Three years ago, I attended a conference at Princeton that was intended to bring pro-life and pro-choice advocates together to find common ground. Its success was, shall we say, limited. But one moment of vehement agreement came when pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike expressed frustration with politicians who talk about their opposition to abortion and respect for life while at the same time cutting funding for social welfare programs.

You see, pregnancy assistance centers can’t meet the needs of the women and children they serve on their own. One of the services many centers provide is helping mothers connect with programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) so they and their children can get enough to eat. Centers like Birthright in Salina, Kansas:

“If this shutdown continues, girls won’t get the vouchers they need for baby formula,” said Linda Campbell, director of Birthright. “We will have hungry babies in Salina. A lot of our clients are very low-income. If they don’t get their WIC vouchers, who knows what will happen.

“I can’t see letting our babies go hungry and starve to death.”

The shutdown has left a portion of the federal workforce furloughed and services suspended, including funding for the WIC program that helps families up to 180 percent of the poverty line.

Campbell said Birthright, a crisis pregnancy service, helps women in need, giving emergency formula and other help. She said many of her clients are on WIC.

The government shutdown isn’t just a political game — it’s hurting real women and children.

It’s not just WIC, either. Domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers that receive federal funds authorized under the Violence Against Women Act and other programs face critical losses of funding. And then there are the cancelled cancer trials, the inability of the CDC to respond quickly to a widespread salmonella outbreak, the debilitating effects of loss of income on the households of federal employees, and so many more life-diminishing effects.

Democrats for Life is challenging pro-life groups to call for an end to the shutdown. We join them in that challenge.

US supporters: Please call and ask your Representative to end the shutdown with no strings attached. You can find your House members using Contacting the Congress. Please call and make the pro-life case against the shutdown.

From the Indianapolis Star comes a story of repulsive but sadly unsurprising behavior aimed at a 14-year-old girl who is due to give birth in early July after becoming pregnant as the result of rape:

 A former self-proclaimed “social bug” — she was a cheerleader and athlete — the young victim has become reclusive since learning she was pregnant.

“I can’t walk out the door without someone calling me a whore or slut,” the girl said. “I used to have a lot of friends, or people I thought were my friends, but as soon as this happened I just isolated myself.”

The repeated vandalism incidents at the family’s home — including the words “whore” and “slut” scrawled on the garage doors — were reported to police. But Green said no charges were filed because there were no witnesses to the acts.

Her daughter also has been the target of mean-spirited rumors and speculation that her pregnancy is the result of promiscuous behavior.

– Tim Evans, “An Elwood girl became pregnant in a sexual assault at 13, her case illustrates a growing problem in Indiana”

The girl and her mother discussed abortion, but “‘I just looked at my mom,’ the girl recalled, ‘and told her I wanted to keep the baby.’”

It’s hard for me to fathom the bravery this girl has shown in choosing to carry her pregnancy to term. And it’s not hard to understand why so many other people in her situation wouldn’t.

Much has been made of the fact that she’s being shamed even though she was raped, and I want to say one thing loud and clear: Even if she had not been raped, it would still be wrong to treat her this way. A woman or girl’s value does not depend on whether or not she has had sex. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and decency whether or not they have had sex. Even if they’re young. Even if they’re not married. Even if they have sex with half the people in town. People who have had sex or been raped are not chewed-up gum or ruined presents. They are living human beings, and if you say you respect life, respect them.

If you want to help:

  • A Facebook group, “Stop Slut-Shaming!!” has been started to support the Elwood girl and others who have been raped. Her mother, who was named in the Indianapolis Star article, is a member of the group.
  • The girl (I hate to just keep calling her that, but neither a name nor a pseudonym was used in the article) may not be protected if her rapist were to choose to seek visitation rights or custody of her child. Indiana law only provides for the termination of a rapists’ parental rights if the rape victim is both a minor and the adoptive child or step-child of the rapist. An attempt was made last year to amend the Indiana Code to terminate convicted rapists’ parental rights, but in the end the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee declined to recommend any change to existing law. Indiana residents, please contact your representatives and ask them to guarantee this protection for rape victims and their children.

Doctors in El Salvador have petitioned the Supreme Court to allow them to perform an abortion that they argue is necessary to save their patient’s life. The penal code of El Salvador bans abortion under all circumstances, with no exception to save the life of the mother. (Such an exception was previously part of the code, but was removed in 1998.)

The patient in question, a 22-year-old woman named Beatriz, has lupus and kidney disease. Her doctors argue that these conditions are worsened by her pregnancy and that her life is in danger. Recent reports say that Beatriz has now entered early stage renal failure.

Obviously, if care is available that will preserve both her life and her child’s, it should be pursued. But that isn’t always possible. All Our Lives has always held that a woman has a right to the medical care she needs to preserve her life, even if that care will result in the death of the child she carries. Neither she nor her doctors should have to worry about facing jail as a result.

I do want to say that I’m troubled by the way the case has been framed in many media outlets. They’ve emphasized that Beatriz’s baby is anencephalic and has a low chance of survival outside the womb. The implication is that the child’s severe disability makes this a more clear-cut case. That the child is anencephalic makes it far less likely that both could be saved, so it’s relevant in that sense. But Beatriz is entitled to life-saving care regardless of the health status of her child. And while the child’s death may be unavoidable, it’s still a death, and no less so for having been likely to happen soon anyway.

If you want to send a message to the El Salvador Supreme Court, they have a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Ask them to remember Beatriz’s constitutional right to life, and to allow her to receive whatever care she might need to preserve it. Letting her die would not be pro-life.

The Colorado House is currently considering Senate Bill 13-227, “Protect Rape Victim From Contact With Father.” The new law would allow a women who bear children conceived as the result of sexual assault to petition to terminate the parental rights of the rapist and prevent any contact with him. This would put an end to the situation in which a convicted rapist can file for custody or visitation rights to the child conceived as the result of his crime.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is currently on its second reading in the Colorado House. The legislative session is over in just a few days, so this would be a good time for Colorado residents to contact their House members.

All Our Lives will not have a presence of its own at the 2013 March for Life, but we are co-sponsoring the “For Peace & ALL Life” meetup/march group. It will be a great opportunity to meet other consistent life/whole life proponents.

Co-sponsored by Life Matters Journal, Secular Pro-Life, Consistent Life, Students for a Fair Society and continuing to seek other partners in the meetup/marching event!The March for Life is often portrayed and publicized as an event to protest against the (legal) killing of the preborn human among us. But what if it meant something more? What if the rallying cry in our ranks was one that stood for peace and all life? What if we stood not only for the preborn, but for the criminal, the prisoners of war, innocent civilians everywhere, the aged and the disabled, the depressed and the bullied, people of every race, gender, faith, sexuality, size, level of dependency, location, nationality?

If you are a supporter of the Consistent Ethic of Life, or just want to see our world engaged in a conversation that does not exclude any human life from consideration, please join us for a meetup and march with us at the March for Life. We represent the fullness of the pro-life mission!

The plan is merely to have a space and a time to share in the community of our little movement that encompasses the anti-abortion cause, but to be strengthened in the knowledge that we are not alone. Network with others in the CL cause, learn about opportunities available, and help to spread the message for peace and all life!

A February 2012 report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center details the barriers faced by women who need emergency contraception from the Indian Health Service. One in three Native American women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and yet women are often denied access to the care they need to prevent pregnancy.

The only pharmacist on most reservations is within the local Indian Health Service. Women who need Plan B report that IHS pharmacies often do not stock Plan B, refuse to provide it without a prescription, and sometimes shame women who ask for it.

Please ask IHS director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux to issue a directive to all service providers that emergency contraception be made available on demand — without a prescription and without having to see a doctor — to any woman age 17 or over who asks for it.

One of our board members just gave a talk on “Family Planning: Myth, Reality, and the Lifesaving Power of Choice” at the Call to Action Conference, a large gathering of progressive US Catholics. The detailed, amply referenced handout from the presentation is useful for family planning advocates of all faiths and none. Like the presentation itself, it covers the following points.

–Family Planning Freedom Is A Universal Human Right.
–Family Planning Freedom Saves Lives.
–Pregnancy Prevention Choice Is Not Violence Against the Already-Born.
–Pregnancy Prevention Choice Is Not Violence Against the Unborn.
–Natural Family Planning Is A Good Answer for Some, But Not All.
–What You Can Do to Advocate for Family Planning Freedom!

You can download it as a free .pdf here.

Savita Halappavanar’s death is outrageous, terrifying, sickening … who has enough adjectives for letting a woman die because “this is a Catholic country”?

Assuming that the Irish Times’ account of the horrific last few days of her life is accurate, Halappanavar’s doctors didn’t so much as start her on antibiotics until the third day of her miscarriage, when she was already very ill. They refused to induce delivery of her dying unborn child even as she became sicker and sicker from the infection that ultimately killed her. They claimed that Irish law would not allow them to do anything while there was still a fetal heartbeat — but that doesn’t seem to be the real reason for their refusal to save her life.

I’m neither a lawyer nor Irish, so I’m going to try not to comment in detail on specific points of Irish law when I’m not qualified to do so. That said, here’s what I do know:

  • The Irish Supreme Court ruled in the 1992 “X Case” that in cases where there is a “real and substantial” risk to the life of the mother that can only be avoided by the termination of her pregnancy, that termination is legally permissible.
  • The Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics For Registered Medical Practitioners of Ireland’s Medical Council states:

Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother. Under current legal precedent, this exception includes where there is a clear and substantial risk to the life of the mother arising from a threat of suicide. You should undertake a full assessment of any such risk in light of the clinical research on this issue.

It is lawful to provide information in Ireland about abortions abroad, subject to strict conditions.

You have a duty to provide care, support and follow-up services for women who have an abortion abroad.

In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.

Both of these point to a legal and medical consensus that Halappanavar should have been treated. Furthermore, there is no ethically defensible argument that she should have been left to die. Her child’s life could not be saved. It’s very possible that hers could have been. Letting her die gave no possible benefit to her child, flagrantly disregarded her own right to life, and has devastated her family.

Evelyn Fennely, an Irish supporter of All Our Lives, has also written a post on the Halappanavar case. She argues that under Irish law, medical standards, and even Catholic doctrine, inducing delivery or otherwise removing the dying child from her body to avoid further infection would not only be permissible, but would in fact be the standard and expected course of action.

The treatment that Savita Halappanavar required was legal and permitted under the Medical Council guidelines. Why did the medical team not induce as they could have? Was the doctor able to make a correct diagnosis? Was the doctor capable of performing treatments in such scenarios?

These questions should be answered as part of the three investigations that have been launched into the matter. Hopefully these investigations will explain why medical staff at UCHG did not provide treatment for miscarriage, when such medical treatment is legal and standard practice in cases such as Mrs. Halappanavar’s.

If the allegations that the medical team withheld treatment are true, I believe that we can expect the Medical Council to strike off the doctor(s) at the centre of the case. And doctors who withhold treatments and ignore the Council’s guidelines on best medical practice in such cases should be struck off the medical register.

The Medical Council is clear that in cases where the fetus is still alive, treatment is allowed even if “there is little of no hope of the baby surviving”. That she wasn’t treated is a failure of the hospital and medical team, not a problem with the law or with Medical Council guidelines. Necessary medical treatment during pregnancy, even if fetal death is inevitable, is legal in Ireland (and should remain so). In fact, it is standard medical procedure in cases like Savita Halappanavar’s to expediate delivery. She should not have been made to hang on for as long as she did – if the details that are being reported are correct, her case was grossly mismanaged.

Savita Halappanavar’s life was precious. It’s not “pro-life” to throw it away through medical negligence or incompetence, or out of some misguided and misogynistic notion that pregnant women have no right to save their own lives. And if in fact it is true, as some are arguing, that the hospital believed they might be legally liable for treating Halappanavar, that only underscores the need for legislation to clarify the fact that women have the right to life-saving medical care. (Although I have a hard time believing anyone thought they would go to jail for giving her antibiotics. Something else seems to have been happening here.)

Please email Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), at taoiseach@taoiseach.gov.ie to say that you support an inquiry into why University Hospital Galway denied Savita Halappanavar treatment that she had every legal and moral right to.

Today is the National Day of Action for the Violence Against Women Act.

It has been 679 days since VAWA expired, and 183 days since Congress’ last action on VAWA. It’s time for them to get back to work.

Call and tweet your Representatives and Senators today! If you’re tweeting, use the hashtag #PassVAWA2012. Tell them to pass a VAWA that safely and effectively protects all victims.

If your Senator is not on the list of cosponsors or if your Representative voted for the inferior House substitute bill, and if that person identifies as a pro-lifer, it may help to remind them of the links between violence against women, unintended pregnancy, and abortion. Let them know that you see ending violence against women as a pro-life issue.

By the end of the day, every Member of Congress will hear a unified message: Work out the differences, pass VAWA before this Congress ends and you go home for the holidays. Do not let VAWA die and miss this chance to help victims find shelter, help and justice. There is precious little time left and victims’ lives and futures are in the balance.

So Todd Akin, who thinks that pregnancy resulting from rape is “really rare” because “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” announced yesterday that he is staying in the Missouri Senate race. I hardly know where to start. I guess a grounding in reality is the first order of business: Yes, of course women become pregnant as the result of rape. No, it’s not “really rare” — although few studies exist, the best available evidence indicates that the conception rate for rape is roughly equal to that for the average act of consensual PIV intercourse. No, there is no “certain secretion” that kills sperm when a woman is raped. That’s made up. No, it is not true that women who are “truly” raped can’t get pregnant because “the juices don’t flow.” That’s made up. No, even though ongoing stress can make conception and carrying to term more difficult for some women, the stress of being raped does not in itself make conception impossible or highly unlikely.

I think a lot of people don’t fully understand what the problem is with Akin’s statement. That a public figure is blithely, proudly ignorant about subjects on which he proposes to legislate is appalling. (I feel like I have to say that, because I’m not sure that’s something on which we agree as a country. Akin serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, after all.) But it’s so much more than that.

Women who have been raped automatically fall under suspicion in a way that virtually no other crime victims do. When was the last time you discussed a theft, and someone felt the need to disclaim that the victim might have actually wanted to give the thief money, or might be lying about the whole incident ever happening? That happens in virtually every discussion of rape outside of explicitly feminist and anti-rape spaces, even though evidence points to false accusations of rape being no more common than false accusations of other crimes, at between 2-8%.

So when Todd Akin and the people defending him claim that pregnancy due to “legitimate” rape (as Akin later clarified, he means “legitimate” as opposed to those cases where women are lying) is rare or impossible, they are doing two things. First of all, by accepting the double standard on the need for the “legitimate” qualifier, they are tacitly promoting the falsehood that women who say they have been raped are to be trusted less than people who report other crimes.

It gets worse. If a person believes that pregnancy due to rape is extremely rare, but lying about rape is common, what are they likely to believe when a woman says her pregnancy resulted from rape? That she’s lying. That she doesn’t need help, that she is someone who is trying to hurt others and not someone who has herself been hurt. If you think that what Akin said is OK, could you please try to imagine yourself in the shoes of that woman for just one minute?

By contributing to the suspicion that rape victims already face far too much of, Akin and those who defend his claims about pregnancy due to “legitimate” rape make it more likely that women will not report their rapes or will not be believed if they do. They make it more likely that rapists will get away with it and rape again. They also make it harder for women who have become pregnant as a result of rape to carry to term and raise their children. If a woman knows that she will be suspected of lying about her rape if her pregnancy becomes known, and might even have to share custody or allow visitation by her rapist, how much weight must that add to the abortion end of the scale?

This is rape culture. It hurts women. It hurts children conceived as a result of rape. It’s unacceptable.

What’s also unacceptable is all the apologism from groups saying we should ignore Akin’s “unfortunate” choice of words because he’s such a staunch defender of the unborn, and the only reason anyone would get so worked up about what he said is because they’re pro-abortion.

Missouri Right to Life apparently had no comment on the substance of Akin’s remarks, and would say only that they support him.

Connie Mackey, head of the Family Research Council’s PAC, said “I don’t know anything about the science or the legal implications of his statement. I do know politics, and I know gotcha politics when I see it.”

And worst of all, the Susan B. Anthony List, which disgracefully continues to use the name of one of America’s most prominent feminists, called Akin an “excellent partner in the fight for the unborn” and claimed that “Abortion supporters like Sen. Claire McCaskill are trying to use this issue as a smokescreen to hide from their radical, pro-abortion records.” As though there was no other reason to oppose Akin’s ignorant, harmful views.

Public Policy Polling found that only 9% of Missourians found Akin’s comments appropriate. (That’s somewhat cheering news, anyway.) I strongly doubt that 91% of Missourians are just trying to get Claire McCaskill elected.

Even if your idea of what “pro-life” means revolves solely around electing politicians who will vote for restrictions on abortion, one doesn’t have to support McCaskill to demand a better candidate than Akin. Akin can still withdraw in the next five weeks and be replaced. Is there really nobody better available? Are there no pro-life candidates who are knowledgeable and sensitive about women’s lives? And if not, if this is truly the best “pro-life” can muster, why would any decent human being want to identify with “pro-life”? About 75% of the time I don’t want to apply that label to myself, and these people are the reason. (The other 25%, I want to reclaim it.)

Even if the pro-life establishment can’t bring itself to demand better than ignorance and misogyny from its representatives, we can. We can contact Todd Akin’s office and explain to him how his comments hurt women. We can contact Missouri Right to Life and the Family Research Council and the Susan B. Anthony List and tell them that the cause of protecting human life before birth is not helped by spreading hurtful lies about women. We can tell them that hurting women is anti-life. We can tell them that we won’t stand for being represented by people like Todd Akin, and they shouldn’t either.