‘I’ve got four years’ good conduct, I have-’
‘No, that was four years’ Not Found Out,’ said Vimes.
- Terry Pratchett, Night Watch
An unnamed teacher at an unnamed Catholic high school has been disciplined after calling one of her students a “slut” and – in a move which really doesn’t seem to be outraging people as much as it should – scornfully referring to that student having an abortion.
As Coley put it,
It’s interesting that a lot of the commentary about the teacher who called her student a slut hasn’t mentioned that the teacher was holding /
A class on abortion being evil knowing at least one of her students had terminated a pregnancy. And made her stand on a chair 4 not behaving
The teacher has not been barred from teaching again, because apparently we excuse gross breaches of people’s privacy if they’re tired and emotional and have:
a previously unblemished record.
The above quote from Pratchett’s excellent novel Night Watch sprang to mind, for obvious reasons.
Let me illuminate the point with some personal anecdata. At my Catholic high school – and if I ever find out this is the same one I’m going to have some fucking unladylike words to say – some girls were told in an RE class that if they didn’t believe in God they would go to hell. And when they told another teacher that – several of them with the exact same story, mind – they were told “no, [X] wouldn’t have said that.” Never mind that several girls from the same class were all saying they’d been told the same thing, it was simply hand-waved away on the basis that it couldn’t possibly have happened.
It probably helps that no one left the class in tears, or – and I have to guess here because the story has very few details – has parents who won’t accept that kind of shit, or an ally on the staff.
The opening paragraph of the Herald article says the teacher “[referred] to her having an abortion in front of classmates”. Think about that framing. It’s as though the problem is she let some little secret slip, or that it was only problematic because other people were there. And let’s compare that with what the teacher actually said:
The teacher said words similar to “stop acting like a S-L-U-T” …The teacher then referred to the girl being pregnant and said words to the effect of “if you think having an abortion makes you an adult then it doesn’t”
And let’s remember that this is a Year 10 class, and let’s think the fact that the pupils in that class are 14-to-15-years old, and let’s consider how vicious and unethical a person you have to be to:
- Know a pupil in your charge who is under the age of consent has had an abortion
- Force her to sit through a lesson about “Pope John Paul II’s stance on abortion” (spoiler: used the phrase “culture of death” a lot) – or not even have enough empathy to think about how it would affect her
- When she (strangely enough) gets disruptive, punish her and – because you really want to demean her – not only call her a slut but spell it out like she’s a toddler having a B-A-T-H
- Throw the fact she’s had an abortion back in her face – right after a class which has happily laid the ground for everyone to feel moral and righteous about judging and persecuting people who have abortions
I feel quite comfortable stating that this person shouldn’t be allowed near young women, much less in charge of them.
But all she gets is a slap on the wrist and a ruling to “inform” any future employers about what she did. Like that’s going to hurt her employment chances.
Remember, it’s the antichoicers who are the compassionate, moral ones, and us nasty feminists who actually hate women.
… by co-opting the language of anti-trafficking groups, of course!
Family Life International – the group which runs John Paul II Centres in Auckland, Wellington and soon Dunedin – has announced it will be bringing Abby Johnson to NZ as part of their “40 Days of Life” campaign. (Yes, 40 days as in Lent. Because the antichoice movement is overwhelmingly an extremist religious movement.)
Abby Johnson is now a professional antichoice activist. She previously directed a Planned Parenthood clinic, despite apparently not understanding what an abortion is, because according to her, she was asked to assist in one after eight years working there and seeing it happen on the ultrasound made her realise how terrible it all was.
Pity no one can find any record of that abortion ever taking place.
So Abby Johnson wrote a book and founded an organisation called “And Then There Were None”. Don’t worry, despite the fairly obvious assumption you may make, it’s not actually a group openly advocating for the murder of healthcare workers.
Instead, ATTWN treats healthcare workers who perform abortions like they’re victims of sex-trafficking – right down to not giving a fuck about what they actually want or choose. The language is actually pretty … gross.
Our goal is to provide financial, emotional, spiritual and legal support to anyone wishing to leave the abortion industry.
Because obviously The Abortion Industry is a terrifying labyrinthine creature, and no one can just, you know, hand in their resignation and get a job somewhere else.
Sidewalk counselors will be trained then periodically stationed at abortion clinics to reach out to clinic workers in a calm and inviting manner in order to establish direct personal lines of communication.
Any person seeking help from ATTWN will be assured, without reservation, that no personal information will be disclosed.
And I’m sure that if the antichoice movement has already disclosed all your personal information in order to intimidate you, they will offer a full apology.
Elsewhere, Johnson states:
NO ONE GROWS UP WANTING TO HAVE AN ABORTION.
Yeah, and no one grows up wanting to have open heart surgery, Abby. Therefore we should ban open heart surgery.
NO ONE GROWS UP WANTING TO WORK AT AN ABORTION CLINIC.
Suffice it to say I know a few counterfactuals to this, self included.
And while we’re on the topic of FLI’s “40 Days of Life” and antichoice bullying, here’s some suggested reading from the UK:
“We are very supportive of people’s right to protest, but what we saw in Bedford Square was beyond the pale,” says Clare Murphy of BPAS. “They hang around by the door and encircle women.” And 40 Days for Life’s use of cameras is particularly disturbing. According to the organisation’s leader Robert Colquhoun, photographic equipment is only used to protect the protesters, who he says have been threatened previously. But BPAS reports that the cameras have been turned on patients, in a tactic that amounts to harassment. Yesterday, 40 Days for Life tweeted to celebrate its first “turnaround”, but it’s hard to imagine that any woman who has been repulsed by such intrusive actions is making a positive choice to be a mother.
Let’s not buy the bullshit. The antichoice movement has one goal: stopping abortions. And they will do and say whatever it takes to achieve this. And if healthcare workers and pregnant people die in the process, they do not care.
At first, this media release inspired me to write a big screed about how the real “charade” is the one where Right to Life call themselves Christians. But then I read on:
Only a man can make a woman a mother and a wife and only a woman can make a man a father and a husband.
There was only one option left to me, dear readers.
This raises the number of antichoice centres they run, which prey on vulnerable pregnant people, to three.
You may be fooled into thinking that they’re open-minded and compassionate towards pregnant people in difficult situations, but you’d be wrong. They’re very good at hiding it, of course; they even mention abortion on their website, pregnantandworried.co.nz (because it’s so unusual for a pregnant person to feel worried).
Of course, they don’t refer you for abortion services – a fact which is no longer apparently on their website, despite showing up on Google:
So if you are actually pregnant, worried, and wanting to get an abortion, they’re just another obstacle in the way, another set of people to have to deal with, and that’s all assuming that they aren’t a lying, judgemental bunch of religious asshats.
There is a common misconception, happily promoted by Western media, that anti-choicers and pro-choicers are opposite ends of the spectrum. They oppose abortion, ergo we must love abortion. This misconception allows setups like pregnancy “crisis” centres to flourish, because they’re seen as providing some kind of balance to the Family Planning and Planned Parenthood organisations out there. You’ve got your pro-choice centres, they say, so we’re just putting forward our point of view.
Which is all fine and dandy until you remember that the pro-choice point of view is PRO CHOICE. We want pregnant people to have all available options. We want people to be able to access contraception and education and be empowered by society to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Anti-choicers are driven by one thing: stopping pregnant people getting abortions.
They will say they want to support families. They will say they want to support stressed-out pregnant people. But at the end of the day, they want to support families not to have abortions and they want to support stressed-out pregnant people as long as they don’t have abortions. They want to play on the completely normal anxiety pregnant people feel – especially pregnant people in difficult circumstances – get them in the door, and love-bomb them into CHOOSING LIFE. At which point they can just fuck off.
That is their goal. Any benefit they bring to the community they operate it is completely incidental to it.
And while we’re on the topic, let’s revisit the idea that the Catholic Church is all about life. Right up until it’s down to you vs preserving their precious paternalistic control over [assumed] female fertility.
Lew has a great post up at Kiwipolitico about Recognising your enemy, following the passage of marriage equality in NZ. He quotes Kevin Hague MP’s third reading speech, which I shall in turn borrow (this is what we liberals call “giving credit”, Mr McCoskrie):
Over the years I have campaigned hard for the right of our communities to not be outsiders any more, to assume a full place in New Zealand society. With every new reform, the same group uses the same strategy, raising fears of terrible consequences which always fail to materialise.
In the case of marriage equality and queer rights in general, the same strategy usually boils down to “scaremonger about some slippery slope” – the Marry My Dog strategy (Stephen Franks) or the Mormons Will Marry All Your Daughters strategy (McCoskrie).
But exactly the same principle applies to a subject near and dear to my heart: reproductive rights. Because it’s exactly the same. The same old enemies with the same old arguments threatening the same old downfall of society.
And as Lew’s post suggests, recognising our enemy and his (invariably, inevitably his) strategy is a very important step to take. Add to that, I think exposing that strategy is an important point – saying to people “look, there’s Colin Craig, last time he was in the news he said you’d get locked up for giving your kid a dirty look, and he was completely off the mark on that one, wasn’t he?” and demonstrating again and again that, on pretty much every progressive battlefront, we are up against opportunistic lying scumbags who can’t handle anyone making different life choices to them.
So today, I want to highlight the enemy in the reproductive rights struggle – and the queer rights struggle. Because this is about Right to Zygote Life’s press release on the passage of marriage equality. Same enemy, people.
What they tried to hide during the marriage equality debate was the essential fundamentalist Christian bigotry behind their arguments. Note all the talk about “traditional values”, and “history”, and “culture”, and very little about the Bible or Jesus (who incidentally had fuck-all to say on the subject).
In this increasingly secular, open-minded society, it is imperative for the fundies to distance themselves from the religious prejudice which is the foundation of everything they say and do.
But sometimes they slip up.
So here it is: RTL’s response to marriage equality, a topic somewhat outside their usual purview. In a single press release they manage to mention God no fewer than eight times in a total of 406 words (counting capitalised masculine pronouns, God is 2.5% of the release). They explicitly state that sex should only be for procreation, they give a shout-out to the Culture of Death (still, sadly, not a thrash metal band), they still aren’t over people taking the Pill.
The twist is that, having failed on multiple occasions to make us all believe that hurricanes, earthquakes and drought are God’s punishment for our sins, they’ve now decided that homosexuality itself is the divine judgement upon us. Which is a little circular, but we are dealing with people who also haven’t caught up with in vitro fertilisation.
The widespread acceptance of homosexuality could be God’s punishment on society. The challenge for society is a renewed commitment to marriage as instituted by God. We have sown the wind we are now reaping the whirlwind.
I look forward to high-fiving the first gay porn producer who manages to work “Reap my whirlwind” into a script.
But I’m getting a little off-topic. The point is this: you and I ranty liberal bloggy types already knew full well that opposition to every progressive development of the last 50 years has come from an increasingly irrelevant, diminishing branch of extremist Christianity. In the next battle, let’s shout it from the rooftops.
No one’s surprised: the “ad hoc” group New Zealanders for
Heterosexual Cisgendered Marriage is represented by Gordon Copeland, former MP, former failed political party leader. So it’s “ad hoc” in the sense that Gates McFadden might speak for an “ad hoc” dance group, or David Lynch might be quoted about an “ad hoc” surrealist film.
And their latest ad hoc press release is a marvellously creative work of fiction:
On Wednesday night …approximately 600 people descended on Parliament grounds in a Prayer Vigil to pray for the upholding of the dignity of Marriage. The participants represented a cross-section of society from various Christian traditions and ethnic backgrounds consisting of both young and old alike, to give a united public witness to the belief in the Traditional definition of Marriage.
A cross-section of society … who all incidentally share identical interpretations of certain religious doctrines. Mmmm, diversity.
Sharing their belief in a Traditional definition of Marriage. Which isn’t even supported by the holy book of the “various Christian traditions” they claim to follow.
Christian leaders … led prayers and reflections based on Scripture.
Just not the ones cited above.
Each shared the belief that Marriage is a union between a man and a woman not only from a Christian point of view, but also from the witness of other sciences, including reasons based on natural law.
And here’s the bit that pisses me off. The implication that a “Christian point of view” (a) ignores a hell of a lot of what the Bible says about marriage (b) involves being a fucking bigot and (c) is some kind of universal constant. Like all these other Christian leaders who support marriage equality are blaspheming demon spawn for taking a different view.
I do have to giggle at the “natural law” bit, though. Because … seriously.
Still, I guess if you’re going to bald-faced lie about your own holy faith, you may as well lie about science too.
So, I’m just nodding furiously and occasionally throwing horns at Alison McCulloch’s latest post on the abortion debate in New Zealand (where “debate” = someone accurately describes the tactics of antichoice douchebags and Karl du Fresne whinges about it) when suddenly my brain hits the brakes:
Or how about this curious classic from the RTL site: “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg. No one has the right to choose to kill another human being.” (That first part about the ice cream and the Porsche is actually a quote from a U.S. anti-abortion activist. I don’t know if it says what RTL wants it to say, but then again I don’t really know exactly what it’s trying to say. Pregnant women as trapped animals? Porsches? Murder?)
The reason for my confusion was thus: I am instinctively loath to question McCulloch’s word on anything when it comes to the history of the abortion debate, because she’s a badass prochoice historian of awesomeness.
But … isn’t that a pro-choice quote?
Isn’t it a refutation of the common antichoice line that people “just” have abortions for “casual” reasons? Isn’t it saying “when a woman says she wants an abortion, she doesn’t mean it casually”?
Yet then I hit the Google, and lo and behold. That’s a quote from Frederica Mathewes-Green, past vice-president of (eyeroll, I always do) Feminists for Life America.
According to this antichoice site, Mathewes-Green is talking about “the despair which leads [people] to abort”. Um … and that isn’t meant to make us sympathize with them? And their situation?
Returning to Mathewes-Green’s analogy of an animal gnawing its leg off to escape a trap, we see that abortion is actually an act of self-destruction. When pro-abortionists view a [person] in this desperate situation, their solution is to offer the [person] a clean, legal way of cutting off the offending leg — after all, they believe there are too many unfit “legs” in the world already.
I don’t think antichoicers know how to construct an analogy. Because … yes. If I saw an animal with its leg caught in a trap, desperate to get out, I would consider surgically and safely removing the broken leg a completely valid choice, hell, the most compassionate choice, because for the vast majority of animals likely to get caught in traps, if the stress and shock of me trying to pry open the trap didn’t kill them, they wouldn’t survive very long in the wild on a broken leg. Infection, starvation or predators would get them pretty fucking quickly.
Apparently this is because, unlike antichoicers, I have rejected hope and turned to “one of Satan’s greatest weapons”, despair.
Oh, and also I automatically think there are too many “unfit” babies in the world, or something. I’m all about the baby-hating.
… yeah. I’m just confused. And yet, somewhat enlightened about how antichoicers view pregnant people, and how fucking clueless they insist on being about the harsh realities of life.
The latest proof of today’s heading comes to us from Daily Kos, which reports:
In just the past year, the Church has called upon its faithful followers to march, to starve themselves, to go to jail, to even take up arms—all to protect those fetuses. No exceptions. None. Not if the fetus is already dead inside the womb. Not if the fetus is going to kill the actual living woman carrying it. No goddamned exceptions EVER.
Well, except for one: when it’s going to cost the Church money.
That’s right. When your Catholic doctor in your Catholic hospital screws the pooch, killing you and your Sacred Unborn Feeeeeeeeeetus (+10 points for twins!) suddenly they care a whole lot about how SUFs aren’t really people.
Play it again, Sam:
Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”
Yeah, court! Don’t you dare go overturning long-standing rulings which make foetuses non-people. Because foetuses aren’t people!
Wait. What? Are we seriously looking at a Catholic organisation insisting that foetuses aren’t people … when it might hit them in the wallet?
Ain’t that a hilarious – in a laugh-or-you’ll-cry – illustration of their priorities.
I can hear you already, defenders: ”but they’re entitled to a defence under the law! They’re entitled to use the current law to get themselves out of damages!!!”
I have but one question: what would Jesus do?
The Bishop of Dunedin has made predictable antichoice-madlibs comments on Southern DHB’s persistence in offering people the medical care they’re entitled to.
He’s even trotted out the phrase “culture of death”, literally a classic Catholic antichoice trope dating back to ’95.
As the ALRANZ blog has noted, this is basically a dressed-up fancy-pants way of calling us prochoicers baby-killers. More than that, it paints people who are prochoice as being part of some dark murky conspiracy to destroy godly society and ground all human decency and morality into dust.
Which is a bit fucking funny, really.
This is the Church which excommunicates people (wait, no, get the weasel words straight, “she excommunicated herself“) for daring to suggest that when a mother of four faces death if she continues with a pregnancy, maybe the high-minded philosophical discussions about the sanctity of life aren’t really her most pressing concern.
The Church which will literally let pregnant people die – even if their unborn child dies with them – rather than face up to the fact that by sacrificing one doomed unconscious dependent organism they could save a living, breathing, thinking mother/sister/daughter who could potentially go on to have more living, breathing, thinking children.
The Church whose hierarchy is comprised of voluntarily-celibate men who have simply never in their lives faced the prospect, even the hint of a chance of a prospect, of an unplanned, unwanted, possibly coerced, health-affecting and potentially life-threatening pregnancy.
Yet we prochoicers, the people who want to preserve pregnant people’s mental and physical health, who want to change the world so that unplanned pregnancy either doesn’t happen or isn’t a potential financial/emotional crisis, who want all babies to be wanted and loved babies, who understand that the majority of people having abortions in NZ are already parents and thus probably have children who love and need them …
Yeah. We’re the people promoting cold-hearted ruthless death.
Meanwhile, a paediatrician in Southland – i.e. a medical professional who cares for living, breathing children and has never been within shouting distance of an abortion – has tendered his resignation over the issue. And then withdrawn it as long as “negotiations to reduce abortions will continue”.
Cry me a fucking river. Introducing Dr Vili Sotutu, ladies and gentlemen and others – a man who will happily let your kids suffer through lack of paediatric services just because he doesn’t like the fact that some pregnant people make choices he doesn’t like.
Dr Vili Sotutu, who will pull stunts (because of course resigning was the only way a senior medical practitioner could possibly get his concerns heard) over living children’s health rather than accept that some pregnant people don’t want to be and deserve to get the medical treatment they need too.
Who wants to bet me a shiny dollar that when Dr Vili Sotutu thinks about “reducing” abortions, he doesn’t actually think in terms of “changing society so that we provide better support to solo parents” or “making contraception more accessible”? Who wants to bet that Dr Vili Sotutu would be quite happy to see pregnant people bullied and denied access to care because hey, it reduces abortions, and fuck it if people’s lives and health are affected, right?
One can only imagine the kind of compassionate care solo teenage mums get at Dr Vili Sotutu’s hands.
But remember, it’s us prochoicers who are creating a “culture of death”.
As GG Wookie tweeted, “Okay then. Goodbye.”
Stuff has posted a “head-to-head” on the debate over marriage equality, pitting a Catholic priest (representing XXXX New Zealanders, according to the last census) against a Presbyterian minister (representing XXXX New Zealanders, according to the last census) and just coincidentally publishing the inflammatory, judgemental Catholic’s side of things first.
When civil societies gave legal recognition to marriage they were describing a pre-existing reality, they were not defining something new. Marriage was recognised as being about procreation – having children – and the present law does not recognise a marriage as valid unless it is consummated by ordinary sexual intercourse.
Unfortunately, that’s a breach of good ol’ Commandment 9 (the one about “bearing false witness”, you heathens.) When NZ civil society, at least, gave legal recognition to marriage (at least, as far back as legislation.govt.nz records go), there was precisely zero mention of intercourse.
I can happily concede that maybe the original 1955 version contained clauses about bloody sheets being hung out windows, but my Google-fu is lacking in this regard.
And anyway, then we’d just have a knockout argument for the fact that the state has happily “redefined” marriage hugely throughout history without the collapse of civilisation resulting.
Law holds up ideals to society as well as setting limits; it has a teaching role. Widening the definition of marriage will blur this teaching.
Father Judgey and I agree here: the law of a society does hold up ideals. And our law is pretty cool (comparatively) on the treating people equally front. So to me, of course, legalising same-sex marriage only strengthens the law’s upholding of our society’s most fundamental principles.
For Father Judgey’s argument to work, you have to believe that our current law is “teaching” us something about gay people, and that “teaching” is basically: they’re icky.
After prophesying the downfall of NZ civil society (a catastrophe miraculously not brought about by the legalisation of homosexuality in 1986, or the “redefining” of marriage so husbands weren’t allowed to rape their wives any more in 1985, or even the decriminalisation of sex work in 2003), Father Judgey just gets silly:
The same departments will incur another significant expense as every marriage document and database has the words “bride” and “bridegroom” removed and replaced by some bland gender-neutral term.
Oh sweet Jesus, no. Some poor civil servant’s going to have to find+replace two whole words? Where does it end?
Except … oops, that looks like another lie, because “bride” and “bridegroom” appear a whopping 6 and ZERO (okay, 3 if you count “groom” but remove all the press releases about pedophiles “grooming” their victims) times on the Department of Internal Affairs website.
In fact, a close study of the Births, Deaths and Marriages section of DIA’s website reveals that, in order to conduct the massive upheaval of language which same-sex marriage will bring about, we may have to replace the current legally-required wording:
“I AB, take you CD, to be my legal wife/husband”
With something like:
I <full name of party 1> acknowledge that I am freely joining in a [marriage] with you <full name of party 2>.
Which is already the wording used in civil union ceremonies. In fact, we don’t need to change anything there if you’re really that married (sorry) to the gendered terminology: just allow for the fact some ceremonies will involve two husbands and some two wives!
Thank god. I was a bit worried there. I thought one of our Roads of National Significance might have to be shortened a few meters to pay for a nationwide copy-paste exercise.
Father Judgey finishes up by saying that we’re such a ~tolerant~ society already, why do we even need marriage equality because obviously there can’t be a real problem, it’s just icky gay people making a fuss.
Which … is another lie. There are clear legal differences between marriage and civil union. We need marriage equality because we currently have marriage inequality, and in a “tolerant” society that’s actually a problem.
Finally, we’re back to the defensive “oh sure, I may be a voluntarily perma-celibate dude parroting the dogma of the Catholic Church, but ~marriage~ totally predates the Church’s teachings on it!”
This is (1) veeeeery interesting in terms of trying to deflect “stop pushing your religion on us” rebuttal; and (2) MORE BULLSHIT. Per Wikipedia, the idea of one-cis-man-one-cis-woman-baby-making marriage is not universal across cultures nor history. We’ve had – and have – polygyny, polyandry, unmarried solo parents, and entire royal families based on sibling intermarriage.
So that’s apparently one Catholic priest’s response to marriage equality: lies, lies, and lies. Just what Jesus would have done.