on to say that this was all well and good, but what she really needed to know was how to go about making herself not care while she was partying and hooking up, because, well, that was just how things went.

Her voice broke a bit as she asked the question and the room became really quiet with the question just hanging in the air. I was dumbstruck. She silently but openly wept as I eventually responded that I would never, ever want to make it easier for her not to care about another person and or to ask so little for herself, body and soul. She seemed completely emotionally exhausted. I must admit that though I get questions like this all the time from young adults, each time I am left a little breathless by it.

When I talk about hooking up, dating, and relationships now, I do so in all sorts of venues and to all sorts of audiences, from large crowds in auditoriums to small groups in residence hall programs. And for the most part, I don’t talk all that much about sex, because I find that what really concerns young adults—what really scares them, what fascinates them, what moves them—are not really questions of sex but rather questions of intimacy. In the midst of their ubiquitous posting and twittering and snapchatting, despite their seemingly constant connecting through all modes of social media, the students I meet speak overwhelmingly about feeling quite disconnected, lonely, and fundamentally not known by others. This isn’t the death knell of relationships, of men or of sex, as some authors have recently claimed, but it certainly seems to signal a crisis of intimacy. So what is it then that is missing in the lives of these young adults and how can we help them, and ourselves, find what is lost?   .

Clearly, intimacy is not an easy notion to understand. Its meaning is broad and wide-ranging and it is often only recognized in its absence. While we regularly reduce its meaning to the closeness of a sexual relationship, there’s little doubt that intimacy characterizes other relationships in our lives, those of parents and children, siblings, and good and caring friends. Isn’t intimacy with God what we are striving for in a prayer life? It strikes me as helpful to pose the question: What are we doing when we are being intimate with another person, and why is that being intimate?

Common to all of the intimate relationships in my life is one central and abiding fact: that I have the distinct feeling that I matter to the other person. In those relationships, others who love me—my parents who are my biggest fans and like me more than I probably deserve, family members who’ve known me through all of the awkward moments of my life, friends who have been with me through bitterly sad and tremendously joyful times—share in my cares and concerns because I matter to them. And I in turn am willing to try to enter into the meanings and values of their lives and take their cares and concerns on as my own, not as facts and data, but as something meaningful and moving, because they matter to me. This may seem overly simplistic, but I find it helpful when talking with young adults about intimacy to ask if they notice these patterns in their different relationships—success and failures alike.

Do you feel like you matter to your friends, your roommates, your older brother, your girlfriend or boyfriend? If so, how is that shown to you? Do you know how to show someone else that she truly matters to you? How do you know if you truly matter to him? How would you know? What do you do when it becomes clear that you don’t matter to a person you love?

These are sometimes very painful questions to ask and answer. Young adulthood is when most of us first begin to recognize how very much is riding on our closest emotional ties. And it’s a lot. It is also often when we discover how devastatingly precarious some of those emotional ties can be.

When I talk to students about their fears and desires and ask them to think about what they long for most in their lives, they assume that their desire to be loved and to be truly known by someone else will happen in marriage. While that will be true for most of them, I also ask them to consider the different kinds of love and closeness they have in their lives now. In most cases, young people can identify at least one friend who fits the description of Aristotle’s “Friend of the Good,” the highest and best type of friendship depicted in his Nicomachean Ethics. This type of friend comprehends what is good in me, brings more of that out in me, and wants the best for me. But truly wanting the best for someone involves knowing and seeing who she really is, not merely who she is for me. To have and to be a friend like this activates our ability to be moved by someone else, to allow the meanings of my life to be changed and transformed by someone who wants what is good for me, which is perhaps not fully known to me. Intimacy that is found in friendships like this allows us to glimpse the best parts of ourselves and brings those parts into the light. It also builds in us a capacity for seeing the good in someone else and for letting the good in us be seen.

As JPII rightly surmised and wrote about beautifully in his Theology of the Body, intimacy involves truly being seen by another. This seems really right to me. It is in the gaze of someone who thinks I truly matter, who wants to value what I value, who desires what I truly desire, who wants to understand what I mean when I speak and act, that I begin to be recognized and known in the way I really long for. To be held in a gaze like that is the way of love that God wants for us, because it is the way that God loves us.

In the lives of young adults, this isn’t easy to come by. Everyone has her own set of needs and worries, and the pace of keeping up and getting ahead means that really stopping and seeing another person or being seen demands so much time and asks perhaps too much of us. But again, intimacy is keenly felt in its absence, and young adults suffer its absence tremendously. What haunts them most is not the dismal job market, not their ballooning student loans, not the skyrocketing cost of living in most major American cities. What haunts them most is not ever being seen, or recognized, or loved by anyone beyond their own family circles. In worse cases, their fear is not mattering to anyone even within those most important first circles. In the very worst cases, there is the darkness of feeling that you do not matter even to God, that you are not held by God.

To be intimate with someone is to be held—to be held in the gaze of someone who really sees me, to be held up by a friend when I falter, to have my hand held as I go through a moment of grief or joy or beauty, to be held responsible by those I admire for the good and bad I do in the world, to be held in the arms of someone who wants the best for me, and then also, in the words of a friend who prays for me often, to be held in the light.

I have seen students thrive when they find themselves held by someone in a way that lets them know that they matter and that they are seen and known and loved. I have sat and listened as young adults tell me about people in their lives—a friend found in a small faith community, a parent who finally sees the adult instead of just the child, an unexpected mentor, a classmate who challenges them to “the more” on a service trip, a girlfriend or boyfriend who makes them feel smarter and funnier and more lovable than they thought they were—who have helped them find better parts of themselves that they never imagined they would find. These are wondrous moments to witness. It is where flourishing is found.

Finally, I don’t know about you, but even on a good day at Mass when I’m knee-deep in the prayerful rhythm of a liturgy, I get all tangled up in the newly worded response,  “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” Because of my entanglement there, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and it seems to me to be about the intimacy we long for with God. Asking Christ to enter under my roof reminds me that intimacy marks the difference between living next to someone and dwelling with them—letting another person truly enter into my life, to move my cares and concerns and to be moved by his. When you dwell with someone else—a friend, a spouse, Jesus—your reality becomes a shared reality and you make the horizon of that person’s meanings and values your own. You also let your meanings and values be carried and shaped by someone else. It seems to me that this is the answer to the question, what am I doing when I am being intimate? To the further question, why is that being intimate? Well, when I ask my students about intimacy in their own lives, they usually default to a popular Facebook adage: “It’s complicated.” Let me tell you, you’ve got that right. ■

 

This article is reprinted with permission from Kerry Cronin.  It originally appeared in the Spring 2014 C21 Resources, a publication of The Church in the 21st Century, Boston College.  Cronin is the coeditor of this C21 Resources and has emerged as a “relationships guru,” speaking to student audiences on such topics as “The Imperfect Art of Dating” and “Sex and the Single Student.” (photos not included in reprint; the original article with photos is available online.) Visit: www.bc.edu/c21relationships to watch C21 videos featuring Kerry Cronin: “The Imperfect Art of Dating,” “Rules of the 1st Date,” “Love that Transforms: How the Resurrection Challenges Us,” “The Problems with the Hook-Up Culture.”

 

 

The Reality of NFP

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

If you’ve heard of NFP, you’ve probably heard about all of its wonderful effects. You’ve probably heard about how it gets you and your husband in tune with your body. How it teaches you both to be disciplined and how straightforward it can be. How it helps you focus on aspects of your relationship other than sex. How it makes things exciting and how every month you have another honeymoon. You’ve probably heard that NFP strengthens your marriage and makes you more fulfilled, more in love, and happier.

And though I appreciate those sentiments and have no doubt that NFP has improved countless marriages, I’ve always felt like the stuff I hear and read about NFP sounds a little bit like an infomercial. It sounds a little too good to be true. I await the sped up “side effects may include…”

But so often, the side effects of NFP are written in fine print below the many benefits. So I’m not surprised that many people don’t trust it and don’t give it a chance. We sense that there has to be a downside. And I’m going to tell you assuredly that there is. And what is it? It’s not that it isn’t effective. Abstaining when fertile is most certainly effective—it’s in the couple’s hands to decide how liberal they want to be about that abstinence. The problem isn’t about charting—charting isn’t that complex. Plenty of women chart their cycle for all sorts of reasons from hormonal imbalance diagnostics to preparation for conception. The problem with NFP is the abstinence.

Because the truth is, abstinence for the sake of postponing children, while perhaps prudent, is not some glorious thing. It’s self-denial, plain and simple, and self-denial hurts. It varies in its degree of hurt—for some lucky couples the abstinence is a couple of days a month. For some couples it could be weeks or even months at a time if you’ve got really crazy cycles. Either way, NFP means regularly depriving your marriage of sex—that expression which comes physically and emotionally most natural to romantic love.

And what does that do? That hurts you and that hurts your spouse. I’d say it might even hurt your marriage. Yes, NFP may hurt your marriage. That’s the fine print.

But in the end, it’s worth it. My husband and I still use NFP. But not for all the “benefits.” We use NFP to avoid doing what we consider to be wrong—we use NFP to avoid using contraception. The wrongness of contraception (something I’d like to address in the future,) is NFP’s true and only real selling point. We don’t practice NFP to “bring us closer together.” We don’t do it to “spice things up.” And we don’t do it in order for me to “get in touch with my body.” Really, we shouldn’t need NFP to do all of those things. The popular idea of needing NFP for marriage is contrary to the very philosophy of marriage. The philosophy of marriage says that though absence may make the heart grow fonder, it is better to grow fonder by choice, with presence—indeed, with prolonged, evolving, natural presence. The philosophy of marriage says you don’t need “monthly honeymoons.” You need one. And it’s not the end-all-be-all of your entire marriage. It is a step in a journey and adventure together. It is a step in a lifelong commitment to giving and receiving. Given that we believe contraception is a contradiction to that commitment, we have enough reason to practice NFP so we don’t deeply harm our marriage and ourselves in the times when we aren’t ready for children. We practice NFP because we find it better to suffer together than to sin together. And do we benefit despite the suffering? Of course we do—but not because of what NFP is. We benefit because of what NFP isn’t.

Signs: Walk for Life West Coast 2014

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

A massive and diverse crowd of protesters rallied in front of [San Francisco] City Hall before marching down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza for the 10th annual “Walk for Life West Coast.” They chanted “Pro Life” and carried signs that read “Defend Life” and “Women deserve better than abortion.” San Francisco police did not immediately provide an official crowd estimate, but at one point marchers stretched across more than a mile of Market Street, the liberal city’s main thoroughfare.”

The size, energy, youthfulness and enthusiasm of this now-entrenched San Francisco event grows each year. Most remarkable to us New Feminists who have participated in this walk over the years is the disappearing presence of counter-protesters who, in the early years, threw red-water balloons, barricaded passage and thrust coat hangers as they angrily taunted us walkers – many of whom quietly prayed and pushed baby strollers.

Opponents to the pro-life presence in San Francisco sought to frighten, bully and shame those they defined as enemies – enemies of women. But it’s hard to sustain a movement fueled by anger and hostility – especially when directed at babies, families and peaceful people who value all lives. It’s hard to motivate people to spend their Saturday jeering and accosting elderly people walking with their grandchildren, devoted parents pushing disabled loved ones confined to wheelchairs and exuberant young throngs happy to be alive and celebrate life. Feminism was never intended to be a movement of angry women bent on creating options to destroy and eliminate “burdensome” lives. Feminism was born from women’s determination and passion for having a voice in nurturing, valuing and protecting all lives.

New Feminism – women celebrating life and their role in nurturing and protecting all life – was on beautiful display yesterday under sunny skies. The air literally sizzled with joy, happiness and gratitude. The occasional angry person shouting for “abortion without apology” seemed more akin to the city’s mentally ill homeless people than people with a considered point of view.  In a such a joyous crowd, anger seems sad, pathetic. I was nearly tempted to offer a hug.

But the West Coast Walk for Life is no longer about pro-life opposition. It’s about the celebration of life by diverse people with both religious and secular appreciation for the unborn – many of whom carried signs personalizing their own reason for participating and celebrating life.

It was the Year of the Sign, 2014.

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How to hold a sign for several miles is a challenge. Several people can hold the sign high, taking turns.

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Or you can hold it low and pull it along with your other stuff.

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You can put the sign around your neck and get your photo taken everytime someone takes a picture of your sign.

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Or you can attach your sign to the wheelchair so your sign goes where your Grandma goes.

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You can skip the sign all together and make a shirt with your message.

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(I’m told Guard Life shirts might be for sale next year!)

 

 

 

 

 

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There are secular pro-lifers – Monica Snyder of http://www.secularprolife.org/ spoke during the pre-walk rally.

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There are religious pro-lifers.

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But all the pro-lifers are happy.

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 The bulk of them – the generation of the New Feminist – are young!

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There is always a sign that steals the day. This year, I found two. My final photo here was the last one of the day. I walked back to my car wiping away my own tears of joy and gratitude for the bravery of people who stand with life.  Amazing.

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