Why Catholic Hospitals are Messed Up

In the above video, Hemant Mehta discusses several procedures that Catholic hospitals refuse to perform under the excuse of religious objection. We’re not talking about an individual objecting. We’re literally talking about entire hospitals refusing to provide procedures relating to reproductive health. This is a major problem because Catholic hospitals are EVERYWHERE. There are even places in the US where you’re hard pressed to find a hospital that isn’t Catholic.

Hemant brings up the fact that many of these hospitals are opposed to tubal ligations (tying women’s tubes). This is news to me, and it’s disturbing to learn. I was part of the Catholic pro-life movement for years, and at least in my area, the only arguments I’d ever heard against tubal ligations were against them being forced on people, which is something I think most people can agree is not a good thing.

I do remember my parents saying that they didn’t approve of that surgery, or of vasectomies, but their hatred of contraception focused primarily on things that they believed could lead to abortion like hormonal birth control and IUDs, and things they believed might encourage premarital sex like condoms. Something like this is usually done by older couples, often people who have already had children and don’t want anymore. As a result, this procedure doesn’t usually generate as much outrage among devout Catholics as the pill and sex ed. As Hemant explains, it’s often done after a C section at the request of the mother.

Yet these hospitals are refusing to perform the procedure, arguing, if I understand correctly, that it gets in the way of letting God have control over whether or not you have a baby. If you know about Catholic teachings on how to avoid pregnancy during sex, you may see how this begs a question: why even preach natural family planning (as the church does)? If the Catholic church is that opposed to couples doing anything that would prevent pregnancy, regardless of whether or not it can cause an abortion, then why even encourage women to track their cycle when trying not to conceive? Isn’t that, as they argue it, getting in the way of God?

Hemant also brings up cases of pregnancies that implant in the wrong place, in which abortion is the best and safest option, but of course Catholic hospitals want nothing to do with that.

In the midst of arguments about individual people being allowed to say no to a task that runs contrary to his or her conscience while on the job, is it too much to ask that we stop treating organizations like people? If the nearest hospital to you is Catholic, and you want one of these procedures they object to, it’s going to take you some time to get transferred somewhere that will do what you need.

As elections come around, I encourage everyone to look locally. Vote for people who care about access to all healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, and vote out politicians who think it’s OK to treat the Catholic Church like a person with an objection. We’re just lucky our hospitals aren’t being run by Jehovah’s Witnesses, or we’d be dealing with a preventable death toll from blood loss.

Any thoughts on this? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Missionaries of Charity Stop Adoptions in India Over Inclusive Legislation

The religious order founded by Mother Theresa, the Missionaries of Charity, has decided they will no longer attempt to find homes for the children in their 13 orphanages in India. Their reason for this? Apparently India has made new legislation that allows single people to adopt, and the Sisters of Charity think it’s better for children to remain parentless than to be raised in single-parent homes. You can read more about this here.

The article explains that the sisters have two primary concerns:

“First, [Missionaries of Charity] will not allow adoption by single parents; second, they also have issues with couples, one or both of whom has had a divorce earlier.”

While Catholicism does not technically have a teaching forbidding single parents from raising children, it does prohibit divorce, and many Catholics are also against adoption by LGBT people. Catholic teaching on divorce is very harsh. It literally preaches that once a marriage exists, it cannot be undone. The only situation in which a married couple can separate in Catholicism is through something called “annulment,” which is a process by which the marriage is reviewed by a variety of church leaders and declared to have never happened in the first place. In other words, if a marriage doesn’t work out, the only situation in which that can be admitted is to claim that the marriage never took place, or was not valid in some way. The idea that someone could make a mistake, marry the wrong person, divorce, remarry, then want to have children, is clearly too much for some Catholics, and in this instance we see this attitude affecting orphans in India. Orphans who, as the article explains, are very unlikely to be adopted in the first place because of red tape and stigma. If that’s the case, why make the process any harder? The silver lining in this story is that this is happening because India passed legislation that allows more people to adopt. That, at least, is something to be happy about.

How does Catholic teaching on homosexuality come into play here? Well, you can take it straight from the sister’s mouth:

Speaking about the decision not to offer adoptions, Sister Amala told local media: “The new guidelines hurt our conscience. They are certainly not for religious people like us. … What if the single parent who we give our baby [to] turns out to be gay or lesbian? What security or moral upbringing will these children get? Our rules only allow married couples to adopt.”

I’ve heard my own parents argue that being raised by two dads or two mothers will “confuse” children. Despite the fact that homosexuality is not a choice, they seem to fear that children raised in a situation that does not prohibit other sexualities will lead to more gay children.

There is also a common argument that there are things only a father can do for a child, and things that only a mother can do, with the idea being that children need not only two parents, but that those parents need to be opposite genders in order to properly raise children. This idea is detrimental because it may be keeping some children with ZERO parents from having ANY. Furthermore, it’s based in gender norms. I can’t think of a single thing that a man can do that a woman cannot, and vice versa, when it comes to parenting. A good parent is a good parent. Any argument I can think of for something one gender can do that the other can’t has more to do with the typical roles assigned to each gender by society, and to stereotypes of the genders, not to anything that can be stated definitively that applies to all men or all women.

Ultimately, I’m frustrated to see a Catholic charity organization stop participating in a charitable action over the thought of someone they disagree with doing a good deed like adopting a child, especially in a country that has trouble adopting out its 20 million orphans (according to the NPR article).

If you have any thoughts pertaining to this, especially with regards to gender and parenting, feel free to leave a comment. I’d be happy to hear other opinions. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Abortion Regret: More False Pro-Life Claims

Women Do Regret Abortion envelope stickers

Sign from a pro-life campaign claiming women regret abortion.

In light of the resent upsurge of Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, here’s more proof that the pro-life movement is spreading misinformation about the nature of abortion and its effects on women.

During my time as part of the pro-life movement, I remember attending the march for life, and reading signs saying “Women Regret Abortion” and “Men Regret Lost Fatherhood.” I don’t doubt that there are individuals who regret their decision to abort–I’ve met several–however, the pro-life movement likes to claim that abortion leads to depression, and that the choice to abort harms women more in the long run than carrying a baby for 9 months and giving birth because these women typically come to regret their decision. According to a recent study, this is simply not the case.

In follow-up interviews over three years, the authors report, 95 percent of all the respondents “reported that having the abortion was the right decision for them.”

It gets better though.

There was another major factor in the small percentage of women who did feel significant regret post-abortion: the overall social support the women had, and the stigma they felt they would face for having an abortion. Participants were asked to rank, on a scale of one to four, “how much they would be looked down upon by people in their communities if they knew they had sought an abortion.” Without fear of stigma, the vast majority of women reporting [sic] feeling happiness and relief immediately following the abortion, with both relief and negative emotions subsiding over time…[emphasis mine]

In other words, the pro-life movement itself may actually be causing some cases of abortion regret by eroding the social support these women have and turning it against them. Yes, correlation does not equal causation, but you have to admit, the things correlated here give a very plausible explanation.

Also according to the study, Latina women are more likely to regret their abortion. Why? Gee, I don’t know, what’s the most common religion among Latina people, and what is its stance on abortion?

Oh but that’s the article, and it has an error in it! Quote the study directly!

OK:

Notably, we found no differences in emotional trajectories or decision rightness between women having earlier versus later procedures. Important to women’s reports were social factors surrounding the pregnancy and termination-seeking. Having had difficulty deciding to terminate the pregnancy, and reporting higher pregnancy planning levels, were strongly associated with negative emotions and lower decision rightness, while being in school and working at the time of the pregnancy was associated with far higher feelings of decision rightness. Community stigma and lower social support were associated with negative emotions. [Emphasis mine]

One of the reasons given by pro-life advocates for why abortion supposedly causes breast cancer (another false claim) and regret, is that the hormones associated with pregnancy really screw with a woman if they’re just abruptly stopped by the termination of the pregnancy. The fact that this study looked into what term the abortion happened in tells me that they were aware of this claim. You would think that later in the term there would be more regret. More hormones, more hormonal bonding between mother and baby. That clearly is not the case, though.

Am I surprised?

No. But I’m very upset to find out that not only is the pro-life movement opposing reproductive rights for women, and lying in order to do so, but it may actually be removing much needed support systems for women with unplanned pregnancies by creating stigma around abortion, leading to them regretting what may very well be the best situation for them.

Any thoughts on this? Know of any other supposed downsides to abortion that the pro-life movement is lying about? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Surprise Surprise! Most Women Don’t Want to Be Nuns

I stumbled upon the video above while reading the news a few weeks ago, and I love the topic. I’ve always wondered why women would choose to make religious vows in the first place. Since I don’t fully understand it, I can’t really speak to it. As for the question of why many women are choosing not to, however, I definitely have personal experience with that side of the decision, and I have to go with the sociologist’s answer in the video more so than the sisters’.

I was raised during a growing shortage of Catholic devotees to priesthood and religious life. As a result, I was encouraged to consider whether or not I had a “calling” to be a nun or sister. (In case you’re wondering, the difference between the two is that nuns are cloistered, living completely isolated from the world, and sisters are not. If you’ve seen a “nun” in public in real life, she’s technically a sister.)

I remember taking baths when I was four or five years old. When I got out, my dad would dry my hair with a towel. He would drape it over my head and put “sister” in front of my first and middle names playfully. “Sister Nancy Therese!” I suppose to him it was a bit like when I got a bit older, and would test out my first name in my diaries with the last name of my crush. (Nancy Bier. Nancy Smith. Nancy…well, I won’t tell you my fiance’s last name.) It was cute at first, but after a year or so of my dad’s teasing, I started to resent it.

At that young age, I was absolutely positive that I wanted to meet someone nice and get married. I never questioned it, even as I grew to understand that for some people, marriage just isn’t appealing. It always was to me. In middle school, I drew my dream wedding dress and “designed” bridesmaid’s dresses to go with it. I had a running list of people I would invite. A lot has changed for me since then. I’ve lost my religion, met new friends, and lost touch with many of the people on that list. Yet I never lost the wedding part of my dream for the future. I just stopped picturing it happening at my family’s church.

I don’t know for sure whether or not there have been girls in my generation who grew up that sure of a dream to take religious vows. Maybe some did, but I have little doubt that even for children of devout families like mine, girls have a wide variety of aspirations, many of them involving marriage and a career.

It’s often difficult for someone who made one choice to understand why someone would choose the opposite, and I think that’s partly what’s going on with the sisters in the video. They’re right that technology has changed the world. But I think that technology has more to do with whether people are religious in the first place, not why the more religious people who are still out there choose not to take vows and don habits. The internet, with its vast array of information available at people’s fingertips, has led to people leaving the Catholic church in droves. But that doesn’t explain why the people who stay with the church aren’t choosing to take vows.

My experience choosing marriage and a career definitely fits the sociologist’s answer: “It’s not like ‘Will I get married or will I go into religious life?’ It’s more like, ‘Will I get married, or will I do these 16 other things?'”

Being a nun or sister isn’t a super attractive lifestyle in the first place because it restricts freedom in many ways. The biggest drawback for me was always the vow of chastity, or as I saw it, losing the freedom to date. Even before I knew what it was, I had a pretty high sex drive, and there was no way in hell I was going to give up the opportunity to be with a guy someday. But sisters–that’s right, even the ones who aren’t cloistered–give up a lot of other freedoms too.

For instance, the sisters who teach at my family’s church have taken a vow of poverty. They literally earn less than minimum wage. They’re given a tiny allowance that lets them buy groceries. There are several of them, and they share one car. As someone who is currently in a family with 3 cars and 4 drivers, in which I am the extra driver without a car, I can’t imagine sharing one car among four or five adult women. Plus, the fact that religious women aren’t really paid for their work, when they often do difficult jobs like teaching high school, is pretty disgusting to me. I realize their vows forbid them from taking the money, but to me work is work regardless of who’s doing it and I don’t like to see anyone not get paid for their labor. It’s the principle of the thing.

Because it’s such an unappealing lifestyle to me, I would need pretty extreme circumstances to even consider becoming a religious sister or nun–and that was the case even when I was Catholic. If I had to choose between two not-so-awesome choices like arranged marriage and sisterhood, I’d probably choose sisterhood. (That way, at least I’d maintain full control over my own vagina.) But that’s really the only circumstance I can think of in which I’d definitely opt for becoming a nun or a sister.

Women today have far better prospects than a choice between marriage (ownership by one’s husband) and religious life (marriage to a fictional character [Jesus]). We can do pretty much anything we set our minds to. We can be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, scientists, athletes, writers–you name it, we can do it. Better yet, we can have a career AND raise a family at the same time. Gone are the days when marriage meant having to give up your career. You can live all aspects of the American dream!

It boggles my mind that I’ve actually met two different women near my age (fellow millennials) who eventually chose to be religious. I wish I were closer to at least one of them so that I could ask her why. The fact that I knew two such women at all is pretty crazy considering the demographics of religious women in my country. According to this article by The Huffington Post, as of 2009 only 1% of religious sisters in the US were under the age of 40. Think that’s bad? Only 2% were 40-49 years old. Just 6% were aged 50-59. This means that as of 2009, 91% of sisters in the US were 60 years old or older. I doubt that they’ve gotten much younger since then.

This decline in new members of religious congregations in the US, if current trends continue, means that in another decade or two, spotting a nun will be a bit like spotting a payphone today. People will think, “Wow, I didn’t know they still existed!”

As a woman who appreciates how much better I have it today than I would in the time periods when sisterhood was more popular, I can definitely live with that future. It feels good to know that sisterhood, instead of being one of the two available options to women, as it was for a very long time, is just one small unappealing option today among the myriad of futures women like me can choose for themselves.

What are your thoughts on religious life? Are you surprised to see the number of religious sisters in the US drop so low? Were you ever encouraged to consider religious life? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy