A matter of faith?

Published on Online Journal, by Howard Lisnoff, Nov 30, 2009.

Few religious issues have engendered such controversy or national attention as Representative Patrick Kennedy’s (D-RI) stand in defending abortion rights within the debate over national health care. Thus far, however, federal funding of abortion under any health care “compromise” between the House and Senate is a nonissue, as inclusion of any federal funds for abortion was effectively halted when health care legislation was passed by the House. So, though significant, Representative Kennedy’s position, while noble, is academic …

… One women’s clinic where I volunteered was located a block away from a Catholic church in Providence. As I gained experience dealing with anti-abortionists while I escorted women (and those who accompanied them) seeking treatment at this facility, I witnessed the extreme animosity that these “protesters” met people with at this clinic.

Hollering and accosting women as they walked to the clinic doors was only part of the treatment that anti-abortionists exhibited. Shrieking prayers and huge, poster-size pictures of supposedly aborted fetuses lined the fence that separated the sidewalk from the property of the clinic. Priests were a regular part of a larger demonstration that took place monthly at the clinic when the numbers of protesters swelled to well over a hundred.

At another clinic, across the city, where I had escorted less frequently years earlier, escorts were attacked during the frenzy that marked the anti-abortion movement in the early 1990s. In one case, escorts were able to keep the clinic from being breached by anti-abortionists, including a priest, until police arrived. I wonder how the Bishop Tobin would characterize those actions by anti-abortionists? Perhaps classifying them as both “erratic and unpredictable” would be an understatement?

Attacks against the rights of women to reproductive health, including the right to abortion, are particularly prevalent among the right wing and especially by the legions of members of organized religion. Historically, it has been the objective of most major religions to force women into subservience. In their right-wing denominations, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all seek to maintain this subservient role of women. Also, within that role, women’s sexuality is a target of that same control. Elaborate myths are constructed that place women in the role of serving men in each of these branches of the world’s major religions (Eastern religions are also no exception to these “traditions”). The rights of the fetus are held above the right of the living to a full and secure life.

Conveniently, long ago forgotten, among the religious on the right, is the separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment. So when religious leaders such as Bishop Tobin issue vicious responses to challenges to the church’s anti-abortion stand, it should come as no surprise that these attacks violate the most sacred trust that is at the heart of any religious tradition: the sanctity of an individual’s beliefs. On a most personal level, it seems that Representative Kennedy’s recent loss of his father, Ted, the late senator from Massachusetts, is of no importance as a religious “leader” and politician attempt to demonize his valiant stand. (full text).

(Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He can be reached through his website howielisnoff.com).

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