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Politics and Passions - Winter 1995-96

Part 35

In Pro-Life Feminism: Different Voices (1985), editor Gail Grenier Sweet calls for:

easy access to contraception, sufficient maternity and paternity leaves, job protection, job-sharing and flex-time, aids to women who wish to stay home to raise young children, tax breaks and subsidies for women caring for elderly relatives at home, community based shelters for pregnant single women to learn parenting skills and finish their education, upgraded pension plans to alleviate the poverty faced by many elderly women, humane care of the handicapped and elderly in nursing homes, hospices for the terminally ill, medical care for infants born with handicaps, shelters for battered women, childcare programs, etc.

In the December 1993 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, editor Rose Evans, in an article entitled "How Will We Revere Life?" writes:

"This editor has long been aware of the relative success of the Dutch support system for pregnant women, compared to that of the U.S. The Dutch abortion rate is a minute fraction of the American. I believe the rate for young women in their teens is about

one-twentieth of the U.S. rate. And this is done not so much by restrictive laws (although there are some restrictions) as by real social support for pregnant women and mothers.

"The situation for pregnant women in the U.S. who don't have assured income, family support and medical insurance is abysmal and getting worse. Choice is a joke. Women don't have money for decent food, decent housing, or decent medical care, nor adequate support after the child is born."

"Want to Stop Abortions?" asks the June 1995 newsletter for the Colorado Peace Mission in Boulder, CO. "Make them unnecessary. Provide everyone with: A choice of whether to have sex….and with whom; Comprehensive sex education; Non-coercive family planning; Safe, affordable birth control; Open, honest talk about sex; Loving parents..."

In a 1991 article entitled "When no News is Bias," Reverend James Burtchaell, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, draws comparisons between civil disobedience directed against abortion clinics and "the far more controversial sit-ins and freedom marches of the 1960s, the raiding of draft board files in the 1970s, the denting of ICBM nose cones in the 1980s, the blockading of the South African Embassy in 1984…"

According to Reverend Burtchaell, these demonstrators have their rights violated: "A 72-year-old bishop in West Hartford, Connecticut, was seized, cuffed behind his back, then lifted from the ground by billy clubs between his wrists…17 female college students had their clothes ripped off and were forced to walk in the nude, in some cases crawl.

"Some of them were sexually assaulted...arrested women were strip-searched and cavity searched; others were stripped to the waist and dragged through the jail by their bras with breasts exposed... Prisoners in Atlanta were forbidden to pray together in jail . . ."

Reverend Burtchaell notes further that "whereas actor Martin Sheen was given three hours of community service for his 18th conviction for anti-nuclear protest, a first-time abortion protester in Fargo, North Dakota, was sent to prison for 21 months. Militant homosexuals who had invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral and disrupted Mass were fined $100; the organizers of the New York and other pro-life protests have been fined $450,000."

Antiabortion clergy and protesters must be given the same level of respect (and equal time to air their views through the news media) given to animal rights activists, environmentalists, feminists, civil rights activists, antinuclear activists, anti-capital punishment activists, antiwar activists, "militant homosexua1s," etc.

In These Times, a progressive political newspaper in Chicago observed in the late 1980s: "Our reaction to scenes of anti-abortion activists engaging in civil disobedience outside clinics is similar to that of many on the Left: ‘What are THEY doing using OUR tactics? One major factor may be uncomfortable for many of us to admit: that many of them ARE us.’ "

The Seamless Garment Network (SGN) is a coalition of peace and justice organizations on the religious Left. The SGN takes a stand against war, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, the arms race and racism. Animal rights, like ecology, nuclear power, gun control, or the drug war, is a topic of serious discussion among SGN members. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has signed the SGN Mission Statement. Carol Crossed, Executive Director of the SGN, writes:

"In the last 27 years, I have engaged in civil disobedience and risked arrest in over 20 demonstrations around issues as varied as civil rights in Washington DC; anti-Vietnam War actions; and sleeping outside the City Hall in Rochester, NY to call attention to the plight of the homeless. Most recently, I was arrested in opposition to the Gulf War. Five of these arrests were in opposition to aborting children. Rescues are not a monolithic expression by a single group. Many participants, even leaders, are feminists, Quakers, and Pacifists from Catholic Worker communities."

On January 21, 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the sanctions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) can be applied to anti-abortion protesters.

According to Carol Crossed, "It is an inescapable fact that activists today engage in acts of civil disobedience remarkably similar to some of the acts of prolife protesters which NOW (the National Organization for Women) would like to transform into federal felons...

"Environmentalists chain themselves to trees; plowshares activists damage warheads; and animal rights activists sit in at stockyard feed lots. A current bill (HR 1815) called ‘Hunter Harassment’ is under consideration which would not only criminalize actions against hunters--assaults, seizing guns, blocking entrances to hunting grounds, etc.--but speech directed at hunters as well.

"A Washington Post editorial ‘Shouting and Shooting’ (12/3/93) says, ‘The point of picketing, protests, demonstrations and boycotts is to make people who are targets so uncomfortable that they will change their politics or behavior. So it is with the opponents of hunting, as it has been with civil rights, labor unions and abortion protesters.’ "

When the RICO decision was issued, Carol Crossed saw it as a threat to the whole range of nonviolent protest, and warned others of the threat that the RICO decision posed to all forms of nonviolent protest and peaceful dissent. Signers of a newspaper ad protesting the decision included Erwin Knoll, editor of The Progressive; Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; Philip Berrigan; Liz McAllister; Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement; Joseph Lowery, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; civil rights leader Will Campbell; environmentalist Wendell Berry and others.

Organizations signing included The International Black Women’s Network; the Fund for Animals; Koininea Partners; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); Sojourners and others.

Antinuclear plowshares activists have met with Operation Rescue activists, and even "prolife" and "prochoice" activists have met to find common ground. Why shouldn’t there be an ongoing discussion between animal rights and antiabortion activists?

Columnist Colman McCarthy of the Washington Post, a liberal Catholic writer, is an example of an animal rights advocate who may literally be called "prolife." McCarthy teaches filled-to-capacity classes on nonviolence in high schools and colleges in the Washington, D.C. area. He speaks eloquently about the rights of "our fellow Earthians, whom we call animals.

"How many of you had a corpse for lunch today?" he asks his students. "What part of an animal did you eat? A leg? A rib?...I never call it meat—that’s just a euphemism. You know why I avoid dairy products and eggs? Because they’re sexist; it’s the females in the barns and henhouses. What do you think of that?"

McCarthy has even drawn fire for advocating vegetarianism. Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) once accused McCarthy of having communist ties, after he had urged Americans to skip turkey and eat bulgur at Thanksgiving.

In one of his columns, he wrote that American society "chews on the cadavers" of nine million animals a day, and quoted Nobel Prize winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer on vegetarianism.

McCarthy writes about public education, the violence of our meat-producing and chemical-agriculture industries, and the wasted millions of dollars spent on the military buildup and high school ROTC programs. He also takes an ardent stance against abortion.

"Have you heard the new pro-choice strategy?" he asked in the spring of 1989 after a huge abortion rally in Washington, D.C. "Now they’re all saying nobody wants abortion, but that it’s important to keep the option open. (He shakes his head.) That's like a general who says he doesn't like war, but wants to keep it as an option just in case. You don’t find peace through war, and you don’t enhance life through killing babies."

Labor leader Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, like Colman McCarthy, was also an ethical vegetarian opposed to abortion.

Go on to: Part 36: No War - No Abortion
Return to: The Next Distraction

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