Friday, February 29, 2008

Planned Parenthood Racism

The Family Research Council links to a video and transcript of an actor posing as a prospective donor to Planned Parenthood.

Lila Rose, a pro-life student and reporter at UCLA, launched an undercover investigation aimed at exposing the racism of the nation's largest abortion merchant. With the help of an actor, she contacted Planned Parenthood clinics in seven states, inquiring if they would be willing to accept a donation earmarked for the abortion of black babies. The results were jaw-dropping.
Rose was appalled to discover that every last clinic agreed. Not one employee objected or questioned the request, even when the actor insisted that the purpose was to "lower the number of black people" in America. When the caller phoned an Ohio branch, he was told that Planned Parenthood "will accept the money for whatever reason." ...

Actor: ...I really faced trouble with affirmative action, and I don't want my kids to be disadvantaged against black kids.
Planned Parenthood: Yes, absolutely.
Actor: And we don't, you know, we just think the less black kids out there the better.
Planned Parenthood: (Laughs) Understandable, understandable... This is the first time I've had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I'm excited and want to make sure I don't leave anything out.

The FRC article goes on to mention the unsavory past of Planned Parenthood founder and liberal icon Margaret Sanger, a past which is typically whitewashed.
The best book on Margaret Sanger, in my opinion, is called Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacyby Angela Franks. This book shows beyond any shadow of a doubt that eugenics was part of Sanger's ideology from the very beginning. Implied in Mrs. Franks book is her own vision of feminism as something that supports motherhood, not sterility. Well worth reading.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Artificial Reproductive Technology

Ryan Anderson has an important post on Artificial Reproductive Technology over on the First Things blog. What are the public arguments we can offer on the subject, not of embryo destruction, or cloning, or freezing of embryos? Summarizing Benedict XVI's address to the Congregation of the Faith,, Anderson says:
Benedict argued that non-conjugal reproduction such as in vitro fertilization had created “new problems”—the freezing of human embryos, for instance, and the selective abortion of medically implanted embryos, together with pre-implantation diagnosis, embryonic stem-cell research, and attempts at human cloning.

He argued that these “clearly show that with extra-corporeal artificial fertilization, the barrier that served to protect human dignity has been violated. When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless stage of their lives are selected, abandoned, killed, or used as mere ‘biological material,’ how can it be denied that they are no longer being treated as ‘someone’ but rather as ‘something,’ hence, calling into question the very concept of human dignity?”

Worth noticing is that his public argument is about the consequences of assisted reproductive technologies, how they result in embryo killing, freezing, and other abuses. The argument never touches on any objection to IVF per se—how the creation of new human beings in this way is itself wrong.

The new problem we face, according to Ryan Anderson is:
What we need is to build robust, publicly accessible arguments about procreation and the moral norms that govern it. We need to develop deeper discussions about the meaning and nature of parenthood, gender, and biology. And to the arguments we already have about the killing of embryos, we need to add arguments about the conditions under which we may bring those embryos into existence in the first place.

Read the whole post here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More on AIDS in Africa

This article in Zenit interviews Matthew Hanley, long-time technical expert on AIDS/HIV for the Catholic Relief Service. He is also author of a new book on AIDS in Africa, Avoiding Risk, Affirming Life: Science, Love, and AIDS. His conclusions have significant overlap with those of Helen Epstein, whose book I reviewed earlier. She argued that a reduction in the number of sexual partners, not an increase in the use of condoms, accounts for the most significant drops in new HIV infection rates. According to Matthew Hanley:
Actual changes in patterns of sexual behavior have led to the most significant reductions in HIV prevalence. Take the well-known case of Uganda, where the prevalence rate dropped from 15% in 1991 to a little over 5% in 2001. Behavior change was so thorough in Uganda that by the mid-1990s, 95% of adults in that country said they had only one partner or none at all. But it is not only Uganda.

The most important factor in recent HIV declines observed in several other countries, such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and Haiti has been an increase in fidelity or "partner reduction." This should not be altogether surprising, considering that in a large swath of southern Africa, where over half of new infections globally come from, the AIDS epidemic is being driven by the dynamics of multiple and often concurrent sexual partnerships.

In other words, changing behavior is more important than reducing the risk associated with a given set of behavior.
Hanley also talks about the uniquely Catholic aspects to his work. Not only is the Church trying to prevent disease, she is also trying to promote a healthy way of life, that integrates love and sexual activity within the context of married life.
We try to articulate what the Church actually proposes, abstinence and fidelity, in a positive manner. I have found in my trips to Africa that there is a real thirst for something different, something hopeful. We all know that people yearn for more than the satisfaction of their appetites. In other words, they yearn for love, for respect and for meaning in life. In his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," Benedict XVI reminded us of long-standing Christian tradition, namely that human beings are a "union of body and soul," that love is characterized by exclusivity, or fidelity, and that love contains a quality of permanence over time.

When we conducted training recently with five dioceses in Ethiopia, one of the participants, a wife and a mother, spoke for the group by saying how much she appreciated the emphasis on fidelity and related human values such as respect and communication. She was puzzled as to why such basic themes are not more routinely promoted in the context of HIV prevention, adding: "Why hasn't anyone explained it like this before?"

So we try to address the whole human person, their deeper aspirations, and in proposing love, affirm basic Christian sexual ethics. It is on this level that the Church then encounters the wider culture, which as Pope John Paul II suggested in "Familiaris Consortio," often holds "fundamentally irreconcilable views of the human person and of human sexuality," leading many to aggressively reject these first principles.

Money quote from Matthew Hanley:
Perhaps one of the most helpful means that I have seen of expressing the moral significance of the issues involved comes from the Kenyan bishops. In their pastoral letter on AIDS, they hit upon the crux of the matter: The Church proposes the same sexual morality even "when and where AIDS poses no danger." The central issue with respect to the Church's consistent teaching on sexual matters is thus not the risk of HIV, but the lack of chastity, and "this is not easy for 'the world' to grasp.

What a concept.
I look forward to seeing his book.

Lesbian law suit abolishes the private sector

I may exaggerate, but not by much. In New Mexico, a photographer is being sued by a lesbian couple, angered that she refused to photograph their commitment ceremony. She refused to film their ceremony because of her religious beliefs. But so what? A business ought to be able to refuse to do business with anyone, for any reason or no reason. It is not as if the photographer took their money and failed to do what she promised to do. She is now facing a complaint in front of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
This case is breathtaking for its pettiness. There is no constitutional right to hire each and every photographer who hangs out a shingle. Wedding photography is not a basic need or fundamental right. What exactly harm did this couple experience? They felt bad. They were possibly inconvenienced. They had to hire another photographer. Trauma.
The state has no business regulating the private sector to this extent. If the lesbian couple could not get their contracts enforced, they would have a case. But that case would be against the state itself. Businesses should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, especially a business like photography, which is not a life or death issue for anyone.
The lesbians' tacit demand behind this case is the demand for unlimited approbation from the entire populace. They are not entitled to that.
In The Meaning of Marriage Seana Sugrue argues that same sex marriage is not a spontaneously emerging institution, as man woman marriage is. Same sex marriage can ONLY be a creation of the state, whereas man woman marriage is a pre-political institution that has emerged in virtually every time and place in human history. Therefore, the state will have to support and "coddle" same sex marriage in order to assure its survival. The state will arrogate to itself the right to regulate and control everything associated with parenting and marriage. Including wedding photographers.

Juno surprisingly pro-life.

Hollywood seems to care more for the unborn than one would think. Here's the link to my article about the movie Juno:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mothers Alone

is the title Policy Review gives to Amy Wax's outstanding review of two rather bad books: Ann Fessler, The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade, and
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family.

In Ann Fessler’s book, women born at mid-century reminisce about becoming pregnant out of wedlock and relinquishing their children for adoption in the decades before the sexual revolution and the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In Rosanna Hertz’s, the daughters of that generation recount their experiences as women who have decided to become mothers outside of marriage. Fessler’s stories tell of coming of age amidst the seismic shift in sexual mores that yielded the world as we know it. Hertz provides a window into the lives some women live in that world.

The two books in question can't get past their post-modern and feminist categories of thought to observe the data right in front of their noses. The birth mothers who placed their children for adoption do not really see abortion, that is, their child's non-existence, as the solution. The children of the single mothers by choice are "staunchly unreconstructed," in that they want to know their fathers.
The larger problem, which neither author takes seriously, is the question of how to manage sexuality and child-bearing in a world without marriage. Here is Amy Wax.
Implicit (and sometimes explicit) in their complaints is the expectation — indeed the demand — that they should have been “helped” to keep their babies. This book’s central flaw, its core evasion, is its failure to come to grips with that expectation. All eyes are averted from its true implications. How can the demand for “help” mean anything other than its being incumbent on others — family, friends, society, the government — to provide these girls with the funds needed to raise a child alone, without marriage, men or fathers. These women’s complaints lead inexorably to an entitlement depressingly familiar in its contours and consequences: a welfare state in which the public pledges unconditional financial support for mothers barely out of girlhood. It leads, in short, to the wholesale bankrolling of children having children. The sins of this path require no rehearsal. Suffice it to say that we have been there and done that. We know where it leads: men without roots, domestic chaos, deprived children, social pathology — and wholesale political rebellion against the unseemly spectacle of welfare as we know it.

Like Hertz and her single-mothers, Fessler and her birth mothers simply fail to confront their own wishes writ large. The broader question of how to run the railroad does not trouble them. They are not concerned with the norms we all should live by. Rather, to borrow Michael Oakeshott’s phrase, these women are taken up with their own “felt needs.” Every hurt (self-inflicted or not) must be addressed and every hardship (defensible or not) assuaged. In this calculus, the dislocations of individual lives are all that matter. Hertz’s and Fessler’s moms are here to tell their stories, not devise wise rules for social life. The conundrums of social policy get pushed off into the background in favor of an endless recital of grievances against the order. Cut loose from a coherent moral framework, they give little thought to the world their desires would entail.

While this review is harsh toward the Life-style Left, Wax ends with an implied critique of the Right, which is not providing realistic answers. Read it all.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Islamic Threat to Free Speech

Today's WSJ has an article by Fleming Rose, an editor of Jyllands-Posten, the publication that printed the infamous Mohammed Cartoons. Speaking of the plot to kill the cartoonist, Rose states:

Sadly, the plot to kill Mr. Westergaard is not an isolated story, but part of a broader trend that risks undermining free speech in Europe and around the world. Consider the following recent events: In Oslo a gallery has censored three small watercolor paintings, showing the head of the prophet Muhammad on a dog's body, by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been under police protection since the fall of 2007. In Holland the municipal museum in The Hague recently refused to show photos by the Iranian-born artist Sooreh Hera of gay men wearing the masks of the prophet Muhammad and his son Ali; Ms. Hera has received several death threats and is in hiding. In Belarus an editor has been sentenced to three years in a forced labor camp after republishing some of Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad cartoons. In Egypt bloggers are in jail after having "insulted Islam." In Afghanistan the 23-year-old Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh has been sentenced to death because he distributed "blasphemous" material about the mistreatment of women in Islam. And in India the Bengal writer Taslima Nasreen is in a safe house after having been threatened by people who don't like her books.

Every one of the above cases speaks to the same problem: a global battle for the right to free speech. The cases are different, and you can't compare the legal systems in Egypt and Norway, but the justifications for censorship and self-censorship are similar in different parts of the world: Religious feelings and taboos need to be treated with a kind of sensibility and respect that other feelings and ideas cannot command.

The West needs to get a grip and defend its most cherished rights: the right to free speech, as well as the right of free exercise of religion. We have managed that very well these 200+ years of American history. We can't let it go, out of a combination of misguided sensitivity toward Islam and wanton fear of the Jihadists.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

British Polygamists to get Welfare Benefits

In a secret move only recently discovered,
a panel of four government departments, after a review that began in November 2006, has decided that all the wives of a Muslim man may collect state benefits, provided that the marriages took place in a country where multiple spouses are legal.

Opposition has been furious:
Chris Grayling, Works and Pensions spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, described the government's decision as "completely unjustifiable."

"You are not allowed to have multiple marriages" in Britain, he said, "so to have a situation where the benefits system is treating people in different ways is totally unacceptable."

"This," Mr. Grayling said, "sets a precedent that will lead to more demands for the culture of other countries to be reflected in [British] law and the benefits system."

Corin Taylor, research director for the rights organization Taxpayers' Alliance, was equally blunt.

"Polygamy is not something which British law allows, and therefore British taxpayers should not have to pay extra for extra benefits for second or third wives," he said. "If other countries sanction polygamy, that is fine, but the British taxpayer should not have to fund it."

This can only increase the pressure for the UK to relax the prohibition on polygamy and group marriage.

The Life-Style Left has been claiming that every lifestyle should be equally supported by the government: monogamous marriage should not be "priveleged" by the state. The Left seems to believe that legalizing polygamy, or polyamory as they prefer to call it, will result in a Marin County Hippie Love Fest with all the Birkenstocked commune members sharing household and childcare tasks and getting along nicely. But once multiple marriages are sanctioned by the state, there will be no stopping Muslim-style polygamy, which, will not be, shall we say, a Hippie Love Fest. Polygamy as practiced in the Muslim world is a not a pro-woman institution. And because Muslim-style polygamy will certainly produce more children than the typical Leftist group marriage, it will not take long for Sharia-style polygamy to crowd out feminist-style polygamy.

The Left should really start thinking this through.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Clarence Thomas bio and the high cost of growing up

Some commenters have noted how long and hard it is for people, male and female alike to get financially established. I have long thought that student loans are a serious barrier to marriage and to fertility.
I am now reading Clarence Thomas's autobiography, and plan to review it. I was knocked out by this revelation: when he went on the Supreme Court, he still had student loans from Yale Law School.
Outrageous. These Ivy League schools have endowments larger than the GDP of third world countries. Yet they can't support a student like Thomas. The older generation, which used to be called The Establishment, is sucking the life out of the young.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Child Man in the Promised Land

Kay Hymowitz has an insightful, though disturbing account of the enduring adolesence of the American male. I have noticed this myself, and have given it some thought. Guys playing video games and hanging out with buddies well into their thirties. Hymowitz walks right up to the explanation, but stops short:
For whatever reason, adolescence appears to be the young man’s default state, proving what anthropologists have discovered in cultures everywhere: it is marriage and children that turn boys into men. Now that the SYM can put off family into the hazily distant future, he can—and will—try to stay a child-man. Yesterday’s paterfamilias or Levittown dad may have sought to escape the duties of manhood through fantasies of adventures at sea, pinups, or sublimated war on the football field, but there was considerable social pressure for him to be a mensch. Not only is no one asking that today’s twenty- or thirtysomething become a responsible husband and father—that is, grow up—but a freewheeling marketplace gives him everything that he needs to settle down in pig’s heaven indefinitely.

Rod Dreher in the Dallas Morning News makes a similar set of observations:
As social critic Philip Rieff foresaw at the dawn of this revolution, the loosening of traditional constraints would make man free, but it would be a liberty fraught with anxiety, even psychological paralysis.

... the process of becoming a man requires a juvenile male to subordinate his own desires to an objective code of conduct – which is to say, some sort of higher authority. In this sense, the self could only be understood and realized in relation to one's community and its values.

The culture warriors of the previous generation were not wrong to question conformity, but they went too far. They have deprived their sons of authoritative tradition, both in word and example, and with it the ability to transcend the adolescent state. Much in our dominant culture conspires to keep young men in a permanent state of adolescence: conscious only of their desires and the impulse to fulfill them. This dependency is tailor-made for a consumerist economy built on creating and exploiting wants. Making the world safe for big business, no doubt, wasn't what the '60s generation had in mind, but it's a little late for do-overs.

And what exactly makes this continual postponing of adulthood possible? The elephant in the room; the naked emperor. Contraception. Think about it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fixing Family Leave

The WSJ takes on a policy that is supposedly "family friendly" and beyond criticism, Family Leave.
The law allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to take care of themselves or relatives with a "serious medical condition." They can also take off for maternity, adoption or newborn care. That seems simple enough, but the courts continue to strike down regulations that the Clinton Administration issued to implement the act, and the result has been legal and economic confusion.

A 2005 study by the Employment Policy Foundation found the law's cost to businesses in 2004 was a not-so-cheap $21 billion. This included $5 billion in lost productivity, $6 billion to continue health benefits for employees on leave, and $10 billion in replacement labor costs -- including wages to employees who had to work additional shifts or overtime to fill in for the missing.
With these costs in mind, Secretary Elaine Chao's Labor Department last month issued rules to clear up ambiguities in the law that were being exploited. Take something called "unscheduled intermittent leave." Under current rules, an employee with a medical condition can simply fail to show up for two days before claiming leave. And since leave can be taken a few minutes at a time, employees can show up late, leave early, or disappear for an hour without notice. This is an invitation for misuse, especially at time-sensitive businesses (say, emergency first response or assembly lines) and many employers have lost control of their workforce. Under the proposed changes, employees would generally have to call in to request leave before taking it, which seems fair.

Labor's proposals would also clear up loose requirements for certifying what qualifies as a "serious" medical condition. Under current rules, workers can get an open-ended doctor's certificate for a condition -- asthma, migraines, whatever -- that allows them leave at any point. Under the new rules, companies can require employees to renew that certificate every year....
Many Democrats on Capitol Hill want to expand the law even further, imposing it on businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and making companies provide paid days off. But that would only expand the costs, and make employers even more reluctant to hire in the first place -- as in Europe. Meantime, the new rules will help ensure that family leave is taken by employees who really need it, not by slackers gaming the system.

These are just the cost associated with the federal requirements. If I'm not mistaken, CA has an even more generous policy.
In addition to these costs, you have to wonder how many employers are silently reluctant to hire women of child-bearing age, for fear of triggering these requirements.
Family leave is an example of a policy inspired by the desire to equalize the playing field between men and women, the ultimate goal of Leftist-inspired feminism. Once the concept is on the table, the regulation expands to include all kinds of Nice Things that Workers Will Love, but which will be expensive for business.
I maintain that it would be better for all to allow companies and workers to negotiate their own forms of flexible benefits, including flexible leave policies, rather than having the federal government impose a One Size Fits All policy.

It Takes a Family to Raise a Village

This week's newsletter is an excerpt from the lecture I gave last week at the University of California, Los Angeles. What I have provided for you here is the section of my talk titled, "Alternatives to the Marxist- inspired vision of the family." Enjoy!If you aren't receiving my free newsletter, you can sign up here.

I am not opposed to feminism, whatever that is. I am opposed to Marxism. The Marxist categories of class struggle and oppression did not work well in the market. They work even less well in the bedroom.

I think women are hungry for a new way of understanding these great demographic changes and their own role in society. So let me take a stab at it.

I believe income equality between men and women should not be the ultimate goal for personal and public policy. Equal incomes require identical behavior. But men and women behave significantly differently in the labor force, at home and over the course of their lives. The attempt to create income equality has led to massive amounts of government regulation and litigation in the labor market. At the personal level, women have forced their work lives into the mold created for male career paths. Traditional male career trajectories demand the most intense investment early in life, which happens to be the time that women's bodies are most suited for pregnancy.

By now, the participation of women in the market at every time in their adult lives has become entrenched in society. Our higher education system, our labor market, even our housing markets, are built around the premise that high-achieving, highly-educated workers will postpone marriage and child-bearing. But by the time women have accomplished enough in their careers to feel financially prepared for motherhood, their peak fertility is behind them.

For many women in the first generation of high powered careers, fertility difficulties came as a rude awakening. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett conducted a survey of high-achieving women, hoping to assess the factors responsible for their success. She noticed that none of these women had children. And she discovered that none of them had chosen to be childless. These women are extremely disappointed.

Women's fertility is impaired with age, in that women are less likely to conceive a child. Men's fertility may be compromised with age as well. There is now suggestive new evidence that a child's probability of genetic defects increases with the father's age. The theory is that the DNA replicates less precisely as men age. This produces minor genetic defects that are not fatal to the infant. But these non-fatal defects are implicated in disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and cancer. Men 40 and older are nearly six times more likely to have offspring with autism than men under age 30.

I propose that we embrace our fertility. Women would be better off if we accepted the reality that our fertility peaks during our twenties. Go to college for a liberal, but not necessarily a vocational, education. Get married. Have kids. Let our husbands support us. Maybe go back to school for an advanced degree. Go to work. Help support the kids' college. And, since women live longer than men, we could be working longer and let our husbands relax a bit.

The vision of women moving in and out of the workplace also involves an alternative vision of marriage and family. Marriage is a life-long institution for mutual cooperation and support, rather than the unenforceable non-contract it has become. I need not say that cooperation between spouses would be far better for children. Nor need I say that this is the exact opposite of the Marxist vision, which replaced marital stability with employment stability.

Gender differences are not necessarily sources of conflict, but rather opportunities for cooperation and complementarity. Our dignity as women does not depend on women being identical with men. Nor does our dignity depend upon our being completely independent of men. Women and men can view one another as collaborators, rather than as competitors. We women can place our education and our talent at the service of our families and the community, rather than at the service of employers and our egos. Rather than squeezing our child-bearing around the periphery of our careers, we can integrate the natural cycles of our bodies into the core of our lives.

This is the bargain women have made, under the influence of Marxism. Up until now, we have defined our goal as being equal participants in a labor market designed for people who don't give birth. Rather than change the labor market to accommodate the woman's body, we have insisted that women change their fertility in order to accommodate the labor market. I say we should take women's fertility as given and change the labor market to accommodate our bodies. We have defined our personal goal as being completely financially independent of men. I say we should find ways to strengthen our collaboration with our husbands.

I claim the right to participate in the labor market as women, not as men in skirts. I claim the right to get married and stay married, not the right to raise our children alone, and to spend larger and larger portions of our lives alone.

The family is essential to a free society. And women are essential to the family. The last generation of Marxist-inspired ideas about women and family have made family life unnecessarily difficult. It is time for a new approach. It is time to let the natural, organic family blossom.