Friday, February 21, 2014
An Open Letter to an Angry Feminist
Dear Angry Feminist,
Greetings. After reading your letter to the pro-life movement (of which I am a proud member), and seeing that you had not as yet received a reply, I thought I'd take on the challenge to respond to the accusation central to your diatribe: that pro-lifers don't care about women.
The pro-life movement is diverse and vast. As you know, there are 45.5 million abortions committed world-wide annually, and the pro-life movement can be roughly divided into three main areas of influence: pro-lifers work towards legislative changes, educate the public on the nature of the pre-born, and work directly with women in crisis pregnancy situations. There is no shame in some pro-lifers working more intensely in one area more than another: there are two victims of abortion - the mother and the child, and it is the child whose life is in danger. However, when it comes to caring for women, the pro-life movement has an astounding record, demonstrated most definitively in the work of crisis pregnancy centres.
Last year I was privileged to work at such a centre. While there are crisis pregnancy centres all over the Western world, there are thousands throughout the USA doing just the same dependable and kindly work. Almost every staff member of the centre I worked at was an unpaid volunteer, usually working overtime each day and countless hours each year to keep the centre running. The few staff we were able to pay would have certainly been earning more money by working for a better - funded organisation. We had all the costs of keeping a busy centre running and always had as many qualified counsellors as we could find, but we made it a rule to never charge for our services. Those volunteers who weren't directly helping our clients were keeping the gardens free of weeds, doing the cleaning and tidying, sorting through endless piles of baby clothing donations. All of us were women, and many of us had similar backgrounds to some of our clients.
Women would ring our hotline. I, and many other receptionists and phone counsellors, received desperate calls from women in tears. If they weren't actually breaking down, it wasn't hard to tell from their shaky, just-holding-it-together voices that they were in the worst place they'd ever been. Strangely enough, it wasn't the fact that they were pregnant that was the biggest problem for them: it was the lack of support for being pregnant. All of them were distraught: their mothers were pressuring them to abort, or had already turned them out of their homes for being pregnant (these had nowhere to live, and often rang us for accommodation); their boyfriends had made an ultimatum: "get rid of the baby or I'll leave you"; they couldn't think of anything else to do except, somehow, find a way to pay for an abortion - how else could they continue with their school education, or their career? Many of them hadn't dared to tell either their parents or boyfriends, knowing that, as a matter of course, they would literally be disowned and discarded. Some of the women were married and pregnant to another man; some were backpacking and fell pregnant; some couldn't remember who they were pregnant to.
In your letter, you said that we made abortion seeking women feel like "the scum of the earth", that we don't care about women, only "the unborn, not the living, breathing woman who has a life - a future, dreams, and goals…". That hasn't been my experience. If you'd heard the way we answered each call from those women and girls, you'd have had to agree. We'd hear the tears on the other end of the phone and say: "Just a minute honey, I can tell this is really difficult for you. Give me a couple of seconds to find a quiet place to listen to what's going on." We'd be the first they'd call, as they weren't expecting anything but anger from everyone else they knew. After we'd listened, we offered them to come to the centre and have a cup of tea with one of our friendly ladies, and have a chance to talk about what was going on. We had a big selection of tea and an espresso coffee maker, deep, cosy armchairs and soft lighting. We all knew it wasn't our place to try to coerce or force a decision that was what we wanted; we knew that our place was to lay out our clients' options, then give them the freedom to choose their own pathway. Before they came to the centre, they had no idea that there was any other choice to be made than to have an abortion. Theoretically, if it had only been about 'saving babies' for us, we could have delivered the message and done the job without the frills, without the love. But, in fact, it was about loving the mothers first.
In your letter, you said: "You say you care about women, yet you have a tendency to wag your fingers and look down upon girls who end up pregnant in their teens". Your hatred of hypocrisy is to be commended, but to claim that pro-lifers are hypocrites in this way is nothing short of dishonest. Girls pregnant in their teens were given counselling, a gift pack, and education on how to look after themselves and their babies before and after birth. Both women and teens were given everything they needed: maternity clothes, and baby clothes and equipment. As a matter of course, women and teens were given all the help, information and resources they needed until their baby was two - during which time we'd often direct them to local support groups in their area, so that they could be independent of us by the time they left our service. Additionally, through the direct initiation of this centre during the time I was working there, a special program was started at a local school specifically to accommodate teen mothers to continue their school education. During the year I worked at the centre, the clinic put together an entire wedding, all expenses paid by the clinic, for a teen couple with a child who wanted to get married but didn't feel they had the money. All of this was done with the utmost respect and care for the women and girls we saw, and I can safely say that this clinic is merely representative of the same work being done throughout the West for teen mums.
Lastly, you said: "You may give the moms a few packs of diapers, maybe some bottles, and baby clothes - but then what? Are you going to pay for childcare? Are you going to help pay for their food, clothes, school supplies?" Given that we in the pro-life movement have more children than those outside it, we are certainly very aware that parenthood is a huge mission, often fraught with financial pressures. Yet, this is a sham of an argument for abortion. Our business of helping women and children quite obviously can not cover the entire cost of raising the children saved as a result of our work. But you've widely missed the mark: none of our clients would regret having their children because they were faced with financial pressure: they realised of course that the value of their new baby far outweighed any financial difficulties they might face. The opposite was usually true for our clients: after deciding to keep their child, they had a new sense of responsibility: they would often stop their addictions, find ways to educate themselves further, and work out ways to support themselves and get ahead, despite everything.
Ultimately, it is your ironically-named 'pro-choice' movement that is truly eliminating women's choices. The reason that so many women and teens rang our hotline and asked for an abortion, or asked how to get one, was not that they had made a decision to abort based on a comprehensive understanding of their options: it was simply because they believed there to be only one option - to abort, or else face the shame of having a baby. It is the pro-life movement that gives distressed, pregnant women a place to make a fully-informed decision, and to be there for them whatever they decide.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
I'm Not Called To Fight Abortion
Most people I know don't care about murdered children.
They're well educated. They know what a human looks like from single cell to embryo to foetus. They know what abortion does. They're mostly Christian, so they're fairly well versed on what Jesus is like, what he did on earth, and what he wants us to do. Generally, they get that we're to love God, and love other people - the fulfilment of the law. They usually draw the line at getting their hands dirty. I talk with them about this.
"Yeah. I know it's a problem - but my heart's not in it. I just can't make myself feel concerned enough to help". Or: 'I know - but it's just not my battle'. Though they usually verbally express this to me, sometimes they say everything by saying nothing at all.
The other day, sitting around a coffee table with our cappuccinos and cupcakes, I was asked what I'd been doing before our child arrived. There was a hushed silence and the conversation moved quickly on to other topics when I explained how I'd worked in a crisis pregnancy centre, receiving calls from abortion seeking women and girls. When you mention the A-word amongst your good Christian friends or church folk, you've overstepped: there isn't any place for a verbal exchange on the brutal reality of abortion amongst polite, Christian people. The gut feeling you get from your church is - if you're going to go out and do something awkward and uncomfortable, then it should be evangelism. We'll pray for you to go and do that in India or an African country; we'll even send you some money now and then. But abortion's too horrible to entertain as a thought, let alone to discuss or do anything about. Not only that, but working to end abortion is going beyond what Christians need to do.
To the friend who exclaimed, in the middle of my fiery exhortation: 'Gosh, you're really passionate about this," followed by: "I just can't really feel it in my heart to do anything about it" - I'd say, you're not alone.
I don't want to do anything about abortion either. Abortion is something I hate thinking about. I hate the idea of thrusting the issue into the faces of decent, well-meaning folk out there. I'd honestly much rather read a novel, play the piano or go have a coffee with friends and chat about nothing. But there's a clear reason that polite, decent Christians don't want to think, discuss or do anything about child murder: it's a catastrophically large issue with our entire society complicit; even our governmental institutions have upheld and entrenched this 'right'. Which is why we all draw a blank when it comes to abortion: it's too hard to actively fight against a society that accepts and upholds the practice.
Believe it or not, those people out there who are raising the subject in their churches and with their friends, praying outside abortion clinics, volunteering for pregnancy counselling helplines, attending marches, running pro-life groups, writing articles, working on a local and national level for legislative change - they don't want to be doing what they're doing. They are always struggling with themselves to keep on, because the prevailing desire - the easy option, is to do nothing. It's always hard for them to keep fighting abortion. They'd really rather go to the pub and have a beer with the mates and forget about it all.
The soldiers who answered the call to enlist in the two world wars at the start of last century had a noble task; yet I would posit that those people who continue to fight on behalf of the unborn have a still more noble task. The brave Allied soldiers in WWI and WWII were fighting for their countries, their families and their own lives, and those that survived received accolades, memorials, respect and praise. Those fighting for the lives of children yet to be born, and in memory of those that have died, fight for no benefit for themselves or their families and their hostile society treats them with anger and scorn.
The only reward for people who're fighting against the greatest mass-murder of all history is the knowledge that there are people whose lives have been saved, and hearts changed, through their work. One day in the not-too-distant future, we'll be judged on how much we loved God, and how much we loved his people. Jesus reminds us (and I paraphrase): 'When you saved the lives of the unborn and became a voice for the helpless you did it for Me'. God counts our actions towards others as though we were doing the same for him in those situations. So, yeah, it's hard. It's not a fun topic. It's not much fun being out in the cold, praying about abortion. To you pre-born advocates out there - keep working and fighting, and remember that God will give you more love and courage as you persevere.
And to everyone else: don't wait until you feel 'called to the ministry' of fighting for the pre-born, or to 'feel in your heart' that you care about abortion. That day won't come if you're waiting for it. Get out there and get involved - the passion will come to you on the job.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Change of scene
It's been a while since I last posted; a year, at least, and of course a good deal has happened in that time. When I last wrote, I'd gotten myself married and moved countries; subsequent to that, I got myself pregnant by the charming man I married, moved houses, had the baby, and am now in the process of moving countries again (two burly guys are packing up our things as I write).
Francesca's sitting next to me on the dusky green couch. She's preventing me being properly productive by being cute. Babies have never particularly thrilled me, and I'd steeled myself from expecting the child to be at all attractive on his or her first appearance, given the fact that newborns are pinched and squinched and generally better to look at after the first year of life. I had, in fact, been rather anxious after an ultrasound scan revealed that the baby was a male child with an ugly, large nose and a most unappealing grimace. I didn't feel prepared to give birth to such a child. I have perhaps never been more surprised than when a creamy-skinned, dark haired, button-nosed little-girl creature first snuggled onto me, still damp from being born, and searched for a nipple. It did not take me long to realise that I had no pretty pink clothes for this most feminine of female babies, though this was remedied hastily. Why, even her squeaks were entirely feminine-sounding.
And now this eight-week old little girl is having a late lunch whilst trying determinedly but entirely unsuccessfully to sleep. And, now we are moving back to New Zealand, back to our family and old friends, in time for a family Christmas catch-up. Husband has a new job in a new town a couple of hours drive from our hometown, Christchurch, and so once more we will be strangers in a familiar, but strange land.
Monday, November 05, 2012
We met in Cafe 1989, one of the newest additions to the ageing Canterbury University after the earthquake of 22 February, 2011. Gabrielle is small and slender and elf-like, with her sensitive, gently pointed ears and wavy, dark-brown, waist-length hair. She is beautiful, but doesn’t try to impress her beauty on those around her with clothing or makeup, her expression of her own character being of greater interest to her. With the gentle influence of the rich-smelling cafe and the joy of simply being students drinking lattés at a university coffee shop, the elf and I discussed our upcoming assignments.
There was a man seated behind us and he was talking into his phone. All day, he said, he had been travelling by bus through the city in pursuit of fish pieces for the lady on the other end of the phone that had wanted him to buy them; in almost every place he had been there was no fish to be bought. Gabes and I looked at each other and we chuckled; I wondered whether the lady on the other end was his wife, and what she wanted the fish pieces for. His voice shook; the two pieces of fish he had bought had cost him $7.80, he said.
My friend and I looked out of the windows. An overcast sky hung lightly, gently wind-tossed; softened curves of pastel clouds at the horizon touched the darker sky, their contours illumined with afternoon light.
The trip had started in Avonhead; an appropriate name for so respectable a place: middle-class citizens living in an area entirely disassociated from ugliness and dysfunction; smooth roads, orderly trees shedding leaves quickly swept, large brick houses sheltered by private fences, gardens painstakingly trimmed and weeded. I realized, shocked, looking from the influence of the sky to the area we were moving through, the difference in landscape now. The upright, middle-class oaks and sycamores of Avonhead and Ilam had merged into storm-broken pines, stunted cabbage trees and dishevelled hedges.
Passengers started to be bumped and jostled as the bus turned towards Brighton. When the earthquakes came unrelenting, the already broken roads in poorer areas such as New Brighton, Becksley and Southshore were peppered with potholes and cracks; lumps formed where the ground had spilled over and formed sandy hills over the tarseal. Looking out of the front window I noticed the road ahead was broken and split; puddles had formed in the recesses of the road and over the road surface was the remnants of the gravel the council had spread to prevent cars slipping up in the sand-slime after the earth overspilled.
State housing lined the road. Paint was cracked and peeling, curtains standing open at house windows allowing us to see the gray, empty insides; backyards in a riot of weeds and long grass; miry puddles making up the surface of driveways. Between houses I noticed empty spaces where homes had been, now a mess of weeds and water. Everywhere boundaries were dissolute: between two houses the cheap, high wooden fence had keeled horizontally; short brick fences had broken over the pavement, white and gray and red bricks with gray plaster. Whole shopping plazas were red-stickered and abandoned, curving lines of broken-down shops awaiting demolition a year after their business had been disrupted.
On the corner of the road towards the town we thanked the driver and got off the bus; I'd noticed a little antique shop close by and was curious to see inside. We walked towards the sea after that and we thrust our hands into our pockets as the cold wind penetrated our jerseys, determined to find stories in this dreary location. Gabes noticed a bookshop and compulsively went inside, drawn by an attractive book in the window. Sitting on a low stool at the back of the long shop was the owner; I briefly wondered about his life: surely boredom must follow a bookseller in a second-hand bookshop in a near-deserted town. We paid for and walked out with the attractive book; then turned and went back inside: who better to ask questions of than a bored bookseller?
"We actually came to Brighton to work on an assignment", I said. "We're asking about people's earthquake experiences - did you go through much in the earthquakes?"
The man had an attentive face and restless eyes; he was very willing to talk. In the September earthquake, he told us, a whole side of his shop had fallen down and the books had fallen also - they went everywhere; the shop we were standing in was the third shop he'd moved to since that earthquake. But the rent was so much higher in Brighton! The business was not making enough money, not with a wife and three children and another child on the way to support. I wondered aloud, curious, how he came to be working in a bookshop? Was it his dream job? The man's small face glowed; his answer was earnestly affirmative. Before the bookshop in Brighton, he explained, he'd worked near Perth as a technical engineer in data communications, but he'd done too well at his job and the company had promoted him to manager and it was all too much work and he was bored with it. So he quit his job and moved back to New Zealand, to Brighton, and set up a retirement bookshop business where his work gave him flexibility and he could play computer games when he wanted or simply read good books while waiting for customers.
At this point a man wandered into the shop and inquired about books involving detectives and zombies; the book keeper promptly directed the man in the right direction and returned to us.
"We'll probably end up in Aus," he said, confidingly. "Better standard of living over there, and just can't afford the rent here. You know, there were families just up the road - houses all flooded out, they had to just move out, there are lots of people worse off." Gabes and I nodded, recognizing the truth of this; still, I wondered about his comment, having heard it before from people who had lost a great deal in the earthquakes. People weren't going to complain to those that asked them, and they were working on quitting their own secret complaints too; it was in some ways an accurate recognition of their suffering in the light of others, but I wondered whether people simply didn't allow themselves to realize how much damage had actually been done in their lives. He told us his name was Andrew, and we thanked him and gradually moved out of the shop, looking regretfully at the books we had to leave behind.
We noticed, walking down the main street lined with shops, how old fashioned Brighton was. It was as though we had gone back fifty years simply by travelling from Avonhead to Brighton: there were shops like 'Aunt Betty's Crochet and Yarn Shop' and 'Brighton Coffee Lounge'.
Close to the end of the street and the corner bar we saw a group of Polynesian men standing around. In the centre of this group was a car with its radio on full. They were big men, smoking and swaggering, wearing hoodies and caps, a formidable aspect to two middle-class, carefully well-dressed young women. I had chosen with a greater deal of precision than normal what I wanted to wear to ‘interview’ the people we found on our trip, but I hadn’t been aware before now of the clothing I was wearing; now I felt painfully self-conscious. I persuaded Gabes to come with me to talk to them, as I really wanted to get stories from different kinds of people to understand the earthquakes’ impact for the population.
“Hey guys! We’re asking people about their experiences with the earthquakes for this assignment we’re writing - can you tell us some stuff about what happened to you?” I felt confident of my manner of speaking, that it was informal and less precise; hopefully this would put the men at ease.
The men became a little awed, and John asked whether we were writing for the paper; they were more ready to talk after we explained it was a ‘uni assignment’. They all had different stories. Rangi was ‘over’ the earthquakes because they had happened ‘ages ago’ and there hadn’t been quakes for a long time. He was living in Aranui and whole streets were still closed; but the difficulty of his situation was over for him and a sense of normality had set in long before. Mark told us that the homes in the Brighton area and surrounding suburbs had been without power for several months, and that the Earthquake Commission (EQC) was ‘screwing us over’. His mate had pulled off the ‘red sticker’ from his house and was still living in it, as he had nowhere else to live. Mark’s story made me wonder about how the classes in our city were split up and how the middle classes had been without power for a day or two at the most, while anyone who had lost their homes, or had their houses damaged in any way, had very quickly been given money to replace their houses, and repairs had been done rapidly.
John looked at us both, and his face became friendly: “Do you guys have weed?” he said, and we understood by his intonation that he was asking whether we took weed. I shook my head. Gabes explained that she hadn’t, since she’d moved to Christchurch. She’d told me before then that ‘everyone in Waipawa takes weed’. “You want our numbers then? Or can we take yours!” John and the others laughed a little; Gabes and I also chuckled, then thanked them for their time and walked away. We were a little tired of talking to people by this time and the Brighton pier was invitingly ahead of us; Gabes mentioned, when I admitted I felt we were being delinquent in our story collecting, that there were bound to be fishermen we could accost at the end of the pier.
There were few people on the pier, and no fishermen on the end, though there were a few people wandering up and down. Two couples caught my eye, the first tidily dressed: he in a shirt and jeans and she with straightened hair, holding hands. The second pair were scruffily dressed and her face was plain, her hair untidy; they looked at each other and I think they were unaware of much else. Gabes and I were on a mission and had predetermined that we would come to this town on this day; I was curious as to why these couples had chosen to come out and walk by the sea when it was so bitterly cold. I remembered how I used to point out to my fiance how ‘cute’ other couples were that we saw on our walks together, and how he told me that I had only begun to notice other couples since we started dating.
A city and a sky
All that can be seen from the green sofa are pots, orange and red, parsley and capsicums wind-ruffled. Their outlines become sharper against a darkening sky; the black curve of the deck chair is just visible. There is a spire thrust accusingly into the blue-black clouds and on its knife point balances a brilliant red light. Across from the tower another tower sits squarely, its blunt corners proud with red lights; on a sort of raised platform in the middle of the roof line is what looks like a miniature Eiffel tower. The clouds are swelling, full, and swathe the city in blue tobacco smoke.
The mild yellow light inside the apartment caresses the dirty white brick walls, glitters on the embossed gold titles arrayed on the bookshelves, gives the smooth sheen of floral Victorian teacups a subtle gloss, and makes the city and sky look, by contrast, foreign and menacing.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Series of Ramblings about my day and otherness
it's six minutes to midnight. i'm smelling the burnt smell of cookie batter that fell into the oven, and listening to Celtic Woman's Caledonia - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v28is4jFWeo
the chocolate chunk cookies are looking deliciously crunchy and chewy and chocolatey and all those things that they ought to be, cooling on the bench while I type.
the dishes are waiting on the bench. no-one did them. there haven't been enough people around to do them, since a couple of my brothers left - one to go flatting, and another to rather suddenly elope with and marry a beautiful girl over in the States (read the story here
Finished my last exam today. I was scared of it, anxious for a couple of days, which was all the time I'd given myself to study. Studied with a fellow student, Grace, and talked about being a christian, and churches. Maybe she'll come along to Campus Church, like I asked her too? ...this morning I got up at around 6:30, with great intentions to stay awake and study for an hour before walking (40 mins) to uni and studying 'til 2:30, which was when the darn exam was. but I kinda have a way of sleeping in between trying to read my Bible, and falling asleep and waking up and falling asleep after my alarm wakes me. and it's all not very disciplined, though it is the most delicious, luxuriant feeling to sleep past the alarm in the mornings.
So I studied at uni, finally. And worried, and bit my fingernails. ...boyfriend alex has told me times without number to stop biting my nails. I have a feeling he doesn't care much what my nails look like, but he knows that deep, deep down I care. So he's just the lovingest and always tells me reprovingly to stop, and to promise him to stop! but I can never promise truthfully, because I know that when the temptation comes... or when I get nervous about an exam or essay... good intentions will melt and nail-ends will become ragged.
For all that worry and so-short nails, the exam was good. It was stimulating. It was about the 60s, and the Civil Rights Movement, and Feminism, and Gay Rights and Abortion. and I was happy and productive, filling ten sheets of paper carefully, hurting my fingers and wrist with the pressure. Thankfully I had three hours in which to write answers to two questions, so a happy amount of time. Because these questions were my questions and I felt them and believed what I wrote. and that felt very good. our souls get tired and strained when they feel out of place and unneeded at university. we analyze and remember and structure but we get tired, tired. because there is more to life, but exams and tests and essays trick us for moments into believing otherwise.
Because you will be happy if you make them, I wanted to share this excellent recipe that I found while searching for a chocolate chunk cookie recipe. They were the first I found and they are good.
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
170g butter melted and allowed to cool a little
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg & 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups dark and white chocolate chunks/whatever you happen to have around
Do the normal thing. Preheat the oven to 165C. Sift the flour & soda. Beat the sugar into the butter & mix in the eggs & vanilla. Then mix the flour into the wet & add the chocolate. Remember to add the extra half cup of chocolate: I didn't, and now I have half a cup of chopped dark chocolate sitting on the bench. The mixture will be kinda cakey-wet, so leave it for like 2-5 mins until it forms up. Then form it into balls & stick 'em on a greased tray. Bake them for 15-20 mins, whatever floats your boat.
Eat them with blue milk and be quite happy. Share them around with your family/friends and be happier still.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Many new and exciting things have happened since I last wrote.
Several months ago I started to like clothes. I never had particularly cared about them before.
As a result, my wardrobe is full of 'thrifted' or bargain clothing - dresses and tops and jeans, a dizzying number of belts, and shoes. They are all arrayed as they never had been before. Clothing that had never been loved and never would be was unmercifully separated from cherished pieces and pushed into big boxes. Necklaces and belts now dangle spectacularly over the shoes arrayed on the top of a new dresser in my wardrobe (thanks Esther for the upgrade!).
I generally leave one half of the wardrobe open so that I can glance over at the prettiness and feel happy.
I suppose this is all rather strange goings on; it's exciting for me because it's all so new. Clothes are so new, and exciting! Going to opshops has become a heart-thumping adventure, that can be so thrilling (carrying home a truly satisfying piece) or tragic (if the store is shut before I get there).
There are so many things that one could wear!
Something I've noted about all this happy clothes-hunting: It would be so very easy to let clothes take over my heart's affections, to put it in a Victorian-esque way. To turn into someone who cares for friends and clothes and nothing else. (Scary thought indeed). Jesus needs to be most loved - a constant process of loving him first - and then I can love whatever else I will. And those loves will be
family, and lesser important things like clothes.
Here are some beautiful sites I've come across:
A Beautiful Mess: http://abeautifulmess.typepad.com/
Saturated Canary: http://saturatedcanary.blogspot.com/p/fashion-pinup.html
etc. etc. etc.
...when I'm meant to be studying (or sleeping, as in now).
And what all this means is that I want to start sewing. And I want to do exciting, crazy things; more exciting and more crazy than usual. And I want to be 'myself' - a cliched phrase because it's so awfully true.
And.. there's so much more I could say, but I should sleep. Soon I will be finished Uni, and I'll be able to write on here more I hope. :)