Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Increasing Radicalism of Anti-Abortion, Anti-Contraception Movement (and Stand Up for Freedom Rallies): Sarah Posner and Amanda Marcotte

Two recent not-to-miss articles for those following the arguments about "religious freedom," contraception, and the role of the religious right (including the U.S. Catholic bishops) in American political life as the 2012 elections near:

At Salon, Sarah Posner profiles anti-abortion (and anti-contraception) activist David Bereit to show that the religious right-supported anti-abortion movement in the U.S. is increasingly coming out of the closet as hard right in its opposition to contraception as well as to abortion.  The anti-abortion movement is, Posner proposes, now "embracing the fringe" in its Stand Up for Freedom rallies, its attack on Obamacare, and its attempt to blur the lines between abortion and contraception.

Posner writes,

There once was a time when one could distinguish between a group like ALL [i.e., American Life League] — which unabashedly opposes contraception — and a group like AUL [i.e., Americans United for Life], which claims to just oppose federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Under the guise of religious freedom, they’re all in it together now, with the support of Republicans like Reps. Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Trent Franks and Alan Nunnelee, all of whom addressed today’s [Friday’s] rally. “Religious freedom” isn’t just the new rallying cry against the contraception mandate. It’s the mantra of a sprawling coalition of crusaders who believe they are on a mission from God to not just end abortion but to make accessing contraception difficult if not impossible for millions of American women.

And at her Reality Check blog, Amanda Marcotte summarizes Posner's conclusions about Bereit (and about Helen Alvaré in an earlier article to which I linked last week), as she suggests that the fundamental goal of the anti-abortion, anti-contraception coalition is to mainstream radical anti-contraceptive ideas stemming from religious right groups, and to return women to a condition of subordination to men that women's access to contraception has upended.

Marcotte writes (and for any readers with tender ears, apologies in advance for some of the racier phrases here--which are, in my view, effective and justified):

Either way, it’s good for feminists and our non-misogynist allies to familiarize ourselves with the anti-sex (for women) arguments we’re dealing with here, because we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them, if the past two years have been any indication. The argument, to summarize, is that contraception has been bad for society and especially for women, because it takes women away from our “natural” and “God-given” duty to stay virgins until marriage, begrudgingly let our husbands relieve their blue balls into us once or twice a year until the flame finally flickers out, have as many children as this ends up creating, and then dying with the knowledge that while this life was relatively colorless and sad, the next one will be pretty good. (And absent all that dirty sex stuff, since there is no "horny" in heaven.) In the meantime, your own unmentionable sexual tension that finds no other outlet can be turned into bitter hatred for other women, which can then be useful to the church and the anti-choice movement because it gives you a reason to push for more anti-choice laws and rhetoric.

As I said last week, while the Catholic center continues to give cover to the voices of the hard right, no matter how extreme they get, it continues to marginalize the voices of people like Posner and Marcotte, who push against the extremism of the radical right and defend women and women's rights.  Something seems very wrong to me about the assumption that people like Bereit and Alvaré automatically represent good Christian (and in Alvaré's case, good Catholic) values, while folks like Posner and Marcotte and the constituencies for which they speak are the enemy.

We'd be a lot more credible in our Catholic witness in the public square if we were more critical of the Bereits and Alvarés of our culture, and more welcoming of the Posners and Marcottes.  IMHO.

The graphic is a photograph from last week's Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally in New Braunfels, Texas, and is by Laura McKenzie of the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.

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