Politics & Policy

Miserable ‘Women’

Our politics is filled with sorrow.

There is something special about a mother and her love for her child. 

We tend to reflect it in our laws — at least family law — and, largely, we still seem to carry it culturally. We know it innately, and it’s one reason why the “women’s health” rhetoric, of which we’ve heard so much lately, resonates to the point at which it drowns out any and all details of a given policy, controversy, or testimony.

But such purported respect for women and mothers can ring hollow.

Take, for instance, the Radio and TV Correspondents dinner. The announced host of the annual Washington-meets-Hollywood gala was “comedian” Louis C. K., brought in, we were told, to give the event “a bit of an edge.” He has now pulled out, but with that invitation, decency fell off a cliff.

I can’t relate in this column some of the obscene things this man has said about former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. While he contended that she would “Hitler up” Washington — this, about a woman who often wears a star of David to express her solidarity with the Israeli people — most of his venom is the product of a crude obsession with her most intimate body parts, and he talks about them graphically in relation to her youngest child, whom he dubs a “retard.” This has less to do with politics than with misogyny, unless politics itself has become nothing more than a sexual power play. (And if it has, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not the GOP that has led the way.)

The current White House mandate debate is not so much about birth control as it is about effectively shutting religious citizens and entities down when it comes to contraception, sterilization, and even abortion. The government is saying: Sure you can believe that crazy stuff, but you can’t practice it in the public square. We know what’s best, and so you will pay if you really want to act on that nonsense in 2012 — literally, pay with a penalty. In truth, our debate is not about birth control so much as about an existential threat to liberty as we have known it in America.

Meanwhile, Republicans are said to be waging a “war on women” by doing such supposedly radical things as proposing bills that would protect conscience rights (by restoring them to where they were the day President Obama was inaugurated, and as late as January of 2012) and offering women the opportunity to look at the ultrasounds that are already a routine part of the medical preparation for an abortion. It’s ironic, isn’t it? In both cases, the legislation is about protecting choices, and isn’t “choice” what “women’s health” “pro-women” “feminists” are all about? Or is it just one choice — treating pregnancy as a disease — that is really of value to them?

At some point, the “women’s health” shouting has got to stop so that the cries of women can be heard — cries that expose the immiserization of a generation and more, a generation that bought into the false promises of the pill as lifestyle revolution and was sold as “freedom” an unhealthy subservience to non-commitment, all in the name of professional success and independence. 

A now-famous New York magazine cover story of two years ago is not alone in laying out the unfortunate effects of the contraceptive revolution on women’s fertility. We’re all free to make our own choices, but do we always know ahead of time what we’re walking into? If we choose the pill, are we doing it because we want to, or because it’s now what is expected? 

When you walk up the steps to Calvary in Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher your eyes are quickly drawn to a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, her heart pierced with pain. Whatever you think about the divinity of Christ, the man Jesus — her son — died on a cross, after a brutal scourging. And she watched the whole thing. We honor that woman; we honor her sacrifice, her love, and her pain. Regardless of the theological debates, there is something special there. The day we forget about her is the day something of our humanity is lost.

It is hard to walk away from her without seeing a message for our times. We are now being led to believe that widespread access to abortion and birth control is what motivates women, politically and otherwise, and that any impediment to the public funding and accessibility of these options constitutes oppression. Pay no attention to the dissent among women. Palin? She’s a c-word.

The president of the National Organization for Women, Terry O’Neill, accuses the U.S. Catholic bishops of being “violently anti-woman” in “demanding that the government step in and use the force and power and police power of the state to prevent women from taking birth control because the bishops have failed. “That statement does a violent disservice to the truth. Does Ms. O’Neill really want to stand by that? Does every member of the Democratic party want to have to defend that comment?

The Catholic Church only recommends its sexual morality. NOW, on the other hand, insists that our politicians impose NOW’s values on the nation. (And make no mistake, that’s exactly what the mandate does.) The old chant of “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” has morphed into a federal fee on my prayers, and if I intend to make my religious faith anything but a passing aspiration, the transformation is a grave imposition.

Our politics today is filled with sorrow. But we can change that — for a start, by expecting more. Transparency is a buzzword. How about we insist that it be an operating principle instead? If the president wishes to shut Catholic and other religious Americans out of the public square because he thinks believers are troglodytes not to be tolerated in polite company, then he should say so. A warning though: That might be a step too far, as it would make his ideological intentions all too clear to a people that might not be with him.

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

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