Following the terrorist actions of an anti-choice militant in Colorado on November 27, 2015, I feel compelled to offer a few reflections on this notion of ‘the sanctity of life’ and why I invoke my Bishop Hendricken High School alumnus status when I contact my congressional representatives in Washington regarding choice issues. It is worth noting here that these opinions are my own and they do not represent the opinions of the school or any association of students past or present, though I hope they one day might. I also would be remiss if I did not add that I understand and respect the feelings this might engender within those aforementioned communities, but I do not intend this as an insult to anyone in those groups.
When I was at Hendricken, there was something called the Irish Club, a group of students and faculty that engaged in an after-school celebratory discourse about Celtic Catholic spirituality and culture. We would from time to time touch on the tremendously fraught issue that is the Irish Republican Army. The overwhelming opinion was that, even though the IRA was right in its aims, they were wrong to launch attacks in a fashion that resulted in civilian casualties. Leaving aside my own further intellectual development since I discovered the works of Frantz Fanon, the reality is that one can and should apply this logic to the murder of people at a women’s clinic.
Anything less than a full-throated rejection of an act of religiously-influenced domestic terrorism on par with the violence of 9/11, including modifying phrases that condemns the activities of the victims, is the stuff of cowardice. If a school should be involved in such acts of cowardice, their ability to be serviced by taxpayer-funded free school bussing should be revoked, as should the supply of taxpayer-funded text books in math, science, and other subjects. If we are going to have some individuals harping and howling over whether President Obama was taught in a radical Muslim madrassa in Indonesia, we are going to hold Catholic education to the same standards while remembering that Osama bin Laden was also opposed to abortion rights.
One of the lessons that I took from 9/11 that I think very few others likewise took was understanding why that event happened. Some would call this a Left position, others an anti-American position, but I call a logical and educated position. Those attacks were not random acts, they were a violent climax of events over decades involving American military force in the post-colonial world. From the bloody vistas of Vietnam to Jimmy Carter’s idiotic policies in Afghanistan and beyond, America planted hateful seeds abroad that blew back onto our shores and killed civilians.
We should be wise and apply this logic herein. This violence was not random, it was a violent and bloody culmination of years of a coordinated series of anti-choice actions that the media has refused to cover or failed to properly dissect in the name of their farcical ‘objectivity’. Clinics nationwide have been closed over the past several years with a series of Kafkaesque building codes. For months, there have been arson attacks on women’s healthcare clinics that have not been front page news on the Providence Journal (do not even get me started with their misogynist coverage of this violence). The farcical and utterly transparent videos produced by anti-choice scoundrels this summer are now confirmed to have fueled this madman’s violence and that vanguard of objectivity, Edward Achorn, printed letters and columns in his editorial pages that furthered those lies. I would not hesitate to show him as much contempt as some of his colleagues have shown for Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning (though the fact is that they were telling the truth whereas Achorn was promoting lies). The trail of tears leads to many doorways, including his. No longer can he talk of concerns about promoting terrorism in the Arab world without having this held over his head.
Let us consider for a moment the odious Bishop Thomas Tobin, whose war against women included his Know-Nothing rally at the doors of Planned Parenthood last summer. I would respect Bishop Tobin if he was actually serious about protecting children, but considering how he continues to give soft glove treatment to Bishop Emeritus Gelineau while the man has reams of testimony against him regarding sexual abuse of minors (here, here, and here), I would trust Charles Manson to protect a youth before I trusted Bishop Tobin. What is more, he is a publicly-registered Republican and actively opposed the Affordable Care Act, a law that provides the very contraceptive care that can prevent unwanted pregnancy and therefore abortion. If the Church opposes contraception, fine, that is the realm of moral instruction of membership. But when you get into actively lobbying against public policy, that is a wholly different realm. The Providence Diocese for a long time now has ceased to be a purely religious body and become the politically lobbying Grand Old Diocese, or GOD. This is such a transparent farce that the Three Stooges would blanch in embarrassment.
But there is plenty blame left. What about our allegedly pro-choice Gov. Gina Raimondo, who threw women under the bus this year at the whims of the aforementioned Republican Diocese? Can we call this rolling over for both the opposition party and the Church that took her picture off the walls of LaSalle Academy anything but a terminal lack of backbone? Why is our democracy allowed to be controlled by a body that fails to pay taxes, shelters child abusers, and supports terrorism? Are all the women of Rhode Island worth a quickie compromise with these fools? The precedents she has created are deadly and fed into this madness.
Yet the ultimate amount of guilt lies with ourselves. We failed women. We were unable, unwilling, or uncaring enough to take these warning signs serious enough. We should have been more full-throated about this than a bickering fest about a baseball stadium. In the days before 9/11, the record shows that a select few government employees were running around Washington like their hair was on fire, begging the Bush administration for attention. Were there such figures in the Ocean State landscape I missed? Steve Ahlquist has been one, his coverage of the Raimondo legal moves have been admirable and is going to be used as primary sources by future historians. But was there a Richard Clarke on hand telling we alleged feminists to watch out? Why were we not like he was? To quote the Bard “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but ourselves.”
After this, every reproductive healthcare center should be under the same level of protection that T.F. Green Airport is. After this, we should quit worrying about Syrian Muslim terrorism and start worrying about American Christian anti-choice terrorism. After this, we should be more vocal and saying that abortion accounts for only 3% of Planned Parenthood medical care and the rest is focused on low-cost healthcare for men and women, including contraceptive, cancer, and STI testing/treatment care, medical care that would otherwise be unavailable for many of their patients. We should vocalize that, prior to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, the largest killer of women of child-bearing age was septic abortion, more than car accidents or cancer.
If moral absolutists are going to argue that they do not want their tax dollars funding abortion, they should be as vocal about funding our murderous, child-killing military-industrial complex and be pro-life regarding Palestinian children. Yet the only religious group I know of that does that is the generally pro-choice Quakers. Are Catholic Bishops willing to use the same condemnatory tones used towards those who help procure abortions with Catholic soldiers and threaten automatic excommunication for drone killings, especially since the revelations by The Intercept and other publications reveal the targeted assassinations program has killed so many innocent children?
I write Hendricken ’05 on my pro-choice petitions to our Congressional delegates because Jack Reed is a Catholic and James Langevin went to Hendricken. I write Hendricken ’05 on my pro-choice petitions because, once you void the privacy of the doctor’s office, you create a slippery slope that could void the privacy of the Catholic priest’s confessional due to the fact clergy and medical personnel are protected by the same statutory logic. I sign Hendricken ’05 because I oppose terrorism. I sign Hendricken’05 because I believe women know better than anyone else what medical care they need and that the patient is always the best advocate for their care, not priests. I sign Hendricken ’05 because I respect the female teachers at Hendricken. When I was a student, there were instances where male instructors would sometimes talk about the ‘morality’ of regarding why some of these teachers did not have a large number of children, behavior showing of a lack of respect for these women that screams Human Resources complaint. But I also sign Hendricken ’05 because I believe in sanity, secularism, feminism, and maturity and do not believe in governance by religious fundamentalism. It was John Adams who said “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Finally, I sign Hendricken ’05 because all Hawks are quality one, even if they are pro-choice. By pro-choice, I do not mean I push my sexist nose into the doctor’s office to observe all the activities therein. Rather, it means I respect when that door closes and do not dare open it ever lest I have the same be done to my mother, aunt, grandmother, sister, or female friends. This is the kind of respect I also express for the Seal of the Confessional.
Those who tell you that being pro-choice automatically means being in favor of abortion are lying. It is the complete opposite. Being pro-choice means not being in favor of anything a woman chooses to do in her doctor’s office because it is none of your business, period. Being pro-choice also means opposing state-mandated abortion, such as the Chinese one-child policy, because a law like that strips a woman of her agency and intrudes on the relationship she has with her doctor. Men are not subjected to the level of regulation and scrutiny when they choose medical care that I might not agree with, ergo a woman is due that same level of respect. Refusal to grant that is defined by an SAT vocabulary word, misogyny.