War on Women!?!?

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

Who came up with the “war on women” terminology in the first place?

Most women I know hate war.  They hate the concept; they hate sending their children and spouses into battle; they think combat is a stupid way to resolve disputes and weapons an atrocious way to spend scarce resources.  Most women I know struggle whether to permit water, nerf, bee bee and airsoft guns into the hands of their youngsters – forget about sniper rifles and M9 pistols.  Many women participate in religious observances that emphasis peaceful co-existence, not survival of the “bad asses” with the biggest artillery.

I am well aware there are some female warriors, and women who talk in military terms like “My husband is visiting behind enemy lines” when he’s gone to see his mother.  But most women I know talk about differences in point of view in a more female way.  


“Did you hear that Fred decided to stop carrying light chocolate Silk soy milk at the corner store, girls?”

SHRIEK and interspersed exclamations: 

“Well, he will get an earful from me.”

How could they?  It’s soooo delicious?”

I am not spending another dime there until he restocks it.”

Silent pause and SHRIEK. 

“OMG, I know his wife.  I’ll talk to her and get this taken care of!”

I do not mean to make light of the conflicts raging over Obamacare and who will pay what for contraception.  I do not find the First Amendment encroachment of this administration remotely funny – to the contrary, it’s breath-taking serious business involving the future of religious practice in this country.

But who decided to try to woo women voters by calling the heated disagreement over a range of issues most directly impacting women  “war on women?”  And who decided to counter the charge with a countercharge about the “real” war on women? 

First, no one is making any war on women and most women both know and admit this.  You can certainly pay some women enough money to use the words on air or convince them that, for the good of the cause, they will have to characterize the differences over access to contraception and abortion – and who decides what is religious and what is not – as a theater of battle.  But I have never heard one single woman in my broad range of friends use any military metaphor to describe the divide or the differences.  Rather, I have engaged in interesting and often insightful discussion with points like these: 

1.  Why should the government be paying for oral contraceptives that can gravely injure and even cause death in young women? And why would the government pay for any contraception that does not safeguard against STDs? 

2.  Is the government going to pay for men’s contraception?  How is it remotely fair to expect young women to assume all responsibility for reproduction?

3.  Why is female fertility being treated like a disease in young women and medicated?  And when it becomes infertility due to age, women are medicated again, as if they have a disease?  Is this really what feminism sought to accomplish? 

Most women I know are discussing concerns and questions they have typically from a deep sense of responsibility for improving the options and quality of life for the next generation of women.  My female lawyer friends are discussing the First Amendment issues with an informed sense that the administration seeks a historical expansion of government into the religious realm.  We may not reach agreement on many conclusions, but we most certainly do not think we are fighting or defending a war, as much as the political rhethoric is trying to create the sense of a war zone.

Second, to the extent today’s “war against women” is waged over abortion access, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, new about these tensions.  In fact, the “war” over abortion – if you have to call it that – is more fairly characterized as a “war” among women, not “against” women – and it always has been.  As one scholar has rightfully pointed out,

On the one hand, the [abortion] issue does mobilize donations, and galvanize support among one group of women. On the other hand, it was perhaps the most polarizing issue—between women themselves, and among self-identified feminists—from the start. And in this sense the abortion issue was a foundation [of feminism] built on a faultline.  

So it does not surprise me that the first “assault” from the left flopped.  And I would expect the “assaults”  from the right to be a “dud” as well.  I am waiting for someone to come up with a political campaign that speaks to women in the terms they use, stroking the values they hold dear. 

That will catch my interest.

The Other Side of the Golden Gate Bridge

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge – one of the great architectural Wonders of the World.  The arched bridge spans the one mile yawn of the San Francisco Bay from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands and includes walkways to accommodate the hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists who exercise and sight see from its famous orange frame everyday.

 I can see the full expanse of this marvel from my living room.

It is much more than an architectural achievement.  It’s a lesson in the species – and the feats, frailty and unpredictability of humanity.  While my husband, and today’s celebration, focus upon the nuts & bolts engineering breakthroughs and man’s dominance over nature, I reflect on the human side of the bridge – the other side of the bridge – the interaction of frailed and flawed human beings with their own masterpiece.    

1.  Human memory. Eleven men died during construction of the bridge – not because of callous disregard for their safety.  Ten of the men who died plunged into a newly designed, mobile safety net that had saved lives over the course of construction.  It was well designed to catch and save men.  It was not designed, however, to catch the scaffolding which fell with the men on February 13, 1937 and tore through the net.   

You might think memory of the deeply tragic incident would run with the bridge but things do not remember, only people.  Sometimes people forget what they do not want to remember . . . which is why the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge drew to a close with an enormous sigh of relief. 


”Imagine the Golden Gate Bridge flattened out by the weight of human beings!”

Officials estimated that 250,000 people crowded the bridge deck Sunday morning to walk across the Golden Gate.  More than 500,000 others packed the bridge approaches, but were denied access by the authorities.

Mr.Giacomini said officials regretted that so many were turned away, but added, ”In a way, I’m grateful because if they had gotten out there, maybe the bridge would have fallen down.”

Sometimes, people do remember what they would rather forget.  This year, on the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, organizers announced

Marking the official 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, tens of thousands of participants are expected at the historic celebration along the San Francisco waterfront.

  • There is NO BRIDGE WALK.

2.  U-turns.  Today, the bridge has six undivided lanes for vehicular traffic.

The flow is divided manually each day by a slowly moving crew switching yellow cone-like peg markers across lanes.  This does not, however, prevent head on accidents by confused drivers.  Nor do these highly visible, closely spaced markers stop people from making u-turns in the middle of the bridge.

I know this because my sister lives north of San Francisco and I was expecting her to arrive to my home in downtown San Francisco any minute.  When my cell phone rang, my sister said,

 “Marge.  I am stuck on the bridge.  Seriously stuck.  Traffic both ways is stopped.  Marge.  There is a woman trying to make a (expletive deleted) U-turn.”

The bridge authorities know this, too.  It has happened enough that they posted signs – hoping plain language will supplement where common sense fails. 

3.  Fog.  Man may have bridged the gap between the city and her north neighbors but he’s yet to dent the fog.  You can drive the bridge, walk the bridge, travel to visit the bridge but, many days, you can’t see the bridge.  It’s a shock to some people.

Tourist walking along water’s edge in Crissy Field: “Excuss me, we look for famous biddged.  We got map.  Map says biddged near to here.”

Me, wiping from my glasses the cold, condensed fog that I have been walking through for 30 minutes:  “I have good news and bad news for you.  The good news is that you are less than 100 yards from the Golden Gate Bridge.   The bad news is that you are not going to see the Golden Gate Bridge until this fog burns off.  I suggest you go that way (pointing), look up and you will be able to see the underside of the bridge.  Sorry.”

A disappointment to tourists, a nuisance to commuters, the fog keeps the bridge unpredictable and people, humbled.  From my living room, I have watched fog come and go over a day, moving in, under and about the bridge in every imaginable density and pattern, like a juvenile showing off, unable to hold anything back.  But I know the fog.  It will do something new tomorrow. 

Personally, I am glad that the engineers have settled (so far) with fitting the bridge only with deep, resonating fog horns.  I worry they may one day affix a gigantic, fan system which will try to blow the mighty fog into Marin because the county needs the moisture.  For now, the fog prevails

The bridge, in all it’s engineering wonder, attracts a range of human events, tragedies and celebrations no one planned for, no one intended.  But it is these human events – the suicides, marriage proposals, small plane passes, and bungee jumping (to name a few) – that keep the bridge alive and the bridge authorities endlessly challenged by the humanity, the other side, of the bridge.  It is this side of the bridge I think about today on its 75th Anniversary.

Another Study Links Breast Cancer & Abortion

Teresa Tomeo

The report, published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Breast Cancer Prevention, concluded that ‘compared with women who had no history of induced abortion, women with a previous induced abortion had a significant increased risk of breast cancer.”  For older women there was an even higher breast cancer link.

This study has all the possibilities of a great story.

I use the word possibilities because, as a seasoned journalist I understand how the media operates when it comes to covering negative abortion related stories:  they don’t.  I am probably dreaming that this new study revealing yet more fallout from abortion will see the light of day on-line, on the air, or in print in secular news circles.  The pattern of a media blackout on certain topics continues regularly.  Just this week, ABC News all but ignored what one would think would be a major attention grabber:  an additional 43 lawsuits filed by dioceses and other Church related organizations over the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover contraception and sterilization in their insurance plans. 

I hope I am pleasantly surprised, but in case I am not, I am asking everyone to share this story now for the good and well-being of all the women in your life.  This new study comes from China, yes China.  China’s been making headlines lately regarding the case of blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng who recently sought asylum in the United States.  Chen has been speaking out against China’s one child and forced abortion practices for years.  As a result, he has been tortured and imprisoned and his family threatened.  Despite his efforts to protect women and unborn children, the secular media have mostly described him as a “human rights advocate”.  Little or no attention is given to the pro-life focus of his work.  And now just days after he arrives here in this country this new study is released; a study conducted in China that shows more evidence of an abortion-breast cancer link. 

The report, published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Breast Cancer Prevention, concluded that ‘compared with women who had no history of induced abortion, women with a previous induced abortion had a significant increased risk of breast cancer.”  For older women there was an even higher breast cancer link.

The story angles and tie-ins are obvious.  Here we have one of the most well known pro-life and human rights advocates on American soil.  What does he stand for?  Why did he have to seek help from the United States?  He defended women who wanted their children and tried to stop the forced killing of their children in the womb.  Wouldn’t it make perfect sense to follow up the latest developments in the case of Chen Guangcheng with a story, however brief, on this new study from China? 

I’m not the only one who wants to shout “hello is any one listening?”  The report has also caught the attention of Janet Morana, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.  Silent No More is a ministry that reaches out to post abortion men and women and allows them, if they choose, to share their stories.

“This is a perfect time for a study that finds an abortion-breast cancer link to come out of China, while the world’s attention is still focused on the fate of forced abortion protester Chen Guangcheng.  Perhaps it is time for an honest assessment of how this common surgical procedure-sold to American women and forced on unwilling Chinese women-is actually hurting all women.”

Speaking of studies, reports and surveys dating back more than 30 years show those working in most of our major newsrooms support legalized abortion.  In a perfect world, a reporter’s opinion shouldn’t matter unless they are writing for the Op-Ed page.  As Janet Morana said, it is indeed a perfect time but the world we live in along with the majority of the media, is far from perfect.   So the possibilities of such an abortion related story getting coverage are unfortunately somewhere between slim and none.

So let’s make this study the news it ought to be.  Spread the word: Guangcheng has arrived and so has further confirmation of a link between abortion and breast cancer.


Baby on the Belt

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

“Baby on the belt number 5, baby on belt number 5,” a husky TSA security guard barked into his walkie-talkie as I was clearing the lane for my departing flight.

Over one line, a young mother struggled to get her 6-month-old chunky boy positioned into his baby seat.  Mom had balanced the seat unsteadily on the rollers just beyond the moving belt.  Juggling suitcases, coats, shoes, grey bins and the big baby, busy Mom did not notice that oncoming luggage aimed to bump and dislodge both seat and baby – who was flailing and unbuckled.

“Baby on the belt, number 5,” the TSA agent barked one more time bringing belt number 5 to an abrupt stop and a wave of people to help buckle up and move chunky baby off of number 5.

“Whew,” I mumbled, “nice move everyone,” instantly recalling a large sign flashed recently in my face.  Waved by a loud, green-haired, multi-pierced, pissed off young woman at a demonstration, the gal and her black bold lettering declared:

Women Are Not Incubators

Staring at the baby on the belt, I imagined the sign I’d give the angry young woman to wave:

Women Are Incubators & You Are Going to Help Like It or Not

To “incubate” is to regulate the environment, to provide conditions, protection and care that allow an organism to grow and develop properly.  Women, like it or not, tend to serve this role with respect to their babies with a natural talent.  Men most certainly can take on the incubating role but the near-unanimous observation is that they do this function differently and, often, not as well.  What we expect of men, and others around us, is to help and support us as we incubate the young.

Mom’s near miss on TSA belt number 5 is what, after all, we women expect and demand of the world.  We expect and demand that others around us take notice that we hold in trust the future of humanity.  Babies, after all, grow up to be humans – and somebody has to incubate those babies, keeping them safe in a busy, fast paced world not designed for them.

If luggage had knocked boy baby off belt number 5, TSA would have had hell to pay to Mom who, doing her job, fully and righteously expects everyone in the vicinity to support her.  Her expectations and demands as the primary incubator of the baby not only dictate what Mom does going through TSA but, as importantly, imposes responsibilities upon TSA and everyone else going through security with her.

Women serve this role not only for babies but also for adults acting like babies.  Women, in fact, incubate all of humanity with concern for nurturing, caring and empathy.  We are called to this role even when we really don’t want to.

I live in San Francisco and take a daily walk.  I typically wear a visor, sunglasses and earphones blasting Talking Heads, Tim McGraw and Amy Winehouse.  I walk briskly and don’t wait for stoplights.  I don’t make eye contact with other pedestrians and I most certainly do not stop to pet the hordes of dogs this city adores.  I like to think of the time as my alone time.

But it never is.  Nine walks out of 10, cars, pedestrians and even bicycle riders draw alongside me, point at my earphones (a hand signal for “You need to listen to me”) and proceed to ask, “Where is the nearest bathroom?” or “Is there a bus stop nearby?” or “We’re looking for someplace yummy to eat. What do you recommend?”

I Am A Walking Incubator Like it or Not.

Often, to be honest, I feel a tad resentful of the interruption.  Inevitably, there is any number of men or couples or teenagers in the exact same vicinity of me, but no one stops them.  The lost are riding around looking for a mature, motherly looking woman, preferably doing “nothing,” so they can say, “Help me.”

And I do.  I push aside my annoyance, look at the trusting face needing some gentle directions and start telling them the best route to get where they want to go.   I am after all an incubator for this ratty species called human.  That’s why a car with 4 20ish young men recently stopped me in the Presidio … pointed at my ear phones … and then asked in embarrassed spurt and starts, “Where are the, you know right, the buffalo?  This is San Francisco … and there are buffalo, right?”

Their trust that I would help them was so lovely, so ridiculous, that I had to make myself stop laughing as I leaned in the car window and said, “yes, but you are in the Presidio and the buffalo are in Golden Gate Park, my dears.”  I watched them drive away following the directions I’d just given them. I’d done my part.  For that, I hoped they’d do their part one day when they noticed a “baby on the belt,” a big baby in danger on belt number 5, like it or not.

Protect Your Fertility

Jennifer Lahl

In my last post, I wrote about women who wait later into life to conceive and find they struggle with what they call “infertility.”  In fact, there is no infertility as a result of aging; rather the biological reality of menopause.  Menopause is a natural and normal event which occurs in a woman’s life, it is not a disease which needs to be treated as most Western medicine does.  Fertility is a natural organic treasure – one that is temporary and unique for each woman.  It can be understood, protected and cared for, just as we try to do for all other aspects of our health and well-being.

The human body is an amazing organism and human reproduction is a finely tuned orchestration of events.  Women would do well to learn more about human reproduction and the sensitive system of fertility so that we can protect and preserve and utilize our fertility and do everything possible to prevent true infertility.  We cannot stop the aging of our bodies and the naturally occurring menopause.  But there is still much we can do to understand and care for the reproductive season of our “fertility” and be sure we can bear children.

It’s a miraculous event that human beings can procreate at all.  While we are not as bad as the koala bear, which has a very low birth rate of typically one baby every other year, human beings aren’t rabbits either.  The female rabbit can produce as many as “800 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren” in a single mating season!

So, what can you do to protect your fertility?

1.  Do not wait too long if you hope to have children.  Maternal age is a big factor – perhaps the single most important factor – since our fertility dramatically drops as we age.


Maternal age also negatively impacts our ability to carry a baby to term.  This study states, “There is an increasing risk of fetal loss with increasing maternal age in women aged more than 30 years.  Fetal loss is high in women in their late 30s or older, irrespective of reproductive history.” (emphasis added)

Increased maternal age also causes significant risk of maternal morbidity, with the older mother being more at risk for gestational diabetes, having babies born with chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome, hemorrhage and hypertension.

2.  Know your menstrual cycle and your body.  Understand your fertility the way you understand your food and exercise.  In the best case scenario, a woman has about 5-6 days each month when she is fertile and can achieve pregnancy.  The spread of these few days is dependent not only on when a woman ovulates, but how long sperm can survive and how fast they swim and reach their destination.  This highlights just how finely orchestrated the event of conception is.

3.  Engage in a healthy lifestyle and avoid excess alcohol, smoking and obesity – all have a negative impact on our fertility as does high stress levels.

4.  Avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that, “Chlamydia and gonorrhea are important preventable causes of infertility.  Untreated, about 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).”  They note in 2009, in theUnited States, there were, “1,244,180 chlamydial infections and 301,174 cases of gonorrhea.”  Think about how much these totally preventable diseases negatively impact fertility!  The impact of STDs on fertility is not often shared with young women, particularly by interests (e.g.the media and the sexualization of women) that encourage, support or promote sexual “freedom” and promiscuity for young women.  This is like encouraging girls to smoke because it’s cool and not telling them about the known impacts of smoking upon their short term and long term health.

5.  Avoid being too thin.  Athletes and women with eating disorders are especially  at risk of infertility due to their low body weight and the impact low weight has on amenorrhea – causing a women’s menstruation to stop.

6.  Avoid egg freezing schemes and gimmicks which “promise” you the ability to freeze your eggs so that you can use them later on when you are ready to have a baby.  Egg freezing is expensive and considered experimental.  There are no long-term studies done on the results of the effectiveness of egg freezing and the health of the resulting children and it ignores the serious health risks to older pregnant women.

Human reproduction and specifically, our fertility, really is a gift which needs to be protected and preserved, just as we have learned to protect and preserve the health of our respiratory and muscular systems.  Natural conception, within the normal, timetable of human fertility, is better for the human body, and for the children.  For women who intend to have children, natural conception should be the goal, a goal achieved by understanding and caring for the body and avoiding risk factors including oral contraception.  Oral contraception, like those pills which have been given a Class 1 carcinogen rating by the World Health Organization, might control your fertility for a while, but at the risk of cancers, clots and death.  Why would you take this risk – or any risk – with the precious gift of your fertility?


The Pill Kills

Angela Lanfranchi, M.D.

This past April 13th, Bloomberg.com reported that Bayer was going to pay at least $100 million to settle about 500 lawsuits regarding injuries and death connected with the use of its Yasmin line of birth control which includes Yasmin and Yaz.

Maybe you’ve seen the ads on TV by lawyers looking for clients to join these lawsuits.  The problem:  young women dying of blood clots leading to heart attacks and strokes from these particular brands of “The Pill.”  No lament about the loss of life.  Just the lament about falling stock values.

 Why isn’t the death of young women news?

The fact that young women on “the pill” are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, clots in leg veins and clots in the lung while on the pill has been known since their inception.  In fact, when several young women in Puerto Rico died when the pill was first tested for safety, the pill was still deemed safe enough for use by healthy young women.  The increase in incidence of these sometimes fatal ailments was judged to be tolerably low enough for the continuing promotion of the Pill.  

Shockingly, fatalities in women were deemed worth the risk while cases of mildly shrinking testicles were enough to end trials of a birth control pill for men.

There were at least 50 deaths linked to Yasmin and Yaz from 2004 to 2008. But that does not mean they were the only brands of birth control pills linked to deaths.  They were just singled out because they increased the “low” known risk 74%.  In fact, all birth control pills are known to TRIPLE the risk of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism (clots in the lung).

In medicine, doctors are use to balancing the risks and benefits when prescribing therapies. For instance, if you have a fatal cancer it is deemed worthy to take the many risks of chemotherapy because you have a fatal disease and chemotherapy is the only way you have a hope for cure. 

But what about a young woman who does not have a life threatening disease?  In fact this young woman is healthy.  She just wants to control her fertility.  Should she be given a pill that could disable or kill her in her prime? Or should she be taught about her normal fertility cycle? 

After all, what may be true in epidemiological terms, “a low risk”, is not low when it’s you or your daughter or your wife who is now disabled or dead from those risks.

Teaching takes more time than a quick script for the pill from the doctor.  Yet a woman can learn to recognize her fertile times by the normal bodily changes she experiences with her menstrual cycle.  A woman is only fertile only about 100 hours a month.  During her fertile times she can either abstain from sexual intercourse or use another method (such as a barrier method) to control her fertility that won’t put her life at risk.

Why should she be given a Group 1 carcinogen for breast, cervical and liver cancer, again “the Pill”, for the non disease of “fertility” for 3 out of 4 weeks when she is fertile for only 100 hours a month?  Triple the risk for heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolus, and cancer?  The International Agency on Research of Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, listed the Pill as a Group 1 carcinogen in 2005.  I don’t remember seeing that on the 6 o’clock news.  Do you?  Why is a young woman’s life so devalued that risks of death and disability from the Pill are deemed low enough to be inconsequential and “worth it”?  Those risks are not even necessary to obtain her goal of fertility control.  Is the specter of abstaining or the use of a condom or diaphragm so off putting that taking chances with her life (not his) seems so reasonable?

The pill does kill many women every year.  Even a low risk if it’s taken by 82% of the 16 million women of reproductive age (15-45 years old) translates into thousands of deaths a year.  The pill not only increases her risk of heart attack, stroke, lung clots, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer but it also increases her risk of contracting HPV (human papilloma virus) and contracting and transmitting HIV, the AIDS virus.  It influences what partner she chooses and increases her risk of violent death.

These are the facts which are ignored and/or unknown by both women and their doctors.  During the next months I will review the data that have established the four major ways the Pill Kills: clots, cancer, contagion and violence.

Vows and Virginity: Part Two

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

So what if it wasn’t just a big party? What would that mean?

What if the wedding was a death.

At first glance, that seems a horrifying concept. We don’t want it to be a death. We don’t want to lose all the things we know marriage is inclined to take from us, so in turn we lessen its seriousness. We sign pre-nuptial agreements. We try out sex before the wedding night to make sure it won’t be awkward. We get married in the courthouse to avoid all the expectations and religious connotations of a big church. If marriage involves any sort of death, well, we’d rather have the big party without the consequences.

The problem is—it’s these big parties without true substance that leave us unfulfilled. Weddings are meant to be deaths. Because it is only through completely and happily submitting to that death that we can find the true and complete beautiful new life of marriage.

How is this possible? With the wedding vow, you ensure to another human being that you will always give to them—in all circumstances—through all sufferings. You are theirs, and they are yours. And whatever love you have within you belongs to them. You share everything, your body, your heart, your mind, your thoughts, your bed, your bank account. Everything. This vow is a crazy concept. And it is so very risky. Something within you really must die—that part of you that holds back, that part of you that keeps your love safe, that part of you that makes decisions only for yourself—it must die. And how in the world can it be worth it when you don’t know for sure that the other person will keep his vow?

I would reply that you do it because it is what you were made to do. Human beings are made to love. They are made to be able to fully and completely give themselves to another. And marriage is one of the most perfect opportunities for this. I know, not because I have been married, but because I have loved. I know that when I receive love, it is perhaps the most wonderful thing in the world. But I know that if I do not give love, I am an incomplete and miserable human being. Giving love frees us from loneliness even if we do not receive it back. Because in the end, our giving attaches us to Love Himself—and He will never, ever forsake us. It is through His ever constant Gift and our own ability to imitate that that we find utter and complete salvation from our human sadness and woe. The marital vow lets us promise to daily kill our own selfishness. And that selfishness is what makes us unhappy. The marital vow, in tying us down, frees us.

And so virginity.

It is understood by many cultures that the marital vow is two-part—spiritual and physical. We are spiritual and physical beings, so we need to vow with our souls and our bodies—especially when we are going to be promising to share both. It used to be that many cultures checked to ensure that the second, bodily vow had been made. If it had not, the couple was not officially married. In our odd culture of the dichotomy of sex being dirty and sex being everywhere, we have pretended that this understanding doesn’t exist. But we know it exists. It is why we create all these subjective boundaries about sex and the right time for it. We know that sex promises something. Sex is a vow. It says, my body is yours, and yours is mine. And that vow is a part of another one. And they all come together in the concept of I give you myself. And there are few more beautiful words that a human being can ever say—and few more fulfilling.

I don’t know why human beings are so paradoxical. We want our freedom, but we can’t find that freedom until we give it up. It is hard to understand, but it is the way we are. We are meant to love. And to love fully. Our vows save us and our vows are better when they are complete. When they can be assuredly given along with the rest of us, as a holistic entity. I could go on about statistics regarding premarital sex and couples who abstain and couples who practice NFP and how divorce rates decrease with such activity. But I find that the most convincing argument for it all is that of love. And that love begs to be given freely and completely. And this is much more easily done in the context of virginity, be it saved always or saved as a renewed commitment to abstinence, and it is done most easily in the context of a vow. This vow, this free gift of love– this crazy, daring, romantic adventure– it helps us find the path to the joys of new life. And happily, gloriously, we get to walk that path together, as one, and free.

Bad Mother’s Day

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

I greet Mother’s Day every year with mixed emotions:  the joy of my own motherhood tinged with the pain of those who suffered at the hands of their mothers.  Facebook has intensified my camaraderie with the latter group, not because people post their painful memories.  They don’t.  Many people who were abused, unwanted, neglected or traumatized by their mothers know by instinct that they are supposed to remain silent on Mother’s Day. 

Not all mothers “mother” well.  I know people, mostly women, who were slapped, hit and locked out of their homes by their mothers.  I know people whose mothers verbally denigrated, criticized and scolded them beyond reason.  There are mothers who said to their child, “I should have aborted you”  as well as mothers who abandoned or routinely blamed or manipulated their child, creating deep wounds of neglect and injustice. 

You don’t read posts on Facebook about this type of mothering.  This time of year, posts feature mothers who laughed, loved unconditionally and mothered joyfully.  For people who did not have this kind of mothering, these posts can provoke envy and sadness, a wistful wondering what it would have been like to have a mother like that.  

Mother’s Day does not distinguish between good mothers and bad mothers.   Bad mothers are included.  And that is how it should be – often bad mothers never intended the depth of harm and trauma they inflicted.  They never knew – or they lost sight of – how to give of themselves and nurture their young rather than use and abuse their small charges for their own ends.  They often are unaware or regretful or in denial about the trauma they inflicted.  The recent child-abusive Time Magazine cover offers an example.  Commentators quickly questioned the judgment and emotional health of the model (as in “take my photo”) mother who used her camouflage clad 3 year old son as a breast-feeding prop.  Yet, it does not seem to have occurred to the publicity seeking mother that this sexualized, permanently online photo of her son standing on a chair to suck her breast might now, or later, traumatize him.     

Of course most mothers make some number of horrible mistakes in raising their children.  There’s no training for the job and the culture has increasingly urged modern mothers to keep their needs, goals and emotions primary.  Few women know that good mothering, good nurturing will entail a heart wrenching compromise of the self for most women.  Even those who feel willing to give of themselves so completely can find the daily challenge of containing one’s own emotions and needs formidable.  

Some mothers, though, get it all wrong from the beginning.  Without intervention, their horrible mistakes become a way of mothering and they end up traumatizing one or more of their children. 

People usually tell me their bad mother stories in whispers, over dinner with wine.  They talk about their trauma only to outsiders like me.  Their caution is wise.  Families often blame the victim for a mother’s cruelty and they resent – even reject – the member for sharing private family secrets.  Victims of bad mothering arrive at words like “abuse,” “neglect” and “abandonment” very slowly – as if the label implicates their own self worth.  Who wants the world to know that your own mother didn’t think you were worth caring for and loving properly?

For those traumatized by their mother, Mother’s Day is best embraced as a day of healing.  Traumatized children will spend years with emotional wounds that impact their lives, long after a mother has perhaps apologized or matured and corrected her parenting.  As one psychologist put it so well, traumas “do not end happily ever after but take years of working through to achieve healing.”  On Mother’s Day, as others say prayers of gratitude for the warm, nurturing love of their mother, victims of bad mothering must focus on acceptance, forgiveness and moving forward.  For some, this will include reconciliation with their mothers – others will find their voice and health only by leaving their mothers behind.

Mother’s Day is also a worthy day to recall those women in our lives who did love and nurture us.   Women have a unique role in conveying to the young “the values that embody our humanity . . . nurture, care, patience, self-sacrifice.”  (E. Fox-Genovese).  While we typically assume that mothers discharge this responsibility, other women often model these values in the lives of children – sometimes as an intentional palliative to the bad mothering they observe in a child’s life.  It is a worthy and comforting reflection to identify women from your childhood who conveyed such values to you – and to mark with gratitude their presence in your life.

Whether you honor today a woman who simply made some mistakes – or a mother who, through her own frailties and failings, traumatized you – find a way to include in your reflections true gratitude and forgiveness.  Try to model for others the virtues that eluded your mother in her care for you.  Extend yourself to a woman who may feel saddened because she did not, does not, have a loving, nurturing mother in her life.  Be that person for someone else today and celebrate Mother’s Day, the good and the bad.

Birthmother’s Day

Serrin M. Foster

Tomorrow May 12th is Birthmother’s Day. Birthmothers are those women who chose to give their child life through adoption.

Created by a group of birthmothers in Seattle,Washington, Birthmother’s Day invites us to reflect on the choice birthmothers made and the life they gave. While there is joy in knowing that life goes on for both birthmother and child, most birthmothers note a pain associated with Mother’s Day – Birthmother’s Day honors their birthmotherhood.

For nearly two decades, Feminists for Life has worked to ensure that birthmothers are remembered and included in pro-woman legislation and campus solutions, legislation and solutions which support the choice of adoption in face of an unplanned pregnancy.  To fashion real support, we must raise and truly listen to the voices of birthmothers – like former FFL board member Jessica O’Connor-Petts who knows firsthand that “Adoption is an empowering choice for women.”

FFL has listened and heard the voice of birthmothers.  For a woman to choose to make an adoption plan, with or without the participation of the child’s father, she needs practical assistance as well as emotional support and counseling before and after the adoption.

 She needs unconditional support for her choice.

Unconditional support must come from parents, family and friends, counselors and adoption agencies, schools and workplaces, and prospective adoptive parents.  Every woman making an adoption plan for her child should feel that she is fully informed, and is not coerced by individuals or by circumstances or lack of support.  She must know that her personal and individual choices are honored from the beginning of her pregnancy and throughout the rest of her life.

Unconditional support means offering a complete range of services and resources to meet all of the needs of each birthmother.

1.  Birthmothers often need practical support to help meet living expenses, including housing, food, phone, and legal fees.

 2.  Available resources must include understanding and flexibility from educators throughout her pregnancy.

 3.  Employers must support a birthmother’s choice to give life. Birthmothers are entitled to the same pregnancy leave granted to other pregnant employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act. A birthmother needs postpartum care for both her physical and emotional well-being, and she should have access to the same leave benefits, paid or unpaid, as those extended for recovery after any employee gives birth.

4.  All birthmothers should receive a full range of quality medical care, including pre- and post-natal care, counseling, and education regarding birth and, if she chooses, breastfeeding.

5.  A birthmother needs to know her options once the baby is born.  She may want time with the baby once born, a chance to introduce the child to family and friends.  As Jessica said, “I had to say hello before I could say goodbye.” There should be transition options such as an “entrustment ceremony.”  The birthmother needs to decide what sort of contact she would like to have with the adoptive family, including visits, cards, photos, etc., depending on the level of openness both birthparents and adoptive parents are comfortable with.  And she also deserves privacy and respect, and to have control over who is told about the adoption, what they are told, by whom, and when.

6.  Counseling both before and after the adoption takes place is a critical service.  Responsible, ethical adoption policy requires that birthparents are fully informed and supported before, throughout and after the adoption process and that they receive complete information regarding their legal rights and responsibilities.  Unconditional support means every birthmother needs and deserves ongoing support and respect from each one of us, and access to counseling and birthmother support groups.

It can be tempting to romanticize the choice of adoption and the birthmother, viewing her as selfless and overlooking her actual feelings, needs and experiences. This is why FFL advocates for birthparents, and why we listen to their stories.  We honor birthmothers by acknowledging that their experiences are unique, characterized by mixed emotions.  Their feelings may change over time.  For most who have made the thoughtful, loving decision that adoption was the best choice for them and their children, we must recognize that they often experience a sense of loss and their need for support and affirmation is ours to fulfill.

There is no “one size fits all” solution for every woman facing unplanned pregnancy or every birthparent who makes an adoption plan for her child.  With your support for FFL, we can provide them with the full array of choices, educational resources, and emotional support they deserve.

FFL President Serrin M. Foster has led Feminists for Life since 1994, and is the creator of the Women Deserve Better® than Abortion campaign. This post is an excerpt from Foster’s article in the upcoming issue of The American Feminist® published by Feminists for Life of America.  Before Roe, FFL said “no” to abortion–and yes to life.  FFL’s 40th anniversary issue will also focus upon the needs of other at-risk populations that FFL serves including poor and working poor pregnant women, victims of coercion and violence (abortion, sex trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault), pregnant and parenting students in college, and those in the workplace.  To join FFL in advance of publication, please go to http://feministsforlife.org/support/index.htm.  Tell them you heard about FFL on NewFeminism.co!  Thank you.


Vows and Virginity: Part 1

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

I am twenty-one-years old, engaged, recently graduated from the number one party school in the nation, but I’m saving sex for marriage.

I’m not doing this because I’m scared of STI’s or pregnancy. Neither am I doing it because I fear some sort of disapproval. My choice is contingent on one core belief. Without that belief, my choice would not make sense. I’ve saved it because I believe in marriage. The old-fashioned kind. The kind that you can’t quit on. And I think our abandonment of that concept of marriage, not just the media or the music we listen to or sexism or sex education, is the real reason for the rarity of my choice.

When I say that we abandoned that concept of marriage I don’t mean that we have stopped having weddings. We have tons of weddings. We have weddings and wedding dresses and wedding cakes and wedding TV shows. We’re still having weddings. But I don’t know how many marriages are taking place. In our culture we now believe it is everyone’s right to abandon the marital vow under some circumstance (not here referring to physically leaving in the case of danger which is a different matter and can still be entirely in line with the vow) and as long as we can abandon a vow, it is not a vow.

Now I don’t mean to discredit the reasons people have for abandoning this vow. Marriage is terrifying. There is enormous risk in promising something until death. We have all seen the risks play out and understandably so many of us have chosen the safer route. We have the celebration, the cake, the dress. We may change our last name and move in together. And we may even have kids. We accept the trappings of the vow because we think those trappings might make our intent come to fruition. Maybe if we get married we’ll stay together. But—we don’t absolutely have to.

The problem is, we need only look at the divorce rate to know that we don’t absolutely have to means there’s a good chance we won’t. A culture where half of the married people break the vow must mean we don’t fully believe in the vow. We don’t really believe in marriage anymore.

So what does this have to do with virginity?

Well, first, it means that as long as marriage is a statement of intent, the argument for premarital abstinence is extremely weak. And you hear this all the time from those who argue against it. They say things like what is the big difference between waiting until we love each other and waiting until marriage? Or how do you even know that your husband will be a virgin? He probably won’t be. Or, I’m not even sure I’m going to get married, so why would I wait? And all of these reasons make so much sense. Once we have adopted the modern concept of marriage—that it is merely another stepping-stone in affections rather than an uncompromising vow, an unbreakable unification of two people as one, and the entire reason we date—waiting until marriage doesn’t really make sense. We have lost faith in this romantic ideal of saving yourself for one person when that one person is likely to not be the only person. We don’t see why there should be an objective boundary of the wedding night when the wedding night actually isn’t as significant as we make it out to be. As long as it is just a special celebration of a statement of intent to love, it becomes fairly arbitrary. And at that point, why can’t those who love each other just as much and have made their own personal statement of intent express their love through their sexuality too? It isn’t fair that two people would have to plan a big party in order to express themselves.

But what if it wasn’t just a big party?

The problem with our modern concept of sexuality is that although we reject objective boundaries, we all deep down long for them. We even project our subjective boundaries as if they were objective. I have never encountered anyone who has absolutely no standards with regard to sex. We all have our point at which timing makes you “slutty” or timing makes you prudish. We make grand proclamations about how we would “never do it on a first date” or how we think it’s ridiculous that someone would. And always, unless we have so diminished sex that it means very little to us anymore, these boundaries have something to do with the level of commitment we have with the person. We know that sex means something and says something and gives something and therefore, it implies and requires commitment. But we seem to be in a constant battle interiorly and with each other about when that commitment is enough. When can we be free to give confidently and fully? When can we know the time is right objectively—not just based upon when we feel like it? Our feelings and desires are unpredictable and unreliable, and we long for that objective standard. That time when we can know. It just seems unreasonable in this day and age that that standard be marriage.

But I ask again, what if the marriage wasn’t just a big party?

In my next post I am going to address this question.