Abortion

U.S. Anti-Abortion Leaders Join Rome’s March for Life

Jeanne Monahan, new president of March for Life. RNS photo by Adelle Banks.
Jeanne Monahan, new president of March for Life. RNS photo by Adelle Banks.

American anti-abortion leaders will be in Rome on Sunday to participate in Italy’s third March for Life and lend their expertise to the nation’s small anti-abortion movement as it tries to learn from its American counterpart.

Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, and Lila Rose of Live Action will be among those who will march through central Rome on Sunday morning, from the Colosseum up to Castel Sant’Angelo, a few hundred meters from the Vatican.

While the annual March for Life in Washington — which celebrated its 40th anniversary in January — attracts hundreds of thousands of people and heavy media coverage, in Europe anti-abortion movements have often kept a lower profile and haven’t been able to shape social discourse as in the United States.

Polls regularly show high levels of support for abortion rights throughout Europe. A January poll by Eurispes found that 64 percent of Italians favor legalizing abortion pills.

In Italy, abortion is currently legal in hospitals up to the third month of pregnancy.

Irish Abortion Debate Reflects Growing Church-State Tensions

RNS photo by Sarah Parvini.
Ruth Bowie and her husband Michael (pictured here with their son Dougie). RNS photo by Sarah Parvini.

DUBLIN, Ireland — Ruth Bowie was in the throes of grief when she found out she would never know her unborn child. At the 12-week mark, a pregnancy scan showed the baby had anencephaly, a fatal condition in which a portion of the brain and skull never form.

Bowie, 34, a pediatric nurse, knew the implications of the birth defect even before the doctor explained. But the life-changing news didn’t stop there.

“The doctors said we will continue to look after you, or else you can choose to travel,” she recalled.

Put another way, if she and her husband wanted to seek an abortion, they would have to travel to England to end the pregnancy.

Catholic Bishops Oppose Violence Against Women Act Over Sexual Orientation Provisions

Photo courtesy Religion News Service/shutterstock.

Five key Catholic bishops are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking.

The act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday, is intended to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and allows the federal government to spend money to treat victims and prosecute offenders.

That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.But for the first time since the original act became law in 1994, it spells out that no person may be excluded from the law’s protections because of  “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” — specifically covering lesbian, transgender and bisexual women.

Across the Board, Peace

JIM BALMER, president of an addiction-recovery center called Dawn Farm in Ypsilanti, Michigan, has been an antiwar activist since the Vietnam days. His engagement with nonviolence has taken him to some unexpected places, from the antiabortion group Operation Rescue to working with addicts. Sojourners associate editor Elizabeth Palmberg interviewed Balmer early last year at the Consistent Life conference in Washington, D.C.


Elizabeth Palmberg: What was your work for peace during the Vietnam war?

Jim Balmer: I had been part of Detroit-area draft resistance. I went through almost all the conscientious objector status [process]. And it was 1970—what can I tell you? I was under the influence of substances one night, and I wrote the draft board in Pontiac, Michigan, and told them off; I just said, "come and get me." They never did. I suspect that, as the '70s progressed, they got more and more tired of putting us in jail.

The Detroit-Ann Arbor area was a hub for political activism. Students for a Democratic Society was founded there. YPFJ—Youth for Peace, Freedom, and Justice—there were all sorts of organizations. We would protest. The first time I got actually picked up was at a George Wallace rally—Wallace was a terrible, racist candidate from Alabama.

I started being interested in nonviolence. I was reading Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and I took King's nonviolence pledge when I was in high school.

How has King's pledge affected your life? I found myself in a couple of situations where I had the opportunity to practice nonviolence, to be assaulted and not return force. In a protest, during the Vietnam War, I got assaulted by a couple of guys.

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Real-World Solutions

BETWEEN 2008 and 2009, the Centers for Disease Control reported in November, the U.S. abortion rate fell 5 percent, down to the lowest point that decade. This new data is drawing the attention of people of faith whose thinking about unwanted pregnancies has become more nuanced—both in how to prevent them and what to do when they occur.

Why did the rate drop? It's not a matter of people being more cautious about becoming pregnant due to the recession; along with the overall decline, the number of abortions per 1,000 live births also dropped. But it might be linked to the fact that use of long-acting contraceptives such as IUDs, which tend to be more effective than other methods, more than doubled from 2007 to 2009, according to a national survey.

In recent years, as evangelical activism has broadened, economic justice, creation care, and immigration reform have been at the forefront of the change—but abortion hasn't. Of evangelicals, 61 percent believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 33 percent say it should be legal; 84 percent of evangelicals ages 18 to 30 say they would not consider abortion if faced with an unexpected pregnancy.

While 77 percent of those young evangelicals find premarital sex unacceptable, they are also aware of facts on the ground, perhaps because they think seriously about human fallenness. Eighty-two percent, perhaps with the awareness that more-effective birth control would reduce abortion rates further, hold that those having "sex outside of marriage should use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy." (An increasing number of Catholics hold similar views, despite current church teaching.)

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Children Conceived Through Rape Open New Front in Abortion Culture Wars

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Ryan Bomberger at the March for Life on Jan. 25. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON — Standing before the throngs at the March for Life on Jan. 25, Ryan Bomberger admitted that he was the poster child for one of the most difficult aspects of the abortion debate: his mother had been raped.

“I’m the fringe case that even pro-lifers have a hard time embracing,” said Bomberger, an anti-abortion activist whose mother chose to continue the pregnancy and put him up for adoption.

Forty years after the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion, children who were conceived through rape — and women who were raped and chose to end the pregnancy — are speaking out, opening a new front in the often-fraught discussions of a decades-old culture war.

State Bill Calls Abortion After Rape ‘Evidence Tampering’

New Mexico State Capitol Building,  Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
New Mexico State Capitol Building, Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

A New Mexico lawmaker has drawn fire for proposing legislation to classify an abortion after a sexual assault as “tampering with evidence.”

Critics pounced on House Bill 206, introduced Wednesday by Republican state Rep. Cathrynn N. Brown, saying victims of sexual assault could be charged with a felony if they sought an abortion after rape or incest. But Brown said Thursday that the legislation was aimed at attackers, not victims.

“House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims,” Brown said in a statement. “Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist — not the victim — would be charged with tampering of evidence.”

“New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders,” the statement added. “By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”

Brown said she would amend her legislation to make the intent clearer, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Abortion Foes Debate Best PR Approach

When thousands of abortion opponents gather Friday on the National Mall for their annual protest march, they will be united in their fierce passion for ending a procedure that the Supreme Court legalized 40 years ago in the controversial Roe v. Wade decision.

But they will also be more divided than ever on how best to rally people to join their cause: shock them with harsh slogans and graphic images of mangled fetuses, or convince them with reasonable arguments and affecting ultrasound images.

If activists are going to the March for Life “to display graphic photos or videos of aborted babies,” Simcha Fisher wrote this week in the National Catholic Register, a conservative outlet, “I’m begging you to reconsider.”

How Abortion Became An Evangelical Issue

Evangelicals haven't always been part of the pro-life coalition. Prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution supporting abortion in certain circumstances. After Roe allowed any abortion for any reason, evangelicals began to change their stance and with Catholics formed the pro-life coalition we know today. The Washington Post reports:

The reality of abortion on demand and exposure to the logic of the abortion rights movement led to a fundamental shift in the evangelical conscience. By 1976 the Southern Baptist Convention would declare every abortion to be a “decision to terminate the life of an innocent human being.” Similarly, the large evangelical movement would develop an overwhelming pro-life consensus, seeing abortion as a great moral evil and a threat to the dignity of all human life.

40 Years After Roe v. Wade, How Do Americans Really Feel About Abortion?

Courtesy Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Courtesy Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

In the past four decades, American attitudes have changed markedly on gay marriage, smoking, bullying, and a host of other cultural issues.

But on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, public opinion today looks much as it did back then.

When it comes to American views on the legality of abortion, “the trend lines look about as flat as they can be,” said Daniel Cox, research director at the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.

Just a few years after the justices decided Roe, Gallup pollsters began asking Americans about abortion. In 1975, 54 percent said it should be legal only under certain circumstances; last year, that figure was virtually unchanged, at 52 percent.

And the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life this month found that 63 percent of Americans don’t want Roe overturned, a mere 3-percentage-point increase from 1992.

In more recent years, opinions on the morality of abortion have remained similarly stable, with about half of Americans (47 percent) calling it “morally wrong” and four in 10 considering it “morally acceptable” or “not a moral issue,” according to Pew.

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