Politics & Policy

The Real War on Women

The battle on the sexes slowly comes undone.

As November broke, I received an e-mail from Planned Parenthood. There were three words in the subject line: “Every. Single. Day.”

In the name of Cecile Richards, PP’s president, the fundraising e-mail from the alleged standard-bearer for women’s health — which also happens to perform the most abortions of any organization in the United States — continued: “Every day, every week, every month, without fail, there is a new attack — on Planned Parenthood, on the people Planned Parenthood health centers serve, and on the men and women who provide care and compassion to clients.”

#ad#And here I am again. Not because I have a vendetta against Planned Parenthood — or against my fellow women — but because of what happens in America “every single day.”

In a speech celebrating the 40th anniversary of Americans United for Life, its president, Charmaine Yoest, told the crowd gathered at the Newseum, just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol building, “Four thousand a day.” That’s the total number of abortions performed in this country. “Every day. In a year, Planned Parenthood alone destroys over 300,000 lives. Which is about the population of Lexington, Ky., my hometown.”

I understand that Planned Parenthood is in the business of self-preservation. But surely we can do better than insisting that questioning — and investigating — this taxpayer-funded mammoth, which relies on abortion as a business model, amounts to a “war on women”? Unfortunately, this is the quality of our debate over Planned Parenthood’s public-funding future.

It currently receives a million dollars a day in state and federal funding. Surely, credible questions about fraud and abuse and failure to protect women and girls from sexual abuse and sex trafficking are legitimate ones? Also legitimate is demanding transparency about just what Planned Parenthood is: an organization born out of a eugenics vision, which continues today to support and even proselytize for a radical idea of just what the human person is and what our relationships with one another are about.

The truth is that the “war on women” began long before John Boehner pledged that his House would work harder to keep federal funds from paying for abortions. The war on women — and on men; call it the battle on the sexes — had its watershed in the feminist revolution. And, fifth-column-like, women themselves have served as some of its most prominent leaders.

But so will they in the reconstruction. At that AUL anniversary dinner, Charmaine Yoest talked about Carie and Dennis Stephens, whose son Robert was stillborn earlier this fall. There was “a heart-breakingly tiny casket” at his funeral, where he was mourned by an influential D.C. crowd. His young siblings paid tribute in the front row, with blue-ribbon bracelets.

#page#

And yet, Yoest reflected, “Every day in this country, every single day, we lose 4,000 babies” like him. “Every day. Day after day. . . . Each one is uniquely created. And there are no caskets. No blue, or pink, ribbons.”

You don’t have to have a certain or passionate position on abortion to be uncomfortable with where we are, or with what we are denying ourselves.

#ad#One loved baby’s funeral was a translucent reminder, Yoest reflected, that “abortion uniquely undermines human community. It tears apart the heart of human compassion.” And, “by memorializing their son, by reminding us all of his personhood, by giving the community the opportunity to mourn with them — Dennis and Carie and their children set a bulwark against the encroaching dehumanization of the culture of death.”

“I will always remember,” Yoest said, “those blue ribbons — ribbons for remembrance of a person well loved. They were a gift from a mother to her son.” But “they were also a gift from a courageous woman to her community — demonstrating what it means to be fully human.” Embracing the motherly gifts one man called the “feminine genius.”

“It’s a sad irony,” Yoest reflected, “that a movement that was supposed to elevate women so frequently devolves into vulgarity. Being a feminist in this century has required signing on to defining down feminine virtue . . . and endorsing abortion as a sacred rite.”

But, despite decades of this cultural march, there stand life-giving and -embracing peacemakers such as Carie, “the kind of woman who is a builder of a community of common concern and protection.” Yoest recalled how Carie’s love brought her to the Yoests’ door the night before Easter two years ago, days after Yoest began chemotherapy treatment for cancer. “That’s the kind of woman I want my daughters to be,” she said. And that’s how you do the building. Politics and culture are important. But so is where we live.

Former education secretary Bill Bennett has just published a collection called The Book of Man. It’s a book for a son, intended to reassure him that he’s not the first to face the challenges of manhood and to inspire him to be a hero in his everyday life — in ways both monumental and routine. The kind of man who could be a father to a child who would not live outside the womb. It’s a great nourishment for the heart and soul, for women as much as men. It’s a reminder that, as Anton Chekhov said, “He-and-she is the machine that makes fiction work.” That is true of fiction because it’s true of everything. It’s a favorite quote of Bennett’s, he tells me, because “the chemistry, contradiction, comity, and contrast of man and woman is perhaps God’s greatest creation. He made us both, and He made us different, and that makes life so daggone interesting in so many ways.”

That drama is destined for tragedy when we poison it with an ideological insistence that life isn’t at all that way, when we stubbornly try to remake men and women independent from one another in the most unnatural of ways, and stubbornly stick by the mission even when we see its high costs. Tragedy will follow when we reorient our lives toward destruction rather than creation. It is long past time to pick up the old scripts again, with compassion and care, embracing the human machine as man and woman, complementarily. Every single day. Every. Single. Life.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through United Media.

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