- Good for Carly Fiorina. She challenged complacency about our abortion regime. Referring to the tapes released this summer that exposed Planned Parenthood’s harvesting of body parts from aborted children, at the second Republican primary debate she said, “I dare Hillary Clinton [and] Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ This is about the character of our nation.”
The next day the usual suspects denounced her, saying the tapes show nothing of the sort. In his New York Times column, Paul Krugman writes off the anguished testimony of a former Planned Parenthood technician as “just assertions” and then, with his usual nuance, implies that Fiorina is “deliberately spreading a lie.” The ever-reliable Gloria Steinem called Fiorina’s remarks “a 100 percent lie.”
The relevant footage is to be found in “Human Capital: Episode Three,” beginning at 5:39 with an interview with Holly O’Donnell, a former technician for a company that secures and provides fetal body parts for medical research. With visible anguish, she describes a procedure in which she participated. It required the dismemberment of a living fetus to remove its brain. For two or three seconds, footage is shown of a living, second-trimester fetus so that viewers can visualize what O’Donnell describes.
What, exactly, are Krugman, Steinem, and countless other apologists for our abortion regime trying to say? That Planned Parenthood does not make aborted fetuses available for the harvesting of body parts? Planned Parenthood says that it does exactly that, arguing that in doing so, it is acting in accordance with the law. Are they saying that they know that these aborted children are never alive when their organs are removed? How do they know Holly O’Donnell is making up her story?
There is a deliberate lie here. It’s what abortion supporters tell themselves to assuage their consciences.
- Ideological feminists have been thrown for a loop by Fiorina. She’s forceful and steely, and she bloodied Donald Trump’s nose at one of the debates. But she’s, gasp, pro-life, and opposed to lots of liberal economic policies. As Republican strategist Katie Packer put it, self-appointed leaders of the women’s movement are “not really looking for equal representation—they’re looking for more Democratic women representation.”
- Faced with the refugee crisis late this summer, European leaders have been unable to come up with a workable, realistic solution. The reasons are understandable. Although the numbers of migrants may be manageable at this point, the flow of people could grow, posing a threat to the uneasy political climate in Europe. Pope Francis has denounced inaction, and rightly so. The crisis isn’t going to go away on its own. While he does not pretend to have a political solution, he called on churches, monasteries, and dioceses throughout Europe to step forward and adopt one refugee family each. Care for the stranger and sojourner: biblical morality 101.
- On September 14, Bernie Sanders spoke at Liberty University. He was frank about his progressive views, affirming “the right of a woman to control her own body” and “gay rights and gay marriage.” But he also quoted Jesus (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) and made an eloquent plea for civil discourse. Sanders then proceeded to his main campaign theme: the inequalities of income and wealth. He quoted Pope Francis to good effect in denouncing moneyolatry (which earned him applause). Kudos to Liberty University for inviting Sanders to speak. Kudos to Sanders for respecting his audience, which was perfectly capable of listening to someone with whom they disagreed strongly on some matters, and perhaps less so on others.
- I’m waiting for Oberlin College to invite Ted Cruz to speak, or Wesleyan to invite Marco Rubio.
- Payton Cramblett’s father assumed that role when he sold his seed to Midwest Sperm Bank. Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon bought some—what is the word?—doses for the purpose of impregnating Jennifer. The resulting child was not as designed, however. The lesbian couple had asked for sperm from a blonde, blue-eyed white man. It’s quite obvious that Payton’s father is black.
Cramblett filed a claim of wrongful birth against Midwest Sperm Bank, asking for damages to compensate her for the difficulties of raising a mixed-race child. Among the difficulties: her “limited cultural competency” with African Americans. The lawsuit identifies difficulties getting Payton’s hair cut.
“Getting a young daughter’s hair cut is not particularly stressful for most mothers, but to Jennifer it is not a routine matter, because Payton’s hair is typical of an African-American girl. To get a decent cut, Jennifer must travel to a black neighborhood, far from where she lives, where she is obviously different in appearance, and not overtly welcome.”
The judge dismissed the case.
- Pope Francis addressed Congress and did not mention abortion or contraception. Planned Parenthood board member Alexander Sanger has this to say. “Despite Pope Francis’s progressive stance on climate change and economic equity, he has taken a back seat when it comes to reproductive health and women’s rights.” He continued, “His pursuit to stifle contraception access reduces women to basic purveyors of biological materials and denies them the right to plan their own families. The pope has to listen to what women want, and women all over the world want access to contraception.”
Message to those who imagine that going silent will bring an end to the culture wars: Alexander Sanger and his friends are interested in unconditional surrender, not mutual non-aggression pacts.
- A TV reporter spoke of the hundreds of thousands gathered in Philadelphia for the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis as “his adoring fans.”
- Perhaps I shouldn’t mock the impoverished spiritual imagination of the reporter. After the papal Mass, a friend forwarded me a selfie posted on Instagram—taken by a priest a few yards from the altar where Francis was celebrating the Mass. Ugh. A papal fanboy.
- As is his custom, Pope Francis had a freewheeling chat with reporters on the plane as he headed back to Rome after visiting the United States. He was asked, in a veiled way, the Kim Davis question. Does he support the right of government officials to refuse to abide by the law, such as refusing to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples? To which he replied, in so many words, “Yes.”
Francis briefly spoke to Davis in Washington, offering his support. A generous and important gesture. But I’m not convinced that he has thought through the logic of the matter. If government officials have a right to refuse to abide by the law, how can the rule of law survive? Better, I think, to affirm the moral nobility of conscientious objection, whatever the circumstances. It is a witness to a spiritual freedom deeper than any freedom constitutions and declarations of rights can provide. As a society, we can rightly respect this witness, and even accommodate it when feasible. But speaking of a plenary right to conscientious objection is unworkable. We shouldn’t try to slap the word “right” onto everything we admire and wish to support.
- After the pope’s visit, the New York Times featured a roundup by Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein. They noted his “unscheduled visit to the Little Sisters of Charity, an order of nuns suing the federal government over the contraception mandate.” Not quite. He visited the Little Sisters of the Poor.
- Thanks to Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for pointing out that error. He saw a second mistake in Yardley and Goodstein’s story as well. They write, “He never mentioned same-sex marriage.” Francis may not have used those exact words, but as Donohue notes, “Speaking about marriage, the pope cited ‘unprecedented changes’ that we are faced with, specifically warning about the ‘social, cultural—and sadly now juridical—effects on family bonds.’ What in the world do the Times reporters think he was talking about when he mentioned the ‘juridical’ effects on the family?”
- They had the best intentions. The team at WGN-TV News in Chicago put together a graphic for a Yom Kippur segment. It featured a yellow Jewish star—with the word “Jude” in it. In other words, the image of the patch the Nazis required Jews to wear. Apparently, the clueless designer found the image online somewhere. Not knowing its historical meaning, he thought, “Hey, this is cool. And it’s not copyrighted!” The TV station issued an apology: “We are truly sorry for inadvertently using an offensive image in our Yom Kippur story. We apologize and deeply regret the error.”
- As Jon A. Shields points out at the Weekly Standard, recent efforts to limit our abortion regime by banning abortions after twenty-two weeks get described as an assault on women’s rights. Pro-life extremism! A threat to the Constitution! But wait a minute. France, Germany, and ten other European countries prohibit abortions after twelve weeks. If anything counts as extremism, it’s the pro-abortion lobby in America that won’t accept any limits.
- The 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act prohibits the killing of children who have managed to survive abortion procedures. But the politics that prevailed when it was passed prevented any penalties from being attached. Thus the legislation is purely symbolic and impossible to enforce. New legislation, “The Born-Alive Survivors of Abortion Protection Act,” drafted with the help of Hadley Arkes, the architect of the 2002 Born-Alive Act, imposes civil and criminal penalties. The House of Representatives passed the act in September. All the Republicans voted for it, along with only five Democrats. One hundred and seventy-seven Democrats voted against imposing penalties for killing children alive outside the womb. President Obama has announced that he will veto the bill if it passes the Senate.
Not providing legal protection to already-born infants? That’s extremism.
- Last spring, Harvard conducted a student survey to get a clear picture of the nature and scope of unwanted sexual contact, nonconsensual sex, and sexual assault. About half of the enrolled students filled out the survey. One result stands out. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual students are much more likely to report “nonconsensual sex by physical force or incapacitation” than are straight students. As I mention in this month’s Public Square, now that the gay rights movement has largely triumphed, we’re likely to hear more about the unjoyfulness of gay sex. With political battles won, it’s increasingly unnecessary to maintain the united, see-no-evil front that keeps dark secrets secret.
- First Things stands for something. Many things, actually. One of them is a commitment to reality-based conservatism, both in matters of faith and of public life. I mention this because at the end of September, I decided to end our web sponsorship of Maureen Mullarkey’s blog. Maureen has a sharp pen and pungent style. However, her postings about Pope Francis indicate she’s very angry about this papacy, which she seems to view as (alternately) fascism and socialism disguised as Catholicism.
I do not subscribe to the view that Catholics should not criticize the papacy. I’ve made some criticisms of Pope Francis and his most recent encyclical, Laudato Si. Above, I call into question his off-the-cuff remarks about a right to conscientious objection. But Maureen’s commentary on Francis consistently treats him as an ideological propagandist, accusing him of using our faith to promote secular political projects. This is, in fact, her way of reducing him to the political terms she favors. And they are the ones used by radio talk-show hosts to entertain the public with mock battles against various Empires of Evil.
I’m in favor of real debate about real issues, not ritual denunciations of Francis in shrill, ideological terms. I’m much more favorable to free markets than Francis seems to be. That’s something worth spelling out. But it’s a sign of moral blindness and intellectual poverty if we fail to recognize an important truth in his harsh words about the global system organized to promote capitalism, and with it largely American interests. That system—our system—does not shower blessings on everyone. To point that out in no way makes Francis a supporter of the Castro brothers or disciple of Che Guevara, as Maureen implies. Enough! We need to think about the Church and the world as they actually are, not as caricatures.
- I’d like to thank Leah Trouwborst. As a senior at The King’s College (an Evangelical school in New York that’s truly countercultural) last spring, Leah joined us on a part-time basis. She worked as our social media czarina, launched the Sunday Spotlight, our weekend newsletter that features material from the First Things archive, and became altogether indispensable. Leah’s new day job at Penguin Random House now greedily demands all her time. We’ll miss her. Come around to see your old First Things comrades!
- I’d like to welcome Celina Durgin, another recent King’s College grad. She has taken up many of Leah’s duties. We’re glad to have her on our team. I’d also like to welcome Isaiah Contu-Owen to our staff as a part-time intern. He’s a senior at The King’s College.
While We’re At It Sources: Fiorina: Washington Post, September 16, 2015. Krugman: New York Times, September 18, 2015. Feminists: New York Times, September 28, 2015. Sanders: Washington Post, September 14, 2015. Wrongful birth?: Washington Post, September 5, 2015. Sanger: International Business Times, September 25, 2015. NYT on Francis: New York Times, September 27, 2015; Catholic League, September 28, 2015. Yom Kippur: USA Today, September 24, 2015. Extremism: Weekly Standard, July 10, 2013. Born-Alive: LifeNews, September 18, 2015.