Abortion

The Vagina Dialogues

It’s profoundly disheartening to see people in political leadership and positions of cultural influence whose understanding of women’s anatomy—and that it is possessed by human beings, not mythical prototype “whores,” “virgins,” or “martyr mothers”—hasn’t progressed much past pre-adolescent hooting at drawings on the boys’ room walls.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not actually looking for excuses to chat about vaginas or hormones with strangers or friends. I’m fairly comfortable with prudish reserve in daily life, especially when the alternative is coarse humor that’s usually not very funny. Then again, if you watch TV sitcoms or contemporary comedy films, hearing the word “vagina” outside of a gynecologist’s office isn’t the surprise it once was. As Ann Hornaday noted in her March 13 essay in The Washington Post, the word is now so prevalent, “it’s hard to believe that, just six years ago, Grey’s Anatomy producer Shonda Rhimes made ABC standards and practices executives so nervous about the word that she substituted the far more playful ‘va-jay-jay.’”

By contrast, when Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” debuted in 1996 it was controversial theater for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the first word in the title. The play was groundbreaking in its forthright exploration of women’s experiences—the brutal, the ecstatic, the ambivalent—in relation to women’s distinctive anatomy. It helped many women reclaim the language for their own bodies in the public sphere, rather than being limited to euphemisms and crudities deployed by others. The play opened up more space to talk about sexual abuse and violence against women, a step in weakening the shame that is part of any abuser’s arsenal.

Language is important for both literal health—knowledge of something is the first step toward caring for it—and the health of society. Our bodies are, as the psalmist writes, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” not inherently a source of shame.

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One Psalm, Two Causes, Two Meanings

Psalms, Vibe Images, Shutterstock.com
Psalms, Vibe Images, Shutterstock.com

For decades, Psalm 139 has been a byword of the anti-abortion movement, printed on posters in crisis pregnancy centers. More recently, it's been tied to high-resolution ultrasounds, the movement's most potent technological persuader.

At the same time, the famous Psalm has also "come out" as a source of strength for gay and lesbian Christians.

Together, the two uses illustrate how great verses -- particularly the Psalms -- attract diverse constituencies.

Film Traces Real-Life Story of Abortion ‘Survivor’

A new movie confronts a controversial topic by highlighting two words that don't typically go together: "abortion" and "survivor."

"We didn't know there was such a thing," said Jon Erwin, who wrote and co-directed "October Baby" with his brother, Andrew.

The film, the latest in a recent string of Christian-themed movies, opens Friday (March 23) and has broken into Hollywood despite rejection at first by many studios.

The movie tells the story of Hannah, a 19-year-old college student who finds out that she not only is adopted, but she is a survivor of a failed abortion attempt, which explains why she has been suffering from health problems all her life.

At Stake: Religious Liberty

Alec Hill. Image via InterVarsity.org.
Alec Hill. Image via InterVarsity.org.

A letter from Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA to Intervarsity Staff

I’m upset.

Last month, the Federal government mandated that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities must provide – and pay for – contraceptives to their employees and students. The mandate may also — depending upon interpretation – include the provision of sterilization services and the morning-after pill. (There appears to be some disagreement amongst scholars regarding the potential scope of the new Health and Human Service mandate.)

Why should I care? I am not Catholic. Nor do I agree with Catholic teaching on contraception, though I do have grave concerns about the morning-after pill.

Politically, I am a moderate and hence not prone to condemn every governmental edict.

I care because this matter touches upon the religious freedom of us all. I care because InterVarsity is engaged in a parallel struggle. Over the past 18 months, our status as a recognized student organization has been challenged on 41 campuses.

We Must Protect Conscience from War

Conscientious objectors rally in Germany. Image via Getty Images.
Peace activists support Iraq war veteran and now conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo. Photo by Getty Images.

One of the U.S. Constitution's difficult balances is found in the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

What happens when those two values conflict?

That is the issue with the controversy over whether religiously-affiliated organizations should be required to offer free coverage for contraception in health insurance plans made available to employees. Those opposed — most notably Catholic organizations — claim that this requirement would violate their freedom of conscience. Those who support it claim that exempting religiously-affiliated organizations would establish a religion over the rights of individuals.

Two-Thirds of Americans Say They're Both: "Pro-Life" AND "Pro-Choice"

Photo by Jenny Poole via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4752357353
"It's Complicated." Photo by Jenny Poole via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4752357353

A fascinating new study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds of all Americans identify with both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" labels simultaneously.

The PRRI reports that 7-in-10 Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them "somewhat" or "very well," and nearly two-thirds simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them "somewhat" or "very well."

"This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group," the report said.

In one of the largest public opinoin surveys ever conducted on the subject of abortion and religion, PRRI's study, "Millennials, Abortion and Religion Survey," uncovered "large generational differences on two issues that have often been linked in political discourse: abortion and same-sex marriage."

According to the survey, Americans ages 18-29 (a.k.a., "Millennials") strongly support legal access to abortion services in their local communities despite being conflicted about the morality of abortion itself.

Wes Granberg-Michaelson Answers, "What is an Evangelical?"

Wes Granberg-Michaelson. Photo courtesy of the author.
Wes Granberg-Michaelson. Photo courtesy of the author.

“Evangelical voters” have now been sized and squeezed into a homogeneous political block. These folks have views on the political right wing, trust in robust American military might, believe that wealth is a blessing to be protected by tax policy, want society to be inhospitable toward gays, oppose any form of abortion, feel that “big” government is always malevolent, and assert that American individualism is the divinely sanctioned cornerstone of the Republic. Apply the label “evangelical” to a voter and you can expect these political responses.

The problem is that it’s simply inaccurate. One size doesn’t fit all when in come to evangelicals. It distorts reality. But that’s just too inconvenient for pundits intent on predicting how various blocks will vote.

The Morning News: Wednesday Nov. 9, 2011

The morning news
The morning news

New regulations increase accountability and boost quality in Head Start programs. Economic statements from the GOP presidential contenders. "Occupy" groups plan march from New York City to Washington, D.C. Our expensive, expanding nuclear weapons complex. Evangelicals call for nuclear cutbacks. Mississippi rejects abortion amendment. Ohio repeals anti-union law. And is Occupy Wall Street overshadowing itself?

Christian Perspectives on Social Justice Issues: Abortion

Left, Right & Christ
Left, Right & Christ

Yesterday (Nov. 8), Mississippi voters defeated Ballot Measure 26, "the Personhood Amendment," which would have granted the status of legal person to a fertilized egg. The measure effectively would have outlawed abortion in all circumstances within the state, deeming it murder. It would have made the protection of the mother's life a criminal offense, if that protection risked the life of the fertilized egg.

There were lots of points of controversy over this measure. It was so extreme that even the Catholic Bishops denounced it. For me the most haunting question was this: "Who would it harm most?" My conclusion: families -- especially poor ones. When mothers -- especially poor ones -- die of complications in childbirth, families fold.

Jim Wallis and Richard Land: Join the Great Conversation

People of faith -- including evangelical Christians -- will be voting both ways in the upcoming election. It is simply not true that they will be voting only on one or two issues.

And, if evangelicals focus on many of the issues central to their faith, rather than becoming partisan cheerleaders, they might be able to raise some critical issues in this election and to hold both sides more accountable, even in a campaign that both Richard and I suspect will be one of the ugliest in U.S. history.

At the end of the evening, Amy remarked that if the upcoming election debates were as civil and substantive as this evening was, we would all be very grateful.

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